Praying Both with Mind and Body: St. Theophan the Recluse on Prayer

1 Thess.1:6–10; Luke 11:1–10:

The Lord gave us a general prayer for all people, which combines all our needs, spiritual and bodily, internal and external, eternal and temporary alike. Due to the fact that one prayer cannot embrace everything we have to pray to God about in this life, there is a rule for our personal supplications immediately after the general prayer. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9). The Church of God does it the prescribed way: all Christians together pray for their general needs but then each person tells the Lord about his own needs and necessities. We pray together in churches according to accepted prayer rules, which are nothing other than an explicated and variously stated Lord’s Prayer; and then each person asks the Lord for his own needs to the best of his own ability in the privacy of his own home. You can pray about your own needs in church and at home; you can say the general prayer at home, too.

There is only one thing that we should take care of: we should pray genuinely, call to God in all honesty, and lift up our minds and our hearts to Him. Everyone should do his best. Don’t stand still like a statue. Don’t mumble prayers like a barrel organ. No matter how long you stand and mumble, you are not actually praying when your mind is wandering and your heart is full of carnal feelings.

If your body is praying—if you’ve found time to pray—why don’t you engage your mind and your heart, too? Drag them to prayer, even if they resist. If you do so, your prayer will be authentic, and it will attract God’s mercy. God’s promise Ask, and it will be given will come true. God doesn’t grant us what we ask for because we don’t actually ask: we simply assume the supplicatory posture.

By St. Theophan the Recluse
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds