January 2

If you are disheartened, pray, as the Apostle says (cf. James 5:13). Pray with fear, trembling, effort, with inner watchfulness* and vigilance. To pray in this manner is especially necessary because the enemies are so malignant. For it is just when they see us at prayer that they come and stand beside us, ready to attack, suggesting to our intellect* the very things we should not think about when praying; in this way they try to take our intellect captive and to make our prayer and supplication vain and useless. For prayer is truly vain and useless when not performed with fear and trembling, with inner watchfulness and vigilance. When someone approaches an earthly king, he entreats him with fear, trembling and attention; so much the more, then, should we stand and pray in this manner before God the Father, the Master of all, and before Christ the King of Kings. For it is He whom the whole spiritual host and the choir of angels serve with fear and glorify with trembling; and they sing in unceasing praise to Him, together with the Father who has no origin, and with the all-holy and coeternal Spirit, now and ever through all the ages. Amen.

~Evagrios Pontikos (Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 37)

*Watchfulness-spiritual vigilance and alertness.

*Intellect-the nous, the organ of contemplation, the innermost aspect of the heart, through which, when purified, man can know God. Not to be confused with reason.

When we are disheartened, or suffering, it can be difficult to pray, yet through prayer we come before the One able to heal us. Often, in fact, it is because of this very suffering that we are more likely to seek God, than we otherwise would be; and while no suffering is pleasant while we are enduring it, in the end it can train us in righteousness and lead us to peace (cf. Hebrews 12:11).

The enemy will do all he can to keep us from our source of healing; and so we must pray with effort and diligence if he makes us feel tired, or lazy or bored while praying. In fact, by continuing to pray, even while we feel no results, we are acting out our faith and demonstrating our trust in God. Like the woman with the flow of blood, who approached Jesus, with fear and trembling, we come before the only one who can say, “…your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction” (Mark 5:34).

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

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