At the time of prayer, we should expel from our heart the provocation of each evil thought, rebutting it in a spirit of devotion so that we do not prove to be speaking to God with our lips, while pondering wicked thoughts in our heart. God will not accept from the hesychast a prayer that is turbid and careless, for everywhere Scripture tells us to guard the soul’s organs of perception. If a monk submits his will to the law of God, then his intellect will govern in accordance with this law all that is subordinate to itself. It will direct as it should all the soul’s impulses, especially its incensive power* and desire, for these are subordinate to it. We have practiced virtue and done what is right, turning our desire towards God and His will, and directing our incensive power, or wrath, against the devil and sin. What then do we still lack? Inward meditation.
~St Isaiah The Solitary (Philokalia, vol. 1, pp. 27-28)
*Incensive Power-one of three aspects of the soul (along with the intelligent aspect and the appetitive aspect), the force that provokes strong feelings such as anger and desire, all three aspects of the soul can be used positively in accordance with God’s will or negatively, against nature, sinfully.
How can we practice inward meditation and find the stillness deep within our heart that we seek if we are preoccupied with the winds and turbulence that blow across the surface of our minds, and keep our souls stirred up and cloudy? Train the mind in devotion to God, by some means such as The Jesus Prayer, and hold fast to it.
Allow no room for evil thoughts to enter, yet if they do, rebuke them with the name of the Lord and carry on in devoted prayer. Obedience to God’s law and commands clears the way for the intellect to act freely in accordance with God’s will, bringing the powers of the soul under proper authority and control.
Obedience will make us perfect and whole, as Jesus commands “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). As obedience perfects us, we will find that the turbulence of our lives begin to calm naturally, we turn our whole being towards God and away from the world, we resist the enemy, and all of this then creates a state within us which is conducive to stillness, meditation, and union with God.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.