Free books by Fr. Matta El-Meskeen - Pt.4
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The Necessity of Prayer
by Fr. Matta El-Meskeen
This excerpt is from Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way.
he human soul’s relationship with God and the longing to
speak with him are essential elements of man’s very being. In
the same way, ministry and praise are essential elements in the
nature of angels. The tree that is ordained to bear fruit according
to its kind does so in its proper season. So, too, does the man who
responds to the spirit of worship within his soul also bear good
fruit in good time.
The tree appeals to the eyes of the gardener as one of good
quality when it yields the expected fruit. So does the man
who prays in good season appeal to God. The fruit, in fact, is the
gardener’s ultimate hope in planting the tree, then watering and
tending it. Fruit is the relationship that binds the tree to the
gardener’s heart and thought. It is also the main purpose that
motivates him to care for it and keep it in his garden.
Prayer functions in much the same way. God is the good vine
dresser who bought us with his blood and acquired us for his
vineyard. He planted us in his kingdom. He thus expects us to
bear fruit. This is the ultimate aim of his enduring hardship and
suffering on the cross. The ripe fruit of the blood that was shed,
and the conscious response to the work of his love and suffering,
is our prayer. But is prayer vital to our existence in this world?
First, we should know that the world in which we now live is
one that has fallen back to the worship of idols - money,
greed, and sensual pleasure. It is a world from which the fear of
God has withdrawn. The race for gathering wealth; the use of
power, cunning, guile, and bribery for reaching distinguished
positions; the resorting to lies for self-vindication; the use of
force and oppression for establishing supremacy - all have now
become commonplace. Such is the case both in the world and in
the Church alike.
As for how to “save myself” in such a world, it has become a
very critical problem. It demands much struggle and
dissociation from this corrupt environment. One has to take
refuge in prayer as the first and only weapon. In this age, more
than in any other, prayer has become the vital need on which hang
the loss or the salvation of one’s soul. In such an age, man may
live without a God and escape the notice of everyone. He may
even be praised and commended! In the midst of this world -
which teems with atheism, sin, and injustice - prayer now stands
as a reminder for all of us that we have a living God, a kingdom
prepared for us, another glorious life, and a judgment we have to
Prayer also reminds us day after day that we are not of this
world. We are the children of light. Prayer reminds us that we
ought not to have communion with the dissolute, the wanton, the
lewd, or the immoral.
Prayer restrains our hearts from coveting injustice. It keeps our
feet from wandering down the path of sin and our tongues
from flattery and lies. Prayer supplies us with a deep insight, so
that we may refrain from involvement in wrongdoing or
condoning improper behavior or praising wayward or wicked
Prayer grants us every day with a new heartfelt peace in return
for that which we lose as a result of the provocations and
injustices that we face in the world. Had it not been for God’s
grace, we could have been blighted with anxiety and morbidity.
Prayer is an inward light that exposes the blemishes and defects
of our daily conduct. This saves us from being driven into the
abyss of hell.
But God does not seek mere believers. Rather, he seeks “true
worshipers...who worship him... in spirit and truth” [John
4:23, 24]. Here, Christ refers to the lawful state of prayer that is
recognized by the Father. For God is truth, and he accepts no
prayer except in truth. Such a prayer knows him well and surely
believes in him. God is Spirit, and he accepts no prayer except in
spirit. Such a prayer knows what eternal life is and submits to the
Spirit of God. Therefore, the prayer that is in spirit and truth is
the only prayer acceptable to God. It is thus an expression of true
spiritual contact with God. This definition is actually the
summary of the whole clear-cut theological concept of true
prayer, or spiritual prayer.
Moreover, Christ’s words that God “seeks” such worshipers,
or prayerful people, reveals the value and need for prayer
from God’s point of view: God seeks [John 4:23]. The word
seeksimplies that God looks for man’s prayer and shares in
providing the circumstances and possibilities for its success. It is
as if the existence of man hangs ultimately in the eyes of God on
the existence of those who worship him in spirit and truth! True
prayer here appears as the only channel or bond between man and
God. Without prayer, man loses the meaning of his existence and
the purpose of his creation.
Oh that we should always remember that God ever seeks our
worship! It is as if he awaits the hour of our prayer.
Ed. Note: Fr. Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor) is a monk and spiritual
father of the Monastery of St. Macarius the Great, Wadi El-Natroun, Egypt.
This excerpt is fromOrthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way.