†The Characteristics of and Conditions for Answered Prayers†
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Having explained to his visitors, the two monks, Cassian and Germaine the spiritual meaning of our Lord's Prayer, St. Isaac reiterated, "This is the prayer outline that our Lord has given us to pray with; a type of prayer, void of requests for wealth, honor, physical power, health, nor anything related to this transient life. This is so, because He Who is the founder of eternal life, wants that mankind ask him not for trivial, volatile, ephemeral things; For when man neglects supplicating for eternal things, choosing instead to ask for the transient ones, he will offend the mightiness and generosity of his Creator; and through the pettiness of his prayers, will incur upon himself the Judge's wrath instead of His compassion."
The Advantages of Fervent Prayers:
The Lord's Prayer comprises perfection in it fullness. For it is the Lord Himself who has instituted it, establishing its words through His authority. When man transcends to this praying mode, it will elevate him to a sublime state, and assist him to continue journeying his path in spite of hardships. This type of prayer, which in reality, is indescribable, noiseless, motionless, and speechless, is experienced by very few. It transcends all human thoughts illuminating the mind through the pouring of that heavenly light that no human language could describe, but which pours out lavishly as from an overflowing spring of profound thoughts expressing to God, in an indescribable way, in the least amount of time, grand things that the human brain, after returning to its normal state, will not be able to describe. This mode of prayer and the resultant subsequent state had formerly been practiced by the Lord too, while agonizing in His prayers, alone on the mountain of Gethsemane. He was said to have silently poured His supplications, while His sweat was falling like drops of blood. These have been transcendental praying models and examples for us to follow.
Concerning trust in prayers:
St. Isaac: "Any doubt, through some kind of loss of hope, overshadowing our prayers, will destroy our trust in what we ask for. While pouring out our hearts in prayers, let our feelings be those of complete assurance that we have already attained the desire of our heart and that certainly our requests have reached the throne of God. For in as much as we believe in God's care for us and His ability to grant us our desires, will God hear and answer our requests; Because God can never go back on His Words "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24).
Germaine: "We are sure that this trust in God's answering our prayers springs from purity of heart. Whereas we, whose hearts still get afflicted by the stings of sin, how could we attain such trust while we have no interceding worthiness to cause us to trust in the acceptance of our prayers?"
Conditions for Answering Prayers:
St. Isaac: "The Holy Bible teaches that there are different reasons or conditions for answered prayers, based on the variability and changeability of every soul. These conditions are:
First: The agreement of two people in asking for the same thing will blossom into fruitful prayers. "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven" (Mt 18:19).
Second: Faith, even if it were as a mustard seed. "So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you..."" (Mt 17:20).
Third: Importuning, as described by our Lord and which means continuing and persisting in praying and supplicating tirelessly without losing heart. "I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs" (Lk 11:8).
Fourth: Giving "Store up almsgiving in your treasury, and it will rescue you from every disaster" (Sirach 29: 12).
Fifth: Purification of one's life and merciful acts "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'…" (Is 58:6-9).
Sixth: Unbearable afflictions can move God to answer prayers. "In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me" (Ps 120:1) and "You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious" (Exodus 22: 21-27)
Thus, it is through many ways that we obtain the gift of answered prayers in order that we may not be deprived of securing useful needs or everlasting eternal affairs. I firmly believe that in reflecting over our pettiness, we will discover our void of all the virtues just cited, that we do not have the worth-of-praise total agreement between two, faith like a mustard seed, nor mercy acts as described by the prophet.
The availability of importunate prayers to all:
Certainly, we cannot be totally void of that persistence which God provides to all those who desire it, through which God has promised granting whatever we ask of Him and for which we should subsequently persist in our insistence in praying without loosing faith nor doubting that by continuing praying along with those requirements, we will receive all those things we have asked for according to His will.
In His desire to grant us the heavenly eternal things, God urges us to inform Him through importunity in praying. For, He does not despise nor reject he who is persistently insistent. Rather He welcomes and praises him, promising to lavishly grant anything importunely asked of Him, "And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" (Mt 21: 22) and "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you, for everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Lk 11: 9, 10).
Thus, even if we ran short of all the support upon the foundation of which our prayers are heard, our discourse on persistence in prayers will encourage us because the latter is available to all who wants it as it does not need the toils and struggles required to attain virtues.
If man doubts in his persistence, his prayers will not be answered. For, we have learned from the blessed prophet, Daniel, to ask of God without losing heart. Although his prayers had been answered from the first day of praying; yet Daniel obtained the results of his supplications twenty days later (Daniel 10: 2-13). Hence, we ought to not become slack in the seriousness of our prayers, thinking that answers will not come except slowly, lest Divine Providence become tardy, or the angel in charge of delivering the Divine blessing, on exiting from the Almighty's presence might be deterred by Satan's resistance. It is certain, though, that the angel cannot deliver the granted request when he discovers how sluggish we have become in the earnestness with which we have started our importunity.
Assuredly enough, this is what would have happened with Daniel the Prophet, had he not persisted in his prayers with unprecedented steadfastness till the twenty first day.
Also, we have to appreciate St. John's words which have clearly unfolded the obscurity of this matter, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us" (1Jn 5:14) and with which he commands us to have complete, doubtless trust in attaining transient benefits and comforts that are in accordance with God's will; For we have learned in the Lord's Prayer to say "Let Thy will be done" not ours. While we recall St. Paul's words, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom 8:26), we realize that sometimes we ask for what disagrees with our salvation. Thus, such requests might be denied by Him Who, through His Divine Providence, sees what is beneficial for us in a far better, more correct way than we can see. The same thing happened with the Gentiles' prophet when he had asked that the messenger of Satan depart from him, but who for whose benefit and well being, God had allowed to inflict him. "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me'" (2 Cor 12:7-9).
While in the flesh, our Lord, expressing the same feelings, "He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.'" (Mt 26:39), thus providing us with a prayer model. While His will was not against His Father's, "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost" (Mt 18:11) and "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28), saying about himself "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father" (Jn 10:18), preserving the exact unity between the Father and the Son that David had chanted "I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness in the great assembly; indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O LORD, You Yourself know" (Psalm 40:9); "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn 3:16), we find the Son "who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father" (Gal 1:4); and as was said about the Father, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom 8:32) so was written about the Son, "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand" (Is 53:10) and even in the Lord's Resurrection we have learned that the Father's will was according to the Son's as the Apostle says, "Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)" (Gal 1:1) so does the Son testify that He will resurrect His body saying, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up'" (Jn 2:19). Therefore, if we learn from the Lord through all these examples, it behooves us to end our supplications with the same expression of our Lord's "not according to my will but according to yours".
Go into Your Room and Shut Your Door:
Before keeping anything, one has to keep the Biblical command to enter their room, shut the door and pray to their Father Who is in the secret place, "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Mt 6:6). To pray in the secret means to detach our hearts from all thoughts and preoccupations offering our prayers secretly in a hidden relation with the Lord. That means we are to pray to the One Who asks for the heart not the words. To pray in the secret means to offer supplications to God alone from a fervent heart and mind, so that no opposing power may unfold the nature of our supplications. In addition, we have to pray in complete quietude not only to avoid drawing the attention of those near us to our loud voice thus confusing them; but also to hide from our watchful enemies the content and gist of our supplications and so fulfill the commandments to "Guard the doors of your mouth From her who lies in your bosom" (Micah 7:5).
The Value of a Short Silent Prayer:
We must pray frequently with succinct words in order not to distance our prayers, lest by doing so we give our enemy the chance to plant something in our hearts. For, the true sacrifice to God is a broken spirit "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart- these, O God, You will not despise" (Ps 51:17). The useful, pure offering is "the sacrifice of righteousness, (Ps 51:19), and the sacrifice of praise (Ps 50:23 & 66:15). These are the true sacrifices that show the spirit's zeal with which it can powerfully and effectively sing "Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Ps 141:2).
But now that time is running short and darkness has fallen, we feel the need to do this: offer prayers characterized with the same traits we have just mentioned. It seems we have presented you with a useful topic as much as our frail power has allowed. We have exhausted our talk extensively. However, when it comes to the transcendence and difficulty of the topic, we feel we haven not said much.
With these words of St Isaac's we were astounded and satisfied. Then, after the evening service, we rested for a while till dawn, very joyful because of what we had gained through those recommendations and spiritual knowledge about prayer.
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