Thursday, September 24, 2009

Prayer and the Acqusition of Things

“Everything we desire pleases us only so long as we do not possess it; and when we get it, we soon get tired of it. Or only what we do not as yet have seems to us good and attractive; while all that we have, even though it is the very best, is either not enough for us or does not attract us” (St. Innocent of Alaska, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of Heaven).

It is so easy to get caught up in stuff. Our hearts and energies are captivated by newer, bigger, better, faster, stronger, more elegant. Our attention is focused outside ourselves so that, although we do not deny God, we just ignore Him most of the time. And yet stuff never satisfies. The acquisition of stuff provides a temporary rush; but the stuff itself, after the brief honeymoon is over, quickly becomes just more stuff. Stuff to clean, stuff to maintain, stuff to store, stuff to protect (after all, you wouldn't want someone to steal your stuff)!

When we feel the pull to acquire new stuff, that’s a good time to practice inner prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” The Jesus prayer turns our focus inward. It makes us look at ourselves and our Lord, and it helps us acquire the Holy Spirit, the only enduring satisfaction. When we pray at the moment we experience temptation, much of the power of the temptation is removed because we are no longer looking at it. In the struggle against sin, attention is just about everything.

And this has always been what temptation does: it takes our attention away from our inner communion with God. It was the case in the Garden, it is the case now. If fact, I would be so bold as to suggest that the temptation in the Garden of Eden is a type of every human temptation. The Serpent is whispering in our minds that God is holding out on us, that there is something, someone, some experience, some stuff, that if we just reach out and take it, we would quench the longing in ourselves. And again and again, we reach out, we take it and eat it and then find ourselves naked. Then we hide and play games to pretend that we aren’t.

Prayer. Simple, inwardly directed prayer at the moment of temptation often makes the difference between peaceful communion with God in my heart, or another thing to add to my collection.

1 comment:

Fr Dn Charles Joiner said...

Excellent article Fr. I maintain a website on Orthodox Prayer as part of our ministry at the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville SC and would like to republish this on our blog
Would this be OK with you?