Whatever anyone may set out to do, if it is done with prayer the undertaking will prosper and he will be kept from sin, because there is nothing to oppose him and drag the soul into passion.
If, on the other hand, a man leaves God out and gives his attention to nothing but his business, then he is inevitably opposed to God, because he is separated from Him. For a person who does not unite himself to God through prayer is separated from God.
Therefore we must learn first of all that we ought always to pray and not to faint. For the effect of prayer is union with God, and if someone is with God, he is separated from the enemy.
Through prayer we guard our chastity, control our temper, and rid ourselves with vanity; it makes us forget injuries, overcomes envy, defeats injustice, and makes amends for sin. Through prayer we obtain physical well-being, a happy home, and a strong, well-ordered society. Prayer will make our nation powerful, will give us victory in war and security in peace; it reconciles enemies and preserves allies.
Prayer is the seal of virginity and a pledge of faithfulness in marriage; it shields the wayfarer, protects the sleeper, and gives courage to those who keep vigil. It obtains a good harvest for the farmer and a safe port for the sailor.
Prayer is your advocate in lawsuits. If you are in prison, it will obtain your release; it will refresh you when you are weary and comfort you when you are sorrowful. Prayer is the delight of the joyful as well as solace to the afflicted. It is the wedding crown of the spouses and the festive joy of a birthday no less than the shroud that enwraps us in death.
Prayer is intimacy with God and contemplation of the invisible. It satisfies our yearnings and makes us equal to the angels. Through it good prospers, evil is destroyed and sinners will be converted.
Prayer is the enjoyment of things present and the substance of the things to come. Prayer turned the whale into a home for Jonas, it brought Ezechias back to life from the very gates of death; it transformed the flames into a moist wind for the Three Children. Through prayers the Israelites triumphed over the Amalekites, and 185,000 Assyrians were slain one night by the invisible sword.
Past history furnishes us with thousands of other examples besides these which makes it clear that, of all the things valued in this life, nothing is more precious than prayer.
I wish we could already turn to prayer itself; but we would rather add a little to what has been said, and consider how many diverse good things we have received from Divine grace, for the gift of which we should make a return to our Benefactor by prayer and thanksgiving.
Now I think that, even if we spent our whole life in constant communion with God in prayer and thanskgiving, we should be as far from having made Him an adequate return as if we had not even begun to desire making the Giver of all good things such a return.
[St. Gregory of Nyssa, The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes]
[On this day, the 26 Hatour in the Coptic Calendar, we commemorate St. Gregory of Nyssa, his blessings be with Amen.
Be on your guard against idleness, my beloved; intelligible death is hidden in it. Without it, it is impossible that the solitary should fall into the hands of those who wish to captivate him.
Not that God will judge us on that day on the basis of the Psalm we have recited or whether we have passed in idleness the times of service occasionally; but by our neglecting them, the demons win access.
And when they have found an opportunity to enter and have shut our rooms, they accomplish in us tyrannically things which will necessarily bring their perpetrators under divine judgement in view of the severe punishment allotted to them. So we become enslaved through negligence in small matters which by the prudent are treated in a painstaking way, for the sake of Christ.
As it has been said: “Whoever does not subject his will to God, he becomes a slave to his foe.” We have therefore, to consider as walls against those who desire to captivate us, those things which are reputed to be of a humble nature and which are accomplished in the cell, things which by those who maintain the strict institutes of the church have been laid down in prudence, in a spirit of revelation, for the preservation of our life, the neglect of which is deemed insignificant by the imprudent, the harm of which, however, they do not consider.The beginning and middle of their path is untrained freedom, which is the mother of wrongs.
To trouble oneself which the care of small things is better than to give opportunity for sin by remissness regarding them.This is freedom at the wrong time; the end of which is grinding slavery.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily XXX]
Humility, even without works, gains forgiveness for many offenses; but without her, works are of no profit to us.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 69)
For a man who for God’s sake humbles himself, and thinks meanly of himself, is glorified by God.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Homily 5]
Humility always received mercy from God; but hardness of heart and littleness of faith contend with fearful encounters.
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies. Homily 5]
One of the saints wrote that, “If a man does not count himself a sinner, his prayer is not accepted by the Lord.”
[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, Epistle to Abba Symeon]
Another brother asked Abba Sisoes, “I have fallen, Abba; what shall I do?” The elder said to him, “Get up again.” The brother said, “I have gotten up again, but again have I fallen.” The elder said, “Get up again and again.” So the brother asked, “How many times?” The elder replied, “Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in that state in which he is found.”
Contemplate a little, if agreeable to you, the divine beneficence. The first man, when in Paradise, sported free, because he was the child of God; but when he succumbed to pleasure (for the serpent allegorically signifies pleasure crawling on its belly, earthly wickedness nourished for fuel to the flames), was as a child seduced by lusts, and grew old in disobedience; and by disobeying his Father, dishonoured God. Such was the influence of pleasure. Man, that had been free by reason of simplicity, was found fettered to sins.
The Lord then wished to release him from his bonds, and clothing Himself with flesh— O divine mystery!— vanquished the serpent, and enslaved the tyrant death; and, most marvellous of all, man that had been deceived by pleasure, and bound fast by corruption, had his hands unloosed, and was set free.
O mystic wonder! The Lord was laid low, and man rose up; and he that fell from Paradise receives as the reward of obedience something greater [than Paradise]— namely, heaven itself.
[St. Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter XI]
This is the mark of Christianity: however much a man toils, and however many righteousnesses he performs, to feel that he has done nothing, and in fasting to say, “This is not fasting,” and in praying, “This is not prayer,” and in perseverance at prayer, “I have shown no perseverance; I am only just beginning to practice and to take pains “; and even if he is righteous before God, he should say, “I am not righteous, not I; I do not take pains, but only make a beginning every day.
[Abba Macarius the Great, Homily 26]
Once as the abbot Macarius was passing through Egypt with some brethren, he heard a child say to his mother, ‘Amma, a rich man loves me, and I hate him; and a poor man hates me, and I love him.’ The abbot Macarius wondered when he heard it. The brethren said to him, ‘What was there to wonder at in the saying, father?’ The old man said to them, ‘Truly our Lord is rich and loves us and we will not listen to Him; but our enemy the Devil is poor and hates us, and we love his uncleanness.’