Saturday, 31 December 2011

Good habits and civilization - especially prayer


A devout life is not much about the flash of understanding but is mostly a matter of using insights into truth in building-up good habits; and this can be influenced by our will.

Modern society is a mechanism for inculcating bad habits, especially the habit of seeking instant pleasure, intoxications and distractions; a habit of regarding ourselves as passive recipients for 'entertainment'.

Against this we can inculcate Good habits - such as frequent participation in Holy Communion, reading of Scripture and devotional books (spiritual 'injections' as Fr Seraphim Rose called them), and most of all a habit of prayer.

I think that the use of one or a few repeated short prayers is especially valuable in modern conditions.

This practice is especially associated with Orthodox mysticism, and has a remarkable 'track record'; but it need not be Orthodox nor mystical.

The prayer chosen was traditionally drawn from scripture - the New Testament or Psalms or Prophecies. Or there is the Jesus Prayer - which has various versions.

The prayer is repeated and repeated whenever the need for prayer is remembered. There is no delay in finding a 'suitable' place or adopting a posture; as soon as the need is remembered the prayer is said (either quietly with the lips or in the mind).

Repetitions can be counted-off on the fingers - or with a device such as a prayer rope or rosary (maybe concealed in the pocket).

As the habit develops it will be found that sometimes the prayer comes to mind or is already running through the mind or being said unconsciously and without intention, and this is itself a reminder to pray consciously and with attention now.

The prayer can function as an alarm call; whenever we surface from the maelstrom of the modern world there is the prayer, ticking away, and reminding us of the real things.

A good habit to acquire!