When I first began in Orthodoxy, I was a bit offended. Saints frequently wrote about how unworthy and sinful we are and how we need to frequently repent. I still had the legal model of salvation in my mind: didn’t God wipe away our debts? Why all of this pitiful weeping and repenting?
AN UNPOPULAR NECESSITY
But salvation is therapeutic, which necessitates that it is a process, a struggle, and a journey. I sin every day of my life, meaning I am breaking communion with Life itself constantly. Repentance comes from the Greek word μετἀνοια (metanoia) meaning “to turn around” or “to do an about-face.” It has less to do with saying “I’m sorry” and more to do with realigning your entire being back toward God.
When we begin to become more aware of our internal struggles, then we understand the utmost necessity of continual repentance. For that reason, the Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner” is so necessary. When prayed to God with sincerity throughout the day, we are literally realigning our beings toward God and away from death and sin. Walking in repentance requires brute honesty with ourselves and with God, but it is a freeing journey.
One warning though:
This path, if not walked correctly, can be discouraging and has lead some to depression. There’s a distinction between being repentant and wallowing in sorrow or self-pity. As the Apostle Paul writes, there are two types of sorrow: worldly sorrow that leads to depression and death and godly sorrow that leads to repentance and life. Therefore, it is imperative to journey down the road of repentance with an experienced spiritual guide who is walking that path as well. The journey toward Christ should be completed in community.
A critical part of our journey in salvation is prayer, which is communion with God. As I mentioned above, the Jesus Prayer is an excellent way to reestablish our broken communion with Love. I try to remember to pray it throughout the day, each day.
Prayer is always good, but it is not always enjoyable; “edification” and “fun” are not synonymous. Establishing a consistent prayer life requires discipline, and at times I have to pray even when I don’t feel like it. St Paul writes of athletes who rigorously train their bodies to obtain a prize; how much more so should we do in our spiritual lives? More on the hard work of prayer can be found here.
We make time for whatever we want to have time for. A good beginning prayer habit includes morning and evening prayers (right after rising, and shortly before bed time) with the Jesus Prayer said throughout the day. I would recommend using Orthodox prayers as these have been written and passed down by folks who are spiritual giants. After some practice, you’ll likely find prayers that are particularly special to you.
“…BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND”
Those who have pursued this prayerful life have been told by others that they are literally changing. It cannot be helped. When we constantly and intentionally commune with Life, Love, Joy, and Peace Himself, we will be transformed.
Try not to view this as a chore, or a set of rules to follow that will make God love you more or be more happy with you. God is overflowing with love as He is Love; He is also unchangeable. Nothing you can do will alter God’s loving orientation toward you. However, you are changeable, and the habits you establish will either open you up to receiving God and His love, or the lack of communion with God will close you off from His love.
God is knocking at the door of your heart, will you open?
***The free e-book can be obtained by right clicking the link, hit Save As, and choose the folder you want it in. I saved it in the ePub format since that is a universal format. Go to a website like online-convert.com to change it to a format appropriate for your software/hardware to make it work with your Kindle, Nook, etc.