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Chrysostom on Prayer

Prayer is no small bond of love for God, developing in us the habit of converse with him and encouraging the pursuit of wisdom. … We are, however, not as aware as we should be of the benefit of prayer, for the reason that we neither apply ourselves to it with assiduity nor have recourse to it in accord with God’s laws. Typically, when we converse with people of a class above us, we make sure that our appearance and gait and attire are as they should be and dialogue with them accordingly. When we approach God, by contrast, we yawn, scratch ourselves, look this way and that, pay little attention, loll on the ground, do the shopping. If on the contrary we were to approach him with due reverence and prepare ourselves to converse with him as God, then we would know even before receiving what we asked how much benefit we gain. … [In receiving prayer] God, after all, looks not for beauty or utterance or turn of phrase but for freshness of spirit; even if we say what just comes into our mind, we go away with our entreaties successful. … Often we do not even need a voice. I mean, even if you speak in your heart and call on him as you should, he will readily incline toward you even then. In this way was Moses also heard, in this way also Hannah. No soldier stands by to scare people away, no bodyguard to cut short the proper moment; he is not the one to say “Now is not a good time to make your approach, come back later.” Rather, when you come, he stands listening, even if it is lunchtime, even if dinnertime, even if the worst of times, even if in the marketplace, even if on a journey, even if at sea, even if inside the courtroom before a judge, and you call on him, there is no obstacle to his yielding to your entreaty as long as you call on him as you should … being of sober mind and contrite spirit, approaching him in a flood of tears, seeking nothing of this life, longing for things to come, making petition for spiritual goods, not calling down curses on our enemies, bearing no grudges, banishing all disquiet from the soul, making our approach with heart broken, being humble, practicing great meekness, directing our tongues to good report, abstaining from any wicked enterprise, having nothing in common with the common enemy of the world—I mean the devil, of course. … This is the way you should be righteous; and being righteous you will be heard, since you have such an advocate. Chrysostom, Commentary on the Psalms 4:2-3, as quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scriptures: Psalms 1-50 26-27

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