Friday, November 7, 2008

Re. Wanderings of the Mind in Prayer, I Wonder:

Can they ever be a valid part of the prayer?

I have a hunch that this may be so....

Feedback?

6 comments:

-C said...

It may be for some, but not in my experience.

orrologion said...

I guess it depends on what you mean by wandering. If it is wandering that actually keeps one from praying attentively, then it was likely from the evil one. But, angels can suggest thoughts, too. By their fruits we shall know them. I think the idea is that the devils make use of 'good thoughts' as a foot in the door or bait, but then distract us from prayer and good works or, worse, tempt us and foment evil.

I think there is also a balance needed when applying monastic literature on attention (nepsis) and prayer. In the world, our calling is not ceaseless remembrance of God and mental prayer. Arch. Zacharia of Essex mentioned that Arch. Sophrony would only let him attempt 10 minutes a day of fully collected prayer with the mind in the heart at first. So, wandering of thoughts in every day life, musing on a subject, thinking over options, imagining potentialities may be more a part of our worldly lives. I think Fr. Sophrony also mentioned somewhere that we are creatures with imaginations, and that these will inevitably be used by most Orthodox at most stages of their spiritual lives to one degree or another - we are simply not to cultivate the use of the imagination, but not scorn it as evil when it comes.

As in all things, balance and the guidance of an experienced spiritual father are necessary. Me, I just try to say my prayers, commune and confess regularly, and to be a good husband, father and employee that doesn't as blatantly sin as I am tempted to.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

Thank you--that's helpful and refreshing.

I think it's hard for me as an artist and writer to NOT cultivate my imagination--in fact, I think I am SUPPOSED to cultivate it--which is why those teachings represent to me a kind of alien land...

orrologion said...

I was an actor for years, but the nature of the fine and performing arts may be different. One need not necessarily visualize something in the mind; and actor is meant to 'really' talk and listen. There is also a tradition of the visual arts in the Orthodox Church while acting was/is canonically verboten - or at least suspect. Fr. Sophorny was a painter (and a Buddhist) prior to going to Mt. Athos. It would be interesting to read anything he said about the arts and imagination. Try and find an email for the monastery in Essex and ask. Let me know what you hear.

Anonymous God-blogger said...

Thank you--I might do that.

And writers (especially of fiction and poetry)--we're such a strange breed--any writers out there who would care to speak to this issue?

Gordy Thomas said...

We can start by asking ourselves, "Who prays perfectly?" The Saints, of course. The Theotokos. Yet what does that mean? It means they attained synergy with God. It means that no one prays alone, for even in our deepest solitude, The Holy Spirit is there to prod us to pray, to empower our prayers AND to PERFECT our prayers. So while the obvious response would be, "No", a deeper consideration of what makes up "prayer" allows us to see how that answer simply leaves the work of The Holy Spirit out of the picture. We are all called to pray, and even to pray some of the same prayers. Yet we are also called to pray whatever our circumstance might be, and whatever our talents might be. It would seem proper to ask the question in another manner: "How much would my mind be wandering if I weren't in prayer?" When looked at from that perspective it is easier to see that, while we must actively engage in the process, it is The Holy Spirit who sanctifies our prayers.