A Deeper Approach to Prayer

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“People sometimes pray over and over to be delivered from a bad habit or an addiction, but are not freed from it. And they become discouraged when God doesn’t answer their prayer. Here’s why that happens. Whenever prayer is not delivering us from the sin or passion we’re praying to be rid of it’s because that sin is anchored by some other sin underneath it, like a boat being held in check by a submerged weight. For example (as we’ll see later on), underlying an addiction to food or alcohol is the big passion of Self-Love. So we often need to pray for God to deliver us from Pride and show us the deeper sin anchoring the one that’s a problem.
“When we pray for God to show us what sin is underlying the difficult, involuntary sin we can’t overcome, it will always bring us to some voluntary sin we can get hold of and repent, an anchor we’re able to pull up. In that way, even persons who are very weak, say the saints, will find a point where they can begin to turn themselves around and change the whole course of their lives. Mark the Ascetic writes, According to Scripture, the cause of all sin that is involuntary lies in what is voluntary.

He who is drawn away by sin against his will ought to understand that he is being mastered by some other previous sin, which he serves willingly, and is henceforward led under its power even to things which he does not wish.
— Basii the Great

[Taken from Dee Pennock’s Path to Sanity]

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Spiritual Defects the Soul Is Born With

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“There are certain diseases–you might call them spiritual birth defects–with which we are all born. They are a part of being mortal (subject to death). They are not our original true nature, but have come upon us because of the fall of Adam and Eve from Paradise. Jesus came to heal these birth defects of ours, to deliver us from them and the death that goes with them, and to restore in us the spiritual nature we were created to have.

“We have two natures, you see: (1) the nature we were created with, which is the nature to which Christ restores us; and (2) the nature we are born with, which is the nature of the fallen Adam and Eve, in need of healing and redemption by God…”

“The passion that attacks our soul’s thinking power is called Pride. It blinds us to the reality of who we are and who God is. It’s a presumption resulting from ignorance of oneself and of God. Scripture calls it ‘blindness,’ or ‘foolishness’ (If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch [Matt. 15:14]; and, The fool has said in his heart, There is no God [Ps. 14:1]…”

“The passion that attacks our excitable power is ‘the passion of’ Self-Love. It produces a kind of feverish lust to indulge and satisfy the appetites of our physical senses, a constant craving for sensual indulgences…”

“The passion that strikes the ‘desiring part’ of our souls, our wills, is Vainglory (’empty glory,’ or vanity). It puts into our will addictions to unnatural desires that act like drugs on us…”

“The three passions through which Adam and Eve fell were: (1) Self-Love, their appetite for the forbidden fruit; (2) Vainglory, wanting to be adorned with divine knowledge, to make them seem to be as gods; and (3) Pride, ignorantly thinking they’d be winners by disregarding God’s rules and taking God’s place, becoming their own gods and establishing their own rules in Paradise…”

“These, then are the three basic passions we all have, our spiritual birth defects. Never think that you can tackle them on your own–just read all about them, decide not to have them, and dump them. Thinking that way will only disappoint you. The passions are not behavioral faults that anybody can correct.. They are diseases of our spiritual system. And you can’t get rid of them yourself, any more than you can reach in with your own fingers and pull bacteria out of your bloodstream.

“Prayer, and prayer alone, according to all our great counselors through the ages, cleans passions out of our souls for us. Passions evaporate only in the light of our heavenly Physician’s healing grace.

“Getting rid of them matters a lot, because they block out all the spiritual comfort and joy, those gifts of the Holy Spirit, that we’d be blessed with if we were free of passions. The passions, as long as they’re in us, will keep us from getting the happiness we wish for. You probably know people who seem to have only a comparatively light load of passions in them. Even so, every person has these three passions to a sufficient degree to cause us all to be separated from God and from the realization of our soul’s very biggest instinctive desires.”

— Dee Pennock, The Path to Sanity

Differing Vantage Points

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Man anthrpomorphises everything because being only man he can do nothing else. It is impossible for him to ever know what it is like to be a dog because he is not a dog. It is impossible for him to ever know what is like to be an ape, regardless of any similararities, because he is not an ape. Man understands about dogs and apes, but he understands what is like being a man.

God, in demonstration of His eternal love, blessed us beyond our understanding in becoming one of us. He not only conveyed His this Love by condescending to our level, but He eliminated all chance of doubt of His understanding our circumstances by condescending to become as we are. God can say, in no uncertain terms, that He knows what we are going through.

What is even more miraculous is that we comprehend any of this.

Those Who Know How to Diagnose

“No one can apply remedies to ill health except one who has already diagnosed the actual origin of the disease…. For unless the different kinds of sins are first explained, and the origin and causes of diseases traced out, the proper healing remedies cannot be applied to the sick, nor can the preservation of perfect health be secured by the strong.”
— John Cassian

While Admiring the Laws, Remember the Lawgiver

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Many whom we have considered great thinkers have realized the magnitude of what the laws of the universe reveal:

“Every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
~~Albert Einstein

“…the fact that there are rules at all to be checked is a kind of miracle; that it is possible to find a rule, like the inverse square law of gravitation, is some sort of miracle. It is not understood at all, but it leads to the possibility of prediction–that means it tells you what you would expect to happen in an experiment you have not yet done.”
~~ Richard Feynman, The Meaning Of It All

“I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence – why there is something rather than nothing.”
~~Allan Sandage, (regarded as the father of modern astronomy, discoverer of quasars, and winner of the Crafoord prize)

However, from time to time pride seems to get the best of some and they veer off course:

“Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can will create itself out of nothing.”
~~Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design

Nevertheless, let us not forget that God in His boundless love for us, prepared us for such pride:

“They produce no events: they state the pattern to which every event – if only it can be induced to happen – must conform, just as the rules of arithmetic state the pattern to which all transactions with money must conform – if only you can get hold of any money. Thus in one sense the laws of Nature cover the whole field of space and time; in another , what they leave out is precisely the whole real universe – the incessant torrent of actual events which makes up true history. That must come from somewhere else. To think the laws can produce it is like thinking that you can create real money by simply doing sums. For every law, in the last resort, says: ‘If you have A, then you will get B.’ But first catch your A: the laws won’t do it for you.

Laws give us only a universe of ‘Ifs and Ands’.: not this universe which actually exists. What we know through laws and general principles is a series of connections. But, in order for there to be a real universe, the connections must be given something to connect; a torrent of opaque actualities must be fed into the pattern. If God created the world then He is precisely the source of this torrent, and it alone gives our truest principles anything to be true about. But if God is the ultimate source of all concrete, individual things and events, then God Himself must be concrete, and individual in the highest degree. Unless the origin of all other things were itself concrete and individual, nothing else could be so; for there is no conceivable means whereby what is abstract or general could itself produce concrete reality. Book-keeping continued to all eternity could never produce one farthing.”
~~C.S. Lewis [regarding the laws of Nature], Miracles

And He has been preparing us for a very long time.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Gen. i. 1.

I stop struck with admiration at this thought.  What shall I first say?  Where shall I begin my story?  Shall I show forth the vanity of the Gentiles?  Shall I exalt the truth of our faith. The philosophers of Greece have made much ado to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken, each being overturned by its successor.  It is vain to refute them; they are sufficient in themselves to destroy one another.  Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of a God, could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the Universe; a primary error that involved them in sad consequences.  Some had recourse to material principles and attributed the origin of the Universe to the elements of the world.  Others imagined that atoms, and indivisible bodies, molecules and ducts, form, by their union, the nature of the visible world.  Atoms reuniting or separating, produce births and deaths and the most durable bodies only owe their consistency to the strength of their mutual adhesion:  a true spider’s web woven by these writers who give to heaven, to earth, and to sea so weak an origin and so little consistency!  It is because they knew not how to say “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”  Deceived by their inherent atheism it appeared to them that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that was all was given up to chance.

To guard us against this error the writer on the creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God; “In the beginning God created.”  What a glorious order!  He first establishes a beginning, so that it might not be supposed that the world never had a beginning.  Then he adds “Created” to show that which was made was a very small part of the power of the Creator.  In the same way that the potter, after having made with equal pains a great number of vessels, has not exhausted either his art or his talent; thus the Maker of the Universe, whose creative power, far from being bounded by one world, could extend to the infinite, needed only the impulse of His will to bring the immensities of the visible world into being.  If then the world has a beginning, and if it has been created, enquire who gave it this beginning, and who was the Creator:  or rather, in the fear that human reasonings may make you wander from the truth, Moses has anticipated enquiry by engraving in our hearts, as a seal and a safeguard, the awful name of God:  “In the beginning God created”—It is He, beneficent Nature, Goodness without measure, a worthy object of love for all beings endowed with reason, the beauty the most to be desired, the origin of all that exists, the source of life, intellectual light, impenetrable wisdom, it is He who “in the beginning created heaven and earth.”

~~St. Basil the Great, Hexæmeron (dated around 370 AD)

Get Up Immediately

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Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

“All of us sin constantly.  We slip and fall.  In reality, we fall into traps set by the demons.  The Holy Fathers and the Saints always tell us, ‘It is important to get up immediately after a fall, and to keep on walking towards God.” Even if we fall 100 times a day, it does not matter.  We must get up and go on walking towards God — without looking back.  What has happened has happened — it is in the past.  Just keep on going, all the while asking help from God.”

– Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The life of Elder Thaddeus

From the Akathist Hymn to Jesus Christ

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New was the creation which the Creator revealed to us when He appeared, for without seed He took flesh of a Virgin and rose from the tomb without breaking the seal of either, and bodily entered to the Apostles whilst the doors were shut. Therefore, marvelling at this we chant:

Jesus, Word uncontainable.
Jesus, Intelligence unfathomed.
Jesus, Power incomprehensible.
Jesus, Wisdom immeasurable.
Jesus, Divinity undepictable.
Jesus, Dominion unbounded.
Jesus, Kingdom invincible.
Jesus, Sovereignty unending.
Jesus, Strength sublime.
Jesus, Authority everlasting.
Jesus, my Creator, fashion me anew.
Jesus, my Saviour, save me.

[From the Akathist Hymn to Jesus Christ]