by Archpriest Andrey Tkachev
Modern man lacks love, for which he is forever searching. Feeling sorry for himself, he calls to mind the words of Scripture: And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold(Matthew 24:12). But the believing soul knows that it alone is responsible for love; it knows, moreover, that love’s natural and constant teacher is nothing other than prayer. When one heart touches another in prayerful compassion, the grace of God descends into both hearts and works miracles.
Prayer is an index of love. If someone never prays for anyone else, this means that he loves no one. It will therefore be difficult for him to understand the profound works of St. Silouan the Athonite: “Praying for people is to shed blood.”
We must learn to love in prayer. Therefore we should ask ourselves: Do we often pray for people? If so, do we pray for them fervently? Do our hearts ache for anyone besides ourselves and our loved ones?
We are usually repelled from praying for our neighbors by their apparent sins and the hurt they have caused us, which have wounded our self-love. But why? After all, someone who has fallen into sin requires compassion; hurt requires prayerful healing. No apparent evil of this world should frighten or put us to flight. On the contrary, a Christian should be prayerfully vigilant, as the Apostle Paul says: Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him (Hebrews 10:38). When implored for His mercy, God counts the tears shed in compassionate prayer with greater care than a diver counts the pearls he has raised from the bottom of the sea. Thus, the Blessed Xenia so loved her husband that after his sudden death she transformed her entire life into prayer for him. And this prayer in turn transformed Xenia from a petitioner for one beloved person into an intercessor for thousands upon thousands of people.
Faith – if it is living, and not mechanical, magical, or egoistical – will compel one to take a prayerful stand. And, at times, to do so more for others than for oneself.
From time to time in every church one can see couples in love. Walking hand-in-hand, they stop into whichever church happens to be on their way. Whispering to each other, they light candles. Perhaps they are dreaming about how they will get married… This is precisely the time they should begin to pray for each another. This will be the first step on their way to unfathomable depths of unity and inner harmony. In order for this to be achieved, one has to pray at all times in marriage: in abundance and in poverty, in health and in infirmity, in hours of temptation and at the approach of sin, in days of vigil over the firstborn’s cradle… One will need to overcome all temptation and heal all wounds with prayer. One will need to enter the Heavenly Kingdom by no other means than by prayer. For in this Kingdom of Love the Holy Spirit will continue to arouse prayer in people, making intercessions for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).