By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart" (Luke 18:1).
Does the Lord's command about ceaseless prayer that men ought always to pray (Luke 18:1), apply only to monks or to all Christians in general?
If it applied only to monks, the Apostle Paul would not have written to the Christians in Thessalonica to "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17). The Apostle repeats the Lord's command, word for word, and issues it to all Christians without distinction, whether monks or laymen.
St. Gregory Palamas lived a life of asceticism for some time as a young hieromonk in a monastery in Beroea. The elder Job, a well-known ascetic whom everyone respected, lived in that monastery. It happened that, in Elder Job's presence, St. Gregory quoted the Apostle's words, asserting that ceaseless prayer is the obligation of every Christian and not just for monks. However, Elder Job replied that ceaseless prayer is the obligation of the monk only, and not for every Christian. Gregory, as the younger of the two, yielded and withdrew in silence. When Job returned to his cell and stood at prayer, an angel in great heavenly glory appeared to him and said: "O Elder, do not doubt the truthfulness of Gregory's words; he spoke correctly and you should think likewise and pass it on to others." Thus, both the Apostle and the angel confirmed the commandment that all Christians must pray to God without ceasing.
Not only without ceasing in church, but also without ceasing in every place and at all times, and especially in your heart. For if God does not for a moment tire of giving us good things, how can we tire of thanking Him for these good things? When He thinks of us without ceasing, why do we not think of Him without ceasing?
"… that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye [may be] rooted and grounded in love" (Ephesians 3:17).
With faith, Christ comes into the heart, and with Christ comes love. Thus man is rooted and grounded in love. First then, there is faith; then with faith comes Christ's presence in the heart; then with Christ's presence, the presence of love; and with love, all ineffable goodness.
In a few words, the Apostle delineates the whole ladder of perfection. The beginning is faith and the end is love; and faith and love are joined in a living, undivided unity by the Living Lord Jesus Christ's presence in the heart. By strengthening faith, we further abolish the distance between ourselves and the Lord Jesus Christ. The stronger one's faith, the closer one is to Christ.
Ultimately, one's heart is filled with Christ and cannot be separated from Christ, just as one's lung cannot be separated from the air. Then a man may, with tears of joy, communicate with Christ by the prayer of the heart - "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner" - and the heart is imperceptibly filled with light and ardent love.
In this way, love is united with faith and hope; and when they are united, the boundaries between them are lost, so that man cannot even think of determining of how far faith goes, and where hope and love begin.
When the living Christ dwells in a man, then he no longer perceives faith, hope or love in himself, nor does he name them. Instead, he sees only Christ and names only Him. This is just like a fruit-grower in autumn who considers the ripe fruit on the tree, and speaks no more of blossoms and leaves but of fruit, ripe fruit.
O Lord Jesus Christ, supreme height of all our endeavors and the destination of all our travels, draw near to us and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.