#81 Pray Simply, Pray Always
Do you want to pray more, but aren't sure where to start? Draw some inspiration from the life of Symeon, a pious man profiled in the book "Ascetics in the World." His life shows how even a simple prayer rule can open our lives to God's grace.
1) How do we keep prayer constant?
2) How do we make a prayer rule?
3) What are different ways we can pray?
4) Why is prayer so important?
Hey everybody, this is Steve, and prayer doesn't need to be complicated. Prayer is an important part of our Christian lives. It's also difficult and confusing and hard to do. I keep hearing from people who want to pray more, can't, or people who want to start praying and don't really know where to begin. We hear a lot about the Jesus prayer for instance but we don't really get a lot of guidance about how to pray it, or how to use a prayer rope. Or we get our hand on a prayer book and get intimidated, flipping through the pages, seeing all the prayers, and there's no time and it's just too much. Whoa, take a deep breath. At times like these, it's really helpful to remember Father Thomas Hopko's Third Maxim of the Christian Life, "Pray as you can, not as you think you must." And for a concrete example of what that looks like, we can turn to the life of a man named Simeon. I read about Simeon in this book, "Ascetics in the World".
A monk on Mount Athos recommended it to me years ago and I loved it. It's a collection of short biographies of regular people living remarkable lives of prayer and asceticism in the world. We sometimes associate prayer and asceticism with monasteries. But this book gives us insight to the lives of regular men and women, living in towns and cities, just like you or I, worked hard to live Orthodoxy and unite themselves to Christ. As you can see. the original is in Greek, but an English translation is in the works and will be available very soon, and when it is, we'll definitely share a link. Of all the amazing stories in this book, my absolute favorite is one about a man named Simeon. Simeon was orphaned at a young age and was one of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled Asia Minor in 1922. He made his way to Greece, and lives in a little hut, alone as a kid and had to start working just to make enough money to survive. He was a really simple person. He never got an education, never even learned to read. Yet despite all the hardships he endured in his life, he always held on to his faith in the Lord. He never really learned how to pray, but of course he couldn't read any prayers. So every morning, on his way to work, he would stop by a little Church.
He'd reverently take off his hat walk up to Icon Screen and stand before the icon of Christ and say "Good Morning, my Christ, it's me, Simeon. Help me to earn my daily bread." And every night, after a hard day of work, he passed by the Church again and stand before the icon of Christ and say "Good Evening, my Christ, it's me, Simeon. Thank you for helping me again today." When he got older, Simeon got married and had two kids, but as if his life wasn't difficult enough, he lost his entire family to tuberculosis in 1950. Leaving him alone, again. Yet he still held on to his faith. Greeting Christ every morning and thanking Him every evening. When Simeon was an old man, he got sick and went to the hospital. After about a month, a nurse realized that no one was visiting him and asked whether he had any family to come see him. Simeon said he didn't, but that it was okay. Because Christ came to visit him every morning and every evening. Every morning He would visit and say "Good Morning Simeon, I am Christ. Be patient." And every evening He would come and visit and say "Good Evening Simeon, I am Christ, be patient." Every morning and every evening. Just like Simeon used to visit Christ in the Church. The nurse that this was...odd, so she called her spiritual Father to come visit Simeon. The Priest was concerned that maybe the old man was imagining things, so he asked him about it and Simeon said that Christ visited him that very morning, except this time He said something a little different. "Good morning Simeon, I am Christ, be patient. In three days, early in the morning, I will come take you to be near me." As the Priest spoke to Simeon and began to learn about his life, he realized that he was a pious, kind, gentle, and saintly man and he began to wonder if maybe he really was seeing Christ after all. On the third day, early in the morning, the Priest was again visiting Simeon. And while they were talking,
Simeon suddenly froze and cried out "Christ is here." And then, he peacefully passed away. Just like the Lord said he would. On the surface, there was nothing remarkable about Simeon. He was poor, couldn't read, he wasn't educated, he just seemed like a nice old man who went to Church a lot. There was a depth to Simeon. It's hard to describe. His heart was a place of peace and gentleness and love. Full of God's grace. Even though his prayer rule was only a few seconds long, a few moments in the morning and the evening, it was a critical part of his day. Even more important than breathing or eating. And those few moments, because they were so simple and honest and heartfelt, were genuine moments of communion with Christ. And his brief simply prayer transformed the entire day, because even though he only stood before the icon for a few seconds, in reality, he stood in the presence of Christ all day. His life was one constant, ongoing prayer, an offering of prayer and humility and love to the Lord. We often intimidate ourselves out of praying or get overwhelmed by the complexity of prayer, fearing that we have to pray everything if we're going to pray anything. And in Simeon, we see somebody who embodied Father
Hopko's Maxim, someone who prayed as he could, not as he though he must. Someone who allowed God to take the simplicity he was capable of, and transform it into the depth of a saintly life. So talk to your spiritual Father about a prayer rule. And no matter how simple it may be, stick with it. Don't be anxious about what you think you could or should do, but instead just be earnest in the prayer that you do offer. A simple prayer, when it's spoken from the heart and put at the center of our lives can really open us up to God's grace. So let's be the bee, and pray simply so we can pray always. Be the Bee and live Orthodoxy. Remember to like and subscribe and share. I'll see you all next week.
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