“When you are praying, don’t rack your brains to find words. On many occasions, the simple, monotonous stammering of children has satisfied their Father who is in Heaven. Don’t bother trying to be eloquent lest your mind be bewildered in the search for words. The tax-collector gained the Lord’s forgiveness with a single sentence, and a single word charged with faith was the salvation of the robber. Eloquence in prayer often fills the head with foolish fancies and provokes distractions. Brevity on the other hand-sometimes only one word is enough-in general favours recollection.” St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 28.
Many times we find ourselves about to pray or about to pursue God only to find that we cannot even find the words for this. In part this is why the Church has always supplied us with those words that gloss the range of human emotions and opens our hearts to God with words putting our inner feelings into motion. However, this can also be a temptation for many of us. God is not made more powerful or more Holy by our eloquent praise of Him. We draw near to Him through our pursuit of Him in prayer and in the ascetic practices of The Church.
This should not be taken as an extreme against all prayers extending beyond 1 or 2 words. Rather, this is to remind us that if the object of our prayer ceases to be Him Who “stands at the door and knocks” (cf. Rev 3.2) then we have become the object of our own prayer (This itself is idolatry). Many of the fathers would meditate on a verse or two or simply the Jesus prayer throughout their lives. Many fathers would teach that it can sometimes be enough to simply turn to Him and say, “Lord have mercy”.
Let us open ourselves to Him and seek Him with our prayers. Even the ‘simple’ prayers of children have won His heart for they are uttered with a true yearning and love. Let us seek to be like them.
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