July 20, 2022

Homily on the Prayer of the Prophet Elijah (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on July 20/August 2, 1951)

When we read in the Bible, in the Third and Fourth Books of Kings about the amazing deeds of the holy prophet Elijah, our mind is amazed by them, we are amazed very much: we are amazed at his extraordinary zeal for the glory of God and his complete fearlessness in planting faith among the pagan people (and such was then the people of Israel); our mind is amazed when we read about his extraordinary miracles; we are most amazed, perhaps, when we read about the amazing power of his prayer, for you know that with his prayer he commanded even the elements: he forbade the rain to fall on the land of Palestine for three and a half years, and then again with his prayer he brought down rain to the ground.

With his prayer, he sent down heavenly fire, which burned the sacrifice that was abundantly poured over with water.

It is precisely on the prayer of the prophet Elijah that I want to focus your attention, for there would not be enough time to talk about all the great things that he did. But not only his prayer: we know that there were great ascetics of piety, great venerables, who also worked great and greater miracles with their prayer.

But I want you to be imbued with the idea that not only such a prayer, which works obvious, visible miracles to everyone, not only the prayer of the prophet Elijah, the prayers of the apostles, the prayers of the prophets and martyrs work miracles, I want you to understand that any prayer too works wonders.

What miracles does it do? Not at all as glorious and amazing as the prophet Elijah did, but works miracles unknown to anyone, except for the one in whose soul these miracles are performed.

Prayer such as the prayer of St. Seraphim of Sarov, like the prayer of St. Sergius of Radonezh, like the prayer of Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves, Varlaam Khutynsky, Nil of Sorsky and many other venerables - such a prayer works invisible miracles.

Saint Seraphim and Saint Sergius, even during their lifetime, became like angels in the flesh, their souls were full of the deepest faith, full of the purest love for God and for people. They shone with faith, shone with love.

How did they achieve such radiance, how did they achieve it?

They reached it by their prayer, first of all by prayer; true, and the most difficult fasting, and vigil.

Do you know that the Venerable Seraphim of Sarov stood on a stone for a thousand days and a thousand nights, praying to God? This amazing prayer made him an angel in the flesh. From this prayer, Divine love settled into his soul, and his heart shone with such love that he greeted everyone who came to him with a word full of love: "My joy!"

You see, prayer worked a miracle in the soul of St. Seraphim, it worked miracles in the souls of other saints, the number of which is huge. Prayer worked miracles of patience among the martyrs, and this incomprehensible patience shocked the souls and spectators of their torments, and often even the executioners who tortured and tormented them - they turned to Christ.

So, you see that praye , which does not create visible miracles that amaze our mind, works miracles in the mystery of human hearts.

It completely transforms these hearts, for the hearts of the saints and martyrs are very different from the hearts of ordinary people, that mass of humanity whom the Holy Scripture calls the people of the earth.

So, know that in your prayer there is the power of God working miracles in your hearts. Know that prayer is the most important of all the deeds of a Christian person. All his other deeds are small and insignificant, absolutely insignificant in comparison with the deed and labor of prayer.

As any plant dries up without water in dry soil, so the soul of a person dries up if it is not nourished by prayer. She also needs food and water, but special water, that living water that Christ promised to give to the Samaritan woman in conversation with her, that water flowing with eternal life, about which He spoke in the Temple of Jerusalem on the day of the Mid-Pentecost.

This water, the water of the grace of God, is needed, absolutely necessary for each of us. And this living water, this source of grace, we receive in prayer.

But when I talk about prayer, they often answer me: "I don't know how to pray. Teach me how to pray."

What do I answer?

I answer first of all that prayer is the greatest and most difficult of all human works. We know that no difficult task is learned easily. A long study is needed in all matters, in every art.

If long study is needed in the affairs of mankind, then so much the more so in this greatest of all affairs. Study, study, study endlessly - and it will be given to you.

How to start learning? Here's how: there are many prayers compiled and written by great saints of God, great saints, great saints and martyrs.

Pray these prayers, do not imitate the Baptists who despise these prayers and make up their own. Their prayers are weak and stereotyped, for their spirit is insignificant in comparison with the spirit of the Holy Fathers.

Do not invent your own prayers, pray those that the Holy Church teaches you. But as you read these prayers, delve into every word of them, catch yourself in every distraction, in every distraction from the words of the prayer.

If you pray like this, then the holy prayers of the great saints of God will sanctify your souls.

But there is one more prayer - the Jesus Prayer - it is considered the most important and necessary for all monks.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

This prayer truly works miracles, and therefore it is considered extremely important, if not the most important of all.

Learn this prayer, start with it. Learn it this way: lock the door of your room, stand if you like; even sit on a chair if you like, kneel if you like.

With your head bowed low, first of all, look into your heart, meditating and remembering which of the great multitude of sins torments your heart the most, which is the most repugnant to God.

If fornication, if adultery, think of this alone; if greed - think about it first of all, if mercilessness and cruelty and dislike - focus your thoughts on this first of all.

Standing, sitting, on your knees, find your most serious sin, lower your head low and beg the Lord Jesus, first of all, for the forgiveness of this sin of yours ... Pray the Jesus Prayer, best of all with the prayer rope and say: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

And at this time, think about this your most serious sin. Repeat this prayer at least a hundred times, always focusing your thoughts on your most serious and disgusting sin. Starting with this, get used to remembering other sins.

Praying the Jesus Prayer, you will keep all sins in your mind and ask the Lord for forgiveness not only in the most difficult, but also in all your sins. This prayer will work a miracle in your souls. You will be ashamed; when you begin to confess your gravest sin before God, you will feel an insistent desire to be freed, to be freed from this vile sin without fail.

By praying like this day by day, you will be freed more and more from your main sin and from all your other sins, and your soul will be transformed.

You yourself will begin to notice how your attitude towards your neighbors will change: you yourself will notice that you are becoming more and more gentle, patient, meek, humble.

You will treat people with great care, you will make sure that you do not hurt or offend anyone and anything. And the Jesus Prayer will transform your heart and produce this miracle - the invisible miracle of God's grace in your heart.

Here is what I wanted to tell you about prayer.

And if you want to purify your heart, if you want to fearlessly stand before the Terrible Judge Christ, then follow what I advise you.

Pray, pray the Jesus Prayer, and above all, repent and repent.

Prayer of repentance should be your most important and constant prayer. But as it cleanses your heart, you will learn to pray not only for yourself, but also for those near and far, for the whole human race, and the most holy, most pleasing to God prayer for those who hate and offend you will come.

Earlier I advised you not to imitate the sectarians in composing your own prayers, but now I will say that there is the highest form of prayer - prayer without words, the cry of the soul to God, opening the heavens and bringing us into the most living communion with God.

May the Lord vouchsafe us all to acquire such a prayer!

But it will come only when we become true temples of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.