On Obtaining True Prayer

by St. John Climacus

Our venerable and God-bearing Father John Climacus (ca. 579 – 649), also known as John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus, and John Sinaites, was a seventh century monk at St. Catherine’s monastery at the base of Mount Sinai. In Greek, his epithet is (Klimakos). The Orthodox Church celebrates his feast day on March 30.

For those who have not yet obtained true prayer of the heart, violence in bodily prayer is a great help – I mean stretching out the hands, beating the breast, sincere raising of the eyes to Heaven, deep sighing, frequent prostrations. But often they cannot do this owing to the presence of other people, and so the demons especially choose to attack them just at this very time. And as we have not yet the strength to resist them by firmness of mind and the invisible power of prayer, we yield to our enemies. If possible, go apart for a brief space. Hide for a while in some secret place. Raise on high the eyes of your soul, if you can; but if not, your bodily eyes. Hold your arms motionless in the form of a cross, in order to shame and conquer your Amalek [i.e. the unclean spirit] by this sign. Cry to Him who is mighty to save, not with cleverly-spun phrases, but in humble words, preferably making this your prelude: Have mercy on me, for I am weak. Then you will know by experience the power of the Most High, and with invisible help you will invisibly drive away the invisible ones. He who accustoms himself to wage war in this way will soon be able to put his enemies to flight solely by spiritual means; for the latter is a recompense from God to doers of the former; and rightly so.
Step 15:81 On incorruptible purity and chastity, to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat.

About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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