Since the beginning of December, I’ve been reading in the Philokalia as part of my morning rhythm. These are writings in the Orthodox tradition that begin (in volume 1 that I’m reading) with the Christian desert fathers in the fourth century. These were followers of Jesus who, when Constantine made Christianity the official Roman religion, felt they could only remain faithful in their following by separating themselves from this whole religious system, following Jesus into the wilderness. They lived in the deserts of Egypt and surrounding regions. Their lives are so distant from me in time, place and culture, but I’ve found much to nourish my soul in what they said.
In this morning’s reading, I came across this in Evagrius the Solitary’s On Prayer: One Hundred and Fifty-Three Texts.
“Do not be distressed if you do not at once receive from God what you ask. He wishes to give you something better—to make you persevere in your prayer. For what is better than to enjoy the love of God and to be in communion with Him?” (Text #34)
I’ve heard this insight before, but I’m awfully slow to establish it in my assumptions and expectations. If I always got everything I asked right when I asked, how would perseverance grow in me? And if I limited myself only to what I asked, how would I learn to notice Jesus giving me something better, namely, communion with God? Am I primarily seeking God, or am I mainly seeking something from God? He is seeking to lift my gaze from the blessings in his hands to the blessings of his own gaze. Will I let him teach me by being patient when what I ask does not come very soon?
Reflection: What prayer seems to have gone unanswered in your life? How might Jesus be drawing your attention to himself, seeking to deepen your perseverance in seeking Him even more than whatever else you’ve sought from Him?
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