Tag Archives: Hardness of Heart

St. Gregory of Palamas: On the Prayer of the Pharisee

Icon Publican and the Pharisee 5Faith and contrition make prayer and supplication for the remission of sins effective, once evil deeds have been renounced, but despair and hardness of heart make it ineffectual. Thanksgiving for the benefits received from God is made acceptable by humility and not looking down on those who lack them. it is rendered unacceptable, however, by being conceited, as if those benefits resulted from our own efforts and knowledge, and by condemning those who have not received them. the Pharisee’s behaviour and words prove he was afflicted with both these diseases.  He went up to the Temple to give thanks, not to make supplication and, like a wretched fool, mingled conceit and condemnation of others with his thanksgiving. For he stood and prayed thus with himself: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 18:11).

+ St. Gregory Palamas, The Parables of Jesus, Sermons by St. Gregory Palamas

St. Isaac the Syrian: The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured . . .

Confession 4The sick one who is acquainted with his sickness is easily to be cured; and he who confesses is pain is near to health.

Many are the pains of the hard heart; and when the sick one resists the physician, his torments will be augmented.

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, “Six Treatises on the Behaviour of Excellence”, Mystical Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh

Elder Thaddeus: It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. . . .

Elder Thaddeus“It is of great significance if there is a person who truly prays in a family. Prayer attracts God’s Grace and all the members of the family feel it, even those whose hearts have grown cold. Pray always.”

+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: My child, just read!

A monk complained to St. Arsenius that while reading Holy Scripture he does not feel, neither the power of the words read nor gentleness in his heart.

To that the great saint will reply to him: “My child, just read! I heard that the sorcerers of serpents, when they cast a spell upon the serpents, the sorcerers are uttering the words, which they themselves do not understand, but the serpents hearing the spoken words sense their power and become tamed.

An so, with us, when we continually hold in our mouths the words of Holy Scripture, but even though we do not feel the power of the words, evil spirits tremble and flee for they are unable to endure the words of the Holy Spirit.”

My child, just read!

The Holy Spirit Who, through inspired men, wrote these divine words, will hear, will understand and will hasten to your assistance; and the demons will understand will sense and will flee from you.

That is: He Whom you invoke for assistance will understand, and those whom you wish to drive away from yourself will understand. And both goals will be achieved.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue of Ochrid (May 8)

St. Theophan the Recluse: Why is it, you ask, that one can pray for so many years with a prayer book . . .

Icon of St. Theophon the RecluseWhy is it, you ask, that one can pray for so many years with a prayer book, and still not have prayer in his heart? I think the reason is that people only spend a little time lifting themselves up to God when they complete their prayer rule, and in other times, they do not remember God. For example, they finish their morning prayers, and think that their relation to God is fulfilled by them; then the whole day passes in work, and such a person does not attend to God. Then in the evening, the thought returns to him that he must quickly stand at prayer and complete his evening rule. In this case, it happens that even if the Lord grants a person spiritual feelings at the time of the morning prayer, the bustle and business of the day drowns them out. As a result, it happens that one does not often feel like praying, and cannot get control of himself even to soften his heart a little bit. In such an atmosphere, prayer develops and ripens poorly. This problem (is it not ubiquitous?) needs to be corrected, that is, one must ensure that the soul does not only make petition to God when standing in prayer, but during the whole day, as much as possible, one must unceasingly ascend to Him and remain with Him.

In order to begin this task, one must first, during the course of the day, cry out to God more often, even if only with a few words, according to need and the work of the day. Beginning anything, for example, say ‘Bless, O Lord!’ When you finish something, say, ‘Glory to Thee, O Lord’, and not only with your lips, but with feeling in your heart. If passions arise, say, ‘Save me, O Lord, I am perishing.’ If the darkness of disturbing thoughts comes up, cry out: ‘Lead my soul out of prison.’ If dishonest deeds present themselves and sin leads you to them, pray, ‘Set me, O Lord, in the way’, or ‘do not give up my feet to stumbling.’ If sin takes hold of you and leads you to despair, cry out with the voice of the publican, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ Do this in every circumstance, or simply say often, ‘Lord, have mercy’, ‘Most Holy Theotokos save us”, ‘Holy Angel, my guardian, protect me’, or other such words. Say such prayers as often as possible, always making the effort for them come from your heart, as if squeezed out of it. When we do this, we will frequently ascend to God in our hearts, making frequent petitions and prayers. Such increased frequency will bring about the habit of mental conversation with God.

— St. Theophan the Recluse, On prayer, Homily 2
Delivered 22 November, 1864

 

St. Mark the Ascetic: When you are wronged and your heart and feelings are hardened . . .

Icon of St. Mark the Ascetic“When you are wronged and your heart and feelings are hardened, do not be distressed, for this has happened providentially; but be glad and reject the thoughts that arise within you, knowing that if they are destroyed at the stage when they are only provocations, their evil consequences will be cut off, whereas if the thoughts persist the evil may be expected to develop.”

— St. Mark the Ascetic

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: If your heart has been softened . . .

Icon of St. Nikolai Velimirovich“If your heart has been softened either by repentance before God or by learning the boundless love of God towards you, do not be proud with those whose hearts are still hard. Remember how long your heart was hard and incorrigible. Seven brothers were ill in one hospital. One recovered from his illness and got up and rushed to serve his other brothers with brotherly love, to speed their recovery. Be like this brother. Consider all men to be your brothers, and sick brothers at that. And if you come to feel that God has given you better health than others, know that it is given through mercy, so in health you may serve your frailer brothers.”Book Prologue of Ohrid Volume 1

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, March 31, Prologue of Ohrid

 

St. John of Kronstadt: When praying with people, we sometimes . . .

Photo of St. John of Kronstadt“When praying with people, we sometimes have to pierce through with our prayer as if it were the hardest wall—human souls, hardened and petrified by earthly passions—to penetrate the Egyptian darkness, the darkness of passions and worldly attachments.

This is why it is sometimes difficult to pray.

The simpler the people one prays with the easier it is.”

— St John of Kronstadt