by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) –
If our life is not a preparation for prayer, then it can be very difficult for us to pray. Prayer is the gauge of our spiritual life, a kind of litmus test. We need to construct our life in such a way that it conforms to prayer.
Prayer involves not only joy and attainments, which take place because of it, but also painstaking daily labor. Sometimes prayer brings enormous joy, refreshing man and giving him new strength and opportunities. But it very often happens that one is not disposed towards prayer, that one does not want to pray. Thus, prayer should not depend upon our mood. Prayer is labor. St. Silouan the Athonite said: “To pray is to shed blood.” As in every labor, this requires great effort, sometimes enormous effort, in order to force oneself to pray even when one does not want to. And such an effort [podvig] will be repaid one hundredfold.
But why do we sometimes not want to pray? I think that the main reason here consists of the fact that our life does not correspond to prayer, is not configured for it. In childhood, when I was in music school, I had an excellent violin teacher: his lessons were very interesting, but sometimes very difficult – but it depended not on his mood, but rather on how well or poorly I had prepared for the lesson. If I had practiced a great deal, learned a given piece and come to class fully prepared, then the lesson went by at one go, and both the teacher and I were pleased. But if I put it off all week and came unprepared, then the teacher would get upset and it was sickening to me that the lesson did not go as I had hoped.
It is exactly the same with prayer. If our life is not a preparation for prayer, then it can be very difficult for us to pray. Prayer is the gauge of our spiritual life, a kind of litmus test. We need to construct our life in such a way that it conforms to prayer. When reciting the prayer “Our Father,” we say: “Lord, Thy will be done,” which means that we should always be ready to fulfill God’s will, even if this will contradicts our human will. When we say to God: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” we thereby commit ourselves to pardoning people and forgiving their debts, because if we do not forgive our debtors then, by the logic of this prayer, God will not forgive us our debts.
Thus, the one must correspond to the other: life to prayer, and prayer to life. Without this correspondence we will not succeed either in life or in prayer.
Let us not hesitate if we find it difficult to pray. This means that God is presenting us with new challenges, which we should resolve both in prayer and in life. If we learn to live in accordance with the Gospel, then we will learn to pray in accordance with the Gospel. Then our life will become complete, spiritual, and truly Christian.