Patristic Tradition

On Prayer of the Nous and Heart ( 17.02.2009 )

Pray, I beg you, according to the instruction of the Apostle Paul: “Pray without ceasing.” The Watchful Fathers say, “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly, and if you pray truly, you are a theologian.” Indeed, the Watchful Fathers of the desert teach that through various kinds of ascesis, praxis, contemplation, and the moral and spiritual philosophy of watchfulness and prayer, the nous of man is purified, illumined, and perfected, and subsequently it acquires the gift of theology-not academic theology which the theologians in universities possess, but theology proceeding and gushing forth from the divine spring from which the rivers of true, divine theology eternally flow forth.

The holy Watchful Fathers say that a nous that has ceased to contemplate God becomes either carnal or savage. But conversely, through prayer and especially through noetic prayer, the nous becomes godlike and is illuminated by divine radiance.

A person’s salvation depends on prayer, for this is what unites him with God and brings him near God. When he is near God, it is natural for him not to deviate from the moral road because he pays attention to every step he takes. Nevertheless, in spite of  all this attentiveness, the devil never stops stalking us constantly, in order to find us at a moment of weakness and thus drag us onto his road, which always leads sharply downhill. For this reason, my beloved children, it is a must, an indispensable requirement that we always be armed with the continuous prayer of our sweetest Jesus.

We must not forget that the demons assail and attack prayer in order to render it ineffective by means of evil distractions. Thoughts of every kind encircle the poor man’s nous at the time of prayer in order to plunder the fruit of prayer and leave only its bones-that is, the labor and effort-for him who prays.

This is why one who desires to pray well should drive away every sort of care and any thought whatsoever in advance, before beginning to say the prayer. The nous as an overseer should supervise very attentively the words spoken by the mouth, so that prayer becomes a fruitful spring of divine help and grace.

According to the Fathers, Satan will always position himself as a thorn and stumbling block for holy prayer. This is because he is greatly troubled and burned by it. Therefore, my children, compel yourselves in prayer, and also remember me, your wretched Elder, so that the Lord may have mercy on me.

2. To guard love, the pinnacle of virtues, diligence in prayer is an immediate spiritual necessity. Struggle in prayer if you want our Christ to dwell in you, and He, the most experienced general, will struggle together with you. He will fight for us and grant us the victory.