What is prayer?
Saint Theophan the Recluse, who was among the saints we commemorated today, explains what true prayer is:
“… not every act of prayer is prayer. Standing at home before your icons, or here in church, and venerating them is not yet prayer, but the ‘equipment’ of prayer. Reading prayers either by heart or from a book, or hearing someone else read them is not yet prayer, but only a tool or method for obtaining and awakening prayer.
“Prayer itself is the piercing of our hearts by pious feelings towards God, one after another – feelings of humility, submission, gratitude, doxology, forgiveness, heart-felt prostration, brokenness, conformity to the will of God, etc.
“All of our effort should be directed so that during our prayers, these feelings and feelings like them should fill our souls, so that the heart would not be empty when the lips are reading the prayers, or when the ears hear and the body bows in prostrations, but that there would be some qualitative feeling, some striving toward God.
“When these feelings are present, our praying is prayer, and when they are absent, it is not yet prayer….”