Evagrius of Pontus: Are You Preoccupied with God's Company?

Feast of the Holy Apostle Thaddaeus

Evagrius_Square_2.jpgAT TIMES just as soon as you rise to pray you pray well. At other times, work as you may, you achieve nothing. But this happens so that by seeking still more intently, and then finally reaching the mark, you may possess your prize without fear of loss.

When an angel makes his presence felt by us, all disturbing thoughts immediately disappear. The spirit finds itself clothed in great tranquility. It prays purely. At other times, though, we are beset with the customary struggle and then the spirit joins the fight. It cannot so much as raise its eyes for it is overtaken by diverse passions. Yet if only the spirit goes on striving it will achieve its purpose. When it knocks on the door hard enough it will be opened.

Pray not to this end, that your own desires be fulfilled. You can be sure they do not fully accord with the will of God. Once you have learned to accept this point, pray instead that “Thy will be done” in me. In every matter ask Him in this way for what is good and for what confers profit on your soul, for you yourself do not seek this so completely as He does.

Many times while I was at prayer, I would keep asking for what seemed good to me. I kept insisting on my own request, unreasonably putting pressure on the will of God. I simply would not leave it up to His Providence to arrange what He knew would turn out for my profit. Finally, when I obtained my request I became greatly chagrined at having been so stubborn about getting my own way, for in the end the matter did not turn out to be what I had fancied it would.

What else is there that is good besides God alone? Therefore let us cast all our concerns upon Him and it will be well with us. Certainly, He who is wholly good is necessarily the kind of person who gives only good gifts.

Do not be over-anxious and strain yourself so as to gain an immediate hearing for your request. The Lord wishes to confer greater favors than those you ask for, in reward for your perseverance in praying to Him. For what greater thing is there than to converse intimately with God and to be preoccupied with His company. Undistracted prayer is the highest act of the intellect.

—Evagrius of Pontus, Chapters on Prayer

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