Prayer is...*

Based on conversations I've been having, there would seem to be a difference of opinion on what the subject of my blog actually is. Not fencing, we've defined that. But prayer. By way of elucidation, here are a few answers that I've found in the sources I'm working with. I'm sure there are more.

" [intimate] conversation of the intellect (nous) with God." --Evagrius Ponticus (d. 399), Chapters on Prayer, cap. 3

"...[brings about] a turning of the heart to [God], who is ever ready to give, if we will but take what He has given; and in the very act of turning there is effected a purging of the inner eye, inasmuch as those things of a temporal kind which were desired are excluded, so that the vision of the pure heart may be able to bear the pure light, divinely shining, without any setting or change: and not only to bear it, but also to remain in it; not merely without annoyance, but also with ineffable joy, in which a life truly and sincerely blessed is perfected." --Augustine of Hippo (d. 430), De sermone in Monte, 2.3.14, trans. William Findlay

" the goal of the monk. All his striving must be for this so that he may deserve to possess in this life an image of future happiness and may have the beginnings of a foretaste in this body of that life and glory of heaven. This, I say, is the objective of all perfection, to have the soul so removed from all dalliance with the body that it rises each day to the things of the spirit until all its living and all its wishing become one unending prayer." --John Cassian (d.c. 435), Conference 10.7, trans. Colm Luibheid

"...should be brief and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace." --Benedict of Nursia (d. c. 547), Rule, cap. 20, ed. Timothy Fry

" spoken reason" (Oratio est oris ratio). --Cassiodorus (d.c. 585), Commentary on Psalm 38:13

" of the heart, not the lips. For God does not pay attention to the words of the one praying, but looks only to the heart." --Isidore of Seville (d. 636), Sententiae, 3.7

" an uprising of the mind to God or a petitioning of God for what is fitting." --John of Damascus (d. 749), An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 3.24

"...[that is, pure prayer] is when out of an abundance of devotion the mind is so enflamed that, about to make a request to God, it is so transformed before the magnitude of his love it even forgets its petition." --Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141), De modo orandi, c. 2

" an act of religion.... By praying man surrenders his mind to God, since he subjects it to Him with reverence and, so to speak, presents it to Him, as appears from the words of [pseudo-] Dionysius quoted above. ['It is useful to begin everything with prayer, because thereby we surrender ourselves to God and unite ourselves to Him.'] Wherefore just as the human mind excels exterior things, whether bodily members, or those external things that are employed for God's service, so too, prayer surpasses other acts of religion." --Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (d. 1274), Summa Theologica, 2nd part of the 2nd part, question 83, article 3, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province

"...[for beginners] is like a joyous fire kindled in the heart; for the perfect it is like a vigorous sweet-scented light. Or again, prayer is the preaching of the Apostles, an action of faith or, rather, faith itself, 'that makes real for us the things for which we hope' (Hebrews 11:1); active love, angelic impulse, the power of the bodiless spirits, their work and delight, the Gospel of God, the heart's assurance, hope of salvation, a sign of purity, a token of holiness, knowledge of God, baptism made manifest, purification in the water of regeneration, a pledge of the Holy Spirit, the exultation of Jesus, the soul's delight, God's mercy, a sign of reconciliation, the seal of Christ, a ray of the noetic sun, the heart's dawn-star, the confirmation of the Christian faith, the disclosure of reconciliation with God, God's grace, God's wisdom or, rather, the origin of true and absolute Wisdom; the revelation of God, the work of monks, the life of hesychasts, the source of stillness, and expression of the angelic state. Why say more? Prayer is God, who accomplishes everything in everyone, for there is a single action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, activating all things through Jesus Christ." --Gregory of Sinai (d. 1346), On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; on Thoughts, Passions and Virtues, and also on Stillness and Prayer: One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Texts, no. 113, Philokalia vol. 4, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware

"...for the soul of a Christian consists in looking and asking day and night for the love of Jesus Christ, so that the soul may really love him, feeling comfort and delight in him, rejecting the ideas of the world and dishonest enterprises. And you may be certain that if you long for his love faithfully and enduringly, so that no promptings of your own body, nor vexations of the world, nor conversations, nor antipathy of other people can pull you back and embroil you in a frenzy of activity about material things, then you are bound to receive his love and find and feel that one hour of it is more delightful than all the wealth which we can behold here could supply from now until doomsday." --Richard Rolle (d. 1349), The Commandment, trans. Rosamund S. Allen

" profitable, and a useful means of getting purity of heart through the destruction of sin and the reception of virtues. Not that you should by your prayer tell our Lord what you desire, for he knows all your needs well enough; but by your prayer make yourself able and ready like a clean vessel to receive the grace that our Lord will freely give you, and this cannot be felt until you are purified by the fire of desire in devout prayer.... For prayer is nothing but a desire of the heart rising into God by its withdrawal from all earthly thoughts; and so it is compared to a fire, which of its own nature leaves the lowness of earth and always goes up into the air. Just so, when desire in prayer has been touched and set alight by the spiritual fire which is God, it keeps rising naturally to him from whom it came." --Walter Hilton (d. 1396), Scale of Perfection, 1.24-25, trans. John P.H. Clark and Rosemary Dorward

" a lovely sacrifice to God, solace to the angels, and torment to the fiend." --Anonymous (15th century), The Abbey of the Holy Ghost, ed. C. Horstmann

" a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a godly Christian's weapon, which no man knows or finds, but only he who has the spirit of grace and of prayer. The three first petitions in our Lord's prayer comprehend such great and celestial things, that no heart is able to search them out. The fourth contains the whole policy and economy of temporal and house government, and all things necessary for this life. The fifth fights against our own evil consciences, and against original and actual sins, which trouble them. Truly that prayer was penned by wisdom itself; none but God could have done it." --Martin Luther (d. 1546), Table-talk, trans. William Hazlitt

"...['s purpose] is to uplift the words, to return them to their source above. The world was created by the downward flow of letters: Our task is to form those letters into words and take them back to God. If you come to know this dual process, your prayer may be joined to the constant flow of Creation--word to word, voice to voice, breath to breath, thought to thought." --(18th century) Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer (1993), ed. and trans. Arthur Green and Barry W. Holtz

" the unconditional confidence of human feeling in the absolute identity of the subjective and objective, the certainty that the power of the heart is greater than the power of Nature, that the heart's need is absolute necessity, the fate of the world. Prayer alters the course of Nature; it determines God to bring forth an effect in contradiction with the laws of Nature.... Prayer is the self-division of man into two beings, --a dialogue of man with himself, with his heart." --Ludwig Feuerbach (d. 1872), The Essence of Christianity (1841), trans. George Eliot (1853)

" the breath of the soul, as air is the breath of the natural body. We breathe by the Holy Spirit. You cannot say a single word of prayer from your heart without the Holy Spirit." --John of Kronstadt (d. 1908)

" the free spontaneous expression of experiences which emerge on the heights of the devotional life and which deeply stir the soul. It is not subject to any religious and philosophical criticism, is burdened with no intellectual problems and is not bound up with traditional rules and formulas. Its deepest motive is the burning desire of the heart which finds its rest in blissful union with God or in assured trust in Him. It is fundamentally the same motive infinitely purified, refined and enlightened, which gives birth to all the manifestations of primitive religion, the desire for power, peace and blessedness." --Friedrich Heiler (d. 1967), Prayer: A Study in the History and Psychology of Religion (1932)

" a mysterious life with God, a participation in the center of his being and in his divine, triune love.... Prayer has no beginning because Father, Son and Spirit have been in conversation from all eternity, united in an eternal expectation and an eternal decision.... In prayer God enables man to approach him once more. Most people live so estranged from God that prayer's first task must be to make them aware of their distance from God. In the light of prayer they should recognize what their life thus far has amounted to, what they owe to God the Father, Son and Spirit for which they have not thanked him. In contrition that opens the heart they ought to try to bridge the abyss which separates them from God; they are to begin their prayer by bringing to a halt the movement that estranges them from God and so turning back toward him. Prayer is first of all conversion." --Adrienne von Speyr (d. 1967), The World of Prayer (1951), trans. Graham Harrison

"...can really be toil. At times...prayer comes easily and as the heart's own language. But generally speaking and with the majority of people, this is not so. Mostly it must be willed and practiced, and the toil of this practice derives partly from the fact that we do not experience the real presence of God. Instead of experiencing His presence, the worshipper is conscious of a void; in consequence everything else appears to him more urgent, more real. He must therefore persevere. Anyone who says that prayer has nothing to offer him, that he feels no urge to pray, or that his prayer 'does not ring true' and that therefore he had better leave it, misses the essential point of prayer. To be able to persevere through the hours of emptiness has a special value which cannot be replaced by the most inspired prayer at some other time. Only he who takes his faith seriously can continue to speak through the darkness without receiving any response--he knows that he is heard by Him to whom he speaks." --Romano Guardini (d. 1968), The Art of Praying: The Principles and Methods of Christian Prayer (1957)

"...means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word, for knowledge of his will and for capacity to hear and obey him." --Thomas Merton (d. 1968), The Climate of Monastic Prayer (1971)

" the expression of an ontological bond that exists between God and us. It is the outward manifestation of a fundamental reality: we continuously receive ourselves from God, and we continuously refer back to him." --Jean Daniélou (d. 1974), Prayer: The Mission of the Church (1996), trans. David Louis Schindler, Jr.

" speech, but much richer than speech alone. It is a peculiar kind of speech that acts, and a peculiar kind of action that speaks to the depths and heights of being.... Prayer is at once spiritual and visceral: it stems from the heart and gut as well as the head. Prayer is a state of being...but prayer is also emphatically a state of becoming, a dynamic movement, an incursion into spiritual realms.... Prayer craves ritual expression, and ritual practice virtually always includes prayer.... Prayer lies at the heart of culture.... In prayer, the dreams of a civilization take lucid and articulate form. The evidence cannot tell us whether there is an instinct to pray inscribed in our biological nature, but there are grounds for suspecting that prayer is as universal as language and as old as any other cultural artifact." --Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski, Prayer: A History (2005)

" remembrance." --Bill Willock (epeeist, personal communication)


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