What Pure Prayer Is

Now it says in the prophet: This is my rest; give rest to the tired (Isaiah 28:12). Therefore effect this ‘rest’ of God, o man, and you will have no need to say ‘forgive me.’ Give rest to the weary, visit the sick, make provision for the poor: this is indeed prayer…

Watch out, my beloved, when some opportunity of ‘giving rest’ to the will of God meets you, you say ‘the time for prayer is at hand. I will pray and then act.’ And while you are seeking to complete your prayer, that opportunity for ‘giving rest’ will escape from you: you will be incapacitated from doing the will and ‘rest’ of God, and it will be through your prayer that you will be guilty of sin. Rather, effect the ‘rest’ of God, and that will constitute prayer.

Listen to what the Apostle has to say: If we were to judge ourselves, we would not be judged (I Cor. 11:31). Judge in yourselves what I am going to tell you: suppose you happen to go on a long journey and, parched with thirst in the heat, you chance upon one of the brethren; you say to him, ‘refresh me in my exhaustion from thirst,’ and he replies, ‘It is the time for prayer; I will pray, and then I will come to your aid’; and while he is praying, before coming to you, you die of thirst. What seems to the better, that he should go and pray, or alleviate your exhaustion? …

For our Lord, in his description of the time of judgment when he separated out those who were to stand on his right and on his left, said to those on his right: I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was sick and you visited me, I was a stranger and you welcomed me in (Mt. 25:35). He spoke in the same sort of way to those on his left, and because they had done none of these things, he sent them into torment, while those on the right he sent into the Kingdom.

Prayer is beautiful, and its works are fair; prayer is accepted when it provides alleviation, prayer is heard when forgiveness is to be found in it, prayer is beloved when it is pure of every guile, prayer is powerful when the power of God is made effective in it.

Aphrahat, Demonstration IV, On Prayer, in The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life

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