How is your prayer?

Theophan the Recluse was a Russian priest and bishop of the 19th century. In the latter half of his life he lived in solitude. Much of his life was spent writing and teaching about the life of prayer. In one of his homilies on prayer he offers the following:

Let me recall a wise custom of the ancient Holy Fathers: when greeting each other, they did not ask about health or anything else, but rather about prayer, saying “How is your prayer?” The activity of prayer was considered by them to a be a sign of the spiritual life, and they called it the breath of the spirit. If the body has breath, it lives; if breathing stops, life comes to an end. So it is with the spirit. If there is prayer, the soul lives; without prayer, there is no spiritual life.


Theophan’s understanding that prayer is the breath of life fits nicely with Rabbi Heschel’s teaching that prayer is the essence of life.


  1. St Theophan is great, though I’ve always wondered why it is ROCOR or their like which tends to be the ones of the Orthodox world which bring him up (while others, like you and I, can appreciate him without all the baggage the ROCOR folks bring)?


  2. Thank you for your comment. I have just recently started reading Theophan. I like his clarity and directness. I am not sure what you mean by the baggage of the ROCOR folks. Can you explain a little more to help me understand? Thank you.


  3. ROCOR tends to be more fundamentalistic in mentality, rigorist in intent, and legalist in how they deal with their spiritual life; so those in ROCOR who take Theophan’s advice make it more than mere advice but rules which must be followed. The spirit is lost for the letter — ROCOR was out of communion with Moscow for quite some time because of this (among other things, ROCOR is strongly opposed to the New Calendar). I like some of what comes out of ROCOR, but I do know it attracts a bent which is minor within Orthodoxy.


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