Orthodox River

Praying for the Old Man

Here is a chapter on prayer and the blessing of may it be blessed from Elder Symeon

Praying for the old man?

I will be so bold as to say that, if you say “May it be blessed” continuously, this is higher than all else –than all else– even than the Jesus Prayer: don’t let this startle you. You know, to pray is not really very difficult. At the same time, however, it is. There is no doubt at all that one who learns to pray learns everything. However, we may say that from one perspective it isn’t that hard for someone to pray, given that once in a while our prayer is for don’t be alienated by what I’m going to say– for the thing that a person is resisting inside and that needs to leave. Yes, it is possible for one to pray in this way, as if to nourish this condition of denial. In other words, he prays in such a way as to maintain the negative reaction that is in him.

I have said several times that one might confess for the old man, might receive Holy Communion for the sake of the old man, might even pray for the old man. It isn’t difficult, beyond any other prayer, to say: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Of course, the catch here is that you will have difficulties saying it again and again, and you make an attempt. However, our inner man isn’t as constrained as it is with “May it be blessed” –when one says “May it be blessed.”

And I’ll hasten to give you a more striking example. Let’s say you’re sick or you have a problem or one of your relatives is sick or you have a problem with your relative. In these cases, of course, these issues contribute in you praying fervently, persistently, praying from your heart. You’re praying and you want to get well, you’re praying and you want your relative to get well, you’re praying and you want your problem or the problem of your relative to be solved. That’s good, it’s not bad for anyone to do that. It’s precisely what we should do with all the strength of our soul. However, if you look closely at it, the situation has some self-interest in it. What do I mean by self-interest? At bottom, it means that we want things to happen according to our own will. And you know that when a thing has self-interest in it, it easily happens that it doesn’t take much effort to do. But if at this crucial moment you pray and say what you have to say to God about your problem, about the difficulty that you’re having, but in the end you constrain your heart, you marshal your strength, you stand before God with all your love, with all your obedience –with all your feeling that you are a creature of God and that God is above and you say: “But, my God, may things happen as Thou willst. May it be blessed”– now that’s difficult.

I know many people, both here and in Greece and all around, everywhere I’ve gone, who make burning, fervent, prayers for some problems of theirs to be solved, as we’ve said, but I know few who would say –because it is very difficult– who have the courage, every time they find it heavy going and are having difficulty, saying precisely what the Lord said three times there in the garden of Gethsemane: My Father, if it is possible, take this Cup from Me, but not My will be done but Thine.