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Further progress in praying.

After your mind and heart get accustomed to turn to God through prayer books, you should try to do it in your own way. Your aim is to make your soul capable of entering, so to say, a conversation with the Lord, lifting up your mind and heart and opening up in confession to Him, telling what there is in your soul and what it needs. We must teach our souls to do so.

So what can we do to succeed in that mastering this knowledge? The first way is to pray by the book with awe, attention and deep emotion. For it is from the heart filled with devout feelings and prayers that your own prayer will begin to emanate and be addressed to God. But there are also other ways leading to the desired result in prayers.

The first way to teach your soul to recourse frequently to God is meditation, or devout contemplation over divine ways and deeds: thinking about Godís mercy, justice, wisdom, creation and Providence, about granting us salvation through Christ, about the Grace and the Word of God, about sacred mysteries and Heavens. Those thoughts will unfailingly fill your soul with devout awe towards God, which directly turns the whole of the being of a man to God and is hence the direct way to teach your soul to be lifted up to God. Having finished your praying, especially in the morning, sit down and begin thinking about that or this Godís way or deed and trying to tune your soul respectively. Join Holy Saint Dimity of Rostov saying, "Visit me, sacred Godly thinking, and we will be absorbed in contemplating great acts of God," - this will touch your heart and your soul will start pouring itself in a prayer. With little effort you will be able to achieve a lot. You must just have a will and persistence to do it. For example, beginning to think of Godís Grace will show you that both your spiritual and bodily being is endowed with Godís mercies, and you will fall down before Him overwhelmed with gratitude. Start thinking about Godís omnipresence and you will understand that wherever you are, you are facing God and God is facing you. Then you will be filled with devout awe. Think of the Truth of God and you will get convinced that no bad deed goes without punishment. Then you will certainly decide to cleanse out all your sins through your hearty repentance and humbleness. Begin thinking of Godís all-knowing and you will understand that everything in you is open to Godís eye. Then you will definitely become strict to yourself in everything, so that you would not in any way offend God who sees everything.

The second way to teach your soul to turn to God is based on devoting every deed, big or small, to the glory of God. For, if according to the commandment of the Apostle (1 Cor. 10:31), we make it a rule for ourselves to do everything, even eat and drink, to the glory of God, then no matter what we are doing we will certainly remember God, and not just remember, but fear to do something that could anger God. That would make us turn to God with fear and ask Him prayerfully to grant us help and enlightenment. And since we are always doing something, we will constantly turn to Him in prayer and thus almost always we will learn the skill of addressing God in prayer. This way we will learn in practice to turn to God more often during the day.

The third way to teach our souls to pray is to appeal frequently to God from our hearts during the day saying short petitions concerning the needs of our souls and the things we are doing at the moment. When beginning to do something, say: "Bless me, O Lord!" Finishing the work, say: "Glory to Thee, O Lord!" If a passion inflames you, fall down before God in your heart saying the following: "Save me, O Lord, I am perishing!" When overcome with disconcerting thoughts call out: "Lead me your way, O Lord," or "Do not let my feet go astray." If you are downcast by sin getting despondent, exclaim like the tax collector did: "O, God be merciful to me a sinner!" And that way you should act in all situations. Or you can just repeat: "Lord have mercy!," "Holy Lady Theotokos, save me!," "Angel of God, my holy guardian, protect me!" Or you can say some other similar words calling Godís name, you should do it often and try to make words come out of your heart as if they are squeezed out of it. When we do that, we will have often the lifting up of our hearts to God, frequent addressing God, frequent prayers and that would translate into the ability to converse intelligently with God.

Thus, there are three more ways, besides setting a praying practice for yourself, that will lead us to the prayerful spirit. They are:

  • to devote some time in the morning to Godly thinking
  • to do everything devoting it to the glory of God
  • and to appeal to God more often with short invocations.

After we thoroughly ponder over spiritual ideas in the morning, sacred thoughts tune us to remember God all day long. Those thoughts in their turn would direct all our actions, both external and internal, to the glory of God. Through this procedure our soul would become predisposed to send up its short prayerful invocations to God. Those three things - Godly thinking, doing everything to the glory of God and frequent appeals to Him ó are the most effective ways to learn an intelligent and hearty prayer. Those who practice this will soon master the skill of ascending to God in their hearts. Thus, a soul will begin entering the sphere of the Sublime so inherent to it ó through heart and thoughts in this life and actually will be admitted to appear before God in the other life.

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