God Gives Prayer to Him Who Prays: Selected Sayings of St. Hilarion of Optina

The following teachings of St. Hilarion
of Optina
were taken from
Living Without
Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of
Optina, Holy Trinity Publications, 2005:

Anger

If you feel that you cannot control your anger, remain
silent, and for the time being, simply say nothing, until,
through continuous prayer and self-reproach, your heart
has become calm.

Caution in speech

During conversation with others it is no hindrance to be
cautious in speech, and at the same time one can retain
the Jesus Prayer in the mind.

Relations with neighbors

One must strive to have a good opinion of everyone. Only
God is the Knower of hearts. We cannot infallibly judge
people.

Repentance

In case of a fall of some kind in deed, word, or thought,
you should immediately repent
and, acknowledging your infirmity, humble yourself and
force yourself to see your sins, but not your corrections.
From exam­ining his sins, a person comes to humility
and acquires a heart that is bro­ken and humble, which
God does not despise.

Prayer

We must not attribute miracle-working power to our prayer;
we must not think that what we ask of the Lord is always
fulfilled. This thought comes from pride and leads to
deception.

God does not demand undistracted prayer from beginners. It
is acquired with much time and labor, as the writings of
the holy fathers say: “God grants prayer to those who
pray…”

Thoughts

When having thoughts of self-praise, we must look at our
sins and remember that without the help of God we can do
nothing good and ben­eficial, we have only sins and
infirmities.

Praise

Pay no attention to praise and fear it; remember what one
of the holy fathers says: “If someone praises you,
expect reproaches from him too.”

Reconciliation

If you reconcile your own heart towards someone who is
angry at you, the Lord will tell his heart to reconcile
with you.

Self-will

By desiring to live or die in this place, but not that
one, we establish our own will, we desire to fulfill our
own desires, which we must not do. Do not pray to the Lord
for any such thing, but pray that His holy will may be
fulfilled in us.

Sorrows

Let us endure for a little while and we will receive
eternal blessed­ness. Let us consign to oblivion all
earthly pleasures and joys—they are not for us. It
has been said: Where our treasure is, there our heart
will be
(cf. Luke 12:34), and our treasure is in
heaven; therefore let us strive with all our heart for the
heavenly Fatherland. There all our sorrows will be turned
to joy; abuse and disparagement—to glory; sorrows,
tears and sighs—to consolation; sicknesses and
toil—to everlasting peace without pain.

When sorrow comes to us, we must await consolations, but
after the consolation, we must again await sorrows.

We cannot live in such a way that no one grieves or
offends us, for the Apostle Luke writes: we must
through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of
God
(Acts 14:22), and bear ye one another’s
burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ
(Gal. 6:2).
Let us therefore ask that we may bear sorrows
with self- reproach and humility and not be overcome by
evil, but overcome evil with good, and with the Prophet
say: With them that hate peace I was
peace­able
(Ps. 119:6).

You are bored because you think too much about yourself
and you censure those who are weak.

Spiritual welfare

In the pure writings of the Holy Fathers, we see that he
who desires to cleanse his heart of the passions must call
on the Lord for help—this is so. We cannot say the
Jesus
Prayer
without our thoughts being plundered. With
beginners, God does not demand undistract­ed prayer:
it is acquired with much time and labor. As the writings
of the Holy Fathers say: “God gives prayer to him who
prays,” thus we must neverthe­less continue to
pray, orally, and with the mind.

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