Q&A with an Orthodox priest: About the Prayer

Meeting of Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok with the House of Love of Labour Staff

Q: Father, why is it so hard to pray sometimes?

Father Andrew: The Holy Fathers used to say, “Prayer means shedding one's blood.” When a person prays, he has to be focused on God. If his mind wanders, if his heart leaps and jumps from feelings and emotions, if he is inconsistent, you can imagine how hard it is for such a person to tune himself in to God, can't you? All that noise and vanity, all those fears and problems around... We have to get rid of that.

As soon as the person enters a church, everything must be left outside because that person comes to God, comes for confession, and there is no one else in the world apart from his ill and helpless soul. You must have heard a hymn during the Liturgy that says, “All earthly cares now let us lay aside.” That is, we ought to lay aside everything and enter a different world. If we stay where we are, of course, no miracle is going to happen (I mean, the miracle of the transformation and sanctification of a human being). It will be impossible to overcome the gravity of earth.

Q: How can we force our sinful hearts into praying?

Father Andrew: There are a lot of methods to do so. Most importantly, we should not be desperate, even if we do not feel like praying on a certain day. Your desire to pray and your self-reproach is the beginning of prayer. Your soul already suffers because of being so weak as not to be able to pray. It begs for forgiveness, asks God for help, and goes to church again, where it finally receives the gracious help from Christ.

Prayer means shedding one's blood. When one prays, he struggles with the entire world. We break up the bonds of this world through prayer and follow Christ, whereas the world distracts, blinds, deafens us, makes everything possible to stop us. See what is this struggle like? If we start to pray, we acquire so much! How does our prayer act? According to the words of St Seraphim of Sarov, “Find peace inside your heart and thousands will be saved around you.”

We can talk and reprimand our relatives for years that they should not do this or that, that it is bad. But they won't pay attention to us. However, as soon as we start to have a genuine prayer life, this will be our victory: God will act on our side, and our relatives will inevitably change. A monastic abandons the world but his or her prayer protects all his relatives. Being a monastic does not mean running away from one's problems but, on the contrary, getting to the core of these problems, taking their burdens on one's shoulders.

Q: How can we learn to pray attentively?

Father Andrew: He who is eager to learn will learn. No pain, no gain. When prayer becomes really important for an individual, when he sacrifices his time and strength to it so that it becomes the most vital part of his life, then God may teach even a baby. We all are babies now; we all need God's help, His blessing and might.