1. In order to not to fall into deception, you must trust no one and nothing but only your reason; in order not to fall into temptation, you must not justify the actions that are contrary to truth, to life; in order not to fall into sin, you should clearly recognize that sin is an evil and deprives human of not only his true well-being, but also of his personal well-being and produces evil in people; and, moreover, you need to know the consecutive order in which you need to combat sins.
2. But people know that and still fall into sins. This happens because people don't know clear enough who they really are, what constitutes their true "self", or forget about it.
3. And in order to get to know yourself more and more, clearer and clearer, and to be mindful of who you are, there is one powerful tool. And this tool is prayer.
60. The prayer
1. Since ancient times, it was recognized that a human needs prayer.
2. Prayer was, for people of old times and remains for many people now, an appeal - in certain situations, in certain places, in certain actions and words – to God or gods with the purpose of appeasing them.
3. Christian teaching does not recognize such prayers, but teaches that prayer is essential, not for the deliverance from worldly disasters or the acquisition of worldly goods, but for strengthening the person in his battle against sins.
4. To combat sins, a person needs to understand and remember his position in the universe; and, upon taking every action, he needs to assess it in order not to fall into sin. In both cases, the person needs prayer.
5. And therefore there are two applications of the Christian prayer: the one that clarifies the person’s position in the universe is the occasional prayer; and another, which accompanies each of his action, brings it to God’s judgment, takes it through the test, is the continual prayer.
61. Occasional prayer
1. Occasional prayer is the prayer by means of which a person, in his best moments, abstracts himself from all worldly influences, and evokes in himself the clearest consciousness of God and his attitude toward him.
2. This is the prayer that Christ says in Matthew chapter 6; in contrast to wordy and public prayers of the Pharisees, which he brings up as an example of how not to pray, Christ calls solitude being an essential condition for it.
3. The "Our Father" prayer, as well as Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane garden, show us how to pray and what that true occasional prayer should be, which, by clarifying the human consciousness about the truth of one’s life, about his attitude toward God, and his purpose in the world, increases his spiritual strengths.
4. Such a prayer may be an expression in your own words of your attitude toward God; but such a prayer was expressed, and always will be for all people, as a repetition of statements and thoughts of people who lived before us and who had voiced their attitude toward God, and as spiritual unity with these people and with God. Christ prayed that way, by repeating the words of the Psalm; and we are truly praying when we repeat the words of Christ, and not only of Christ, but of Socrates, Buddha, Lao Tse, Pascal and others, when we experience that spiritual state which these people have experienced and expressed in those statements that have reached us.
5. And therefore the true occasional prayer will be not the one that requires certain hours and days, but only that which we use in the moments of our highest spiritual state, such moments that come to every human being, which are sometimes caused by suffering or by the proximity of death, sometimes come without any external motive, moments that the person must cherish as highest treasure and use them to greater and greater clarification of his own consciousness, because it is only in these moments that our movement forward and closer to God is accomplished.
6. Such prayer may not be committed in meetings, nor accompanied by external influences, but requires complete solitude, conditions free from external, distracting effects.
7. This prayer is the prayer that shifts the person from the lower state of life to his higher state: from animal to human, from human to God.
8. It is only through this prayer the person gets to know himself, his divine nature, and feels those limits that confine his divine nature, and, feeling them, strives to break them, and by this desire expands them.
9. This is the prayer that, by clarifying his consciousness, makes sins, in which the person lived before, impossible for him, and reveals to him as sin that which didn't seem sinful to him before.
62. Continual prayer
1. In his progression from animal life to true and spiritual life, in his birth to new life, in his battle with sin, every person is always at sin in three different ways. Some sins he has already overcame. They are like chained beasts, which only from time to time, by growling, remind of themselves that they are still alive. These sins are left behind.
Other sins are those that the person has just noticed; such are the deeds that he was doing all his life, not seeing them as sins, the sinfulness of which he has just realized after clarifying his consciousness through the occasional prayer. The person sees the sinfulness of these acts, but he is so used to do them; he has, so recently and not so clearly, seen the sinfulness of those acts that he does no try to fight them yet.
And there is a third kind of actions sinfulness of which the person clearly sees, which he already fights, and which he sometimes commits, yields to sin, and sometimes does not commit and thus defeats sin.
2. To combat these sins comes the continual prayer. This prayer serves to remind the person at all times of his life, during all his actions, of what his life and well-being is; and therefore in those acts of life in which the person is still able to conquer his animal nature by spiritual consciousness, this prayer helps him.
3. The continual prayer is the constant awareness of God's presence, i.e. constant, during his mission, realization by the envoy of the presence of the Sender.
4. The birth to the new life, liberating himself from the bonds of the animal nature, freeing himself from the sin is achieved by only slow efforts. Occasional prayer, through illuminating the human consciousness, opens his sin to him. At first this sin seems unimportant to him, acceptable, but the longer the person lives the more persistent becomes the need to free himself from sin. And if only the person does not fall into temptation covering sin, he inevitably comes to grips with sin.
5. But from the first attempts to overcome sin, the person feels powerless: sin attracts to itself by all the weakness of the habits of sin; and nothing the person can use to counter sin except his realization that to sin is wrong, and the person, while knowing that what he is doing is bad, continues to do this wrong deed.
6. There is only one way out of this situation. Some religious teachers see it in a special force known as grace, which supports the person in his struggle with sin and is acquired through certain performances called sacraments. Other teachers see solution from this situation in faith in redemption accomplished for people by Christ the God. Still others see solution in prayer to God for strengthening the person’s powers in his fight against sin.
7. But neither first nor second or third way makes the person’s fight against sin easier. Despite of the bliss of sacraments, the faith in the atonement, or the pleading prayer, each person, who sincerely began battling sin, cannot but feel all his weakness before the power of sin and the hopelessness of fighting it.
8. The hopelessness of this struggle looks overpowering especially because the person, once he understood the deceptiveness of sin, wants to get rid of it immediately, to which he is encouraged by various false teachings - about sacraments, redemption, etc., and, after feeling powerless to free himself, he right away disregards those little efforts which he could make to free himself from sin.
9. And meanwhile, just as all great upheavals in the material world happen not suddenly but through slow and gradual shedding or growth, in spiritual world the liberation from sin and advance toward perfection is accomplished only by slow resistance to sin – by eliminating the smallest pieces of it, one after another.
10. It is not in human power to get rid of the sin that grew into a habit over the course of many years, but it is totally in his power not to do acts which involve him in the sin, to reduce the attractiveness of the sin, to set himself into the impossibility of committing the sin, “to cut off the hand and pluck out the eye that seduce him”. And to do it every day and every moment; and for him to be able to do this, he needs the continual prayer.
63. What can a person living the Christian life expect in the present?
1. There are religious teachings that promise people following them total and perfect well-being, not only in the future, but in this life. There is even such understanding of the Christian teaching. People who understand Christian teaching this way say that you only need to follow the teaching of Christ: deny yourself and love people, and your life will be incessant joy. Other religious teachings look at life as endless and necessary sufferings that a person must endure, hoping for the rewards in his future life. And there is similar understanding of the Christian teaching: some people see life as continual joy, others – as continual sufferings.
2. Neither of these understandings is correct. Life is neither joy nor suffering. Life may appear to be joy or suffering only to the person who regards his “self” as a separate being; only for this separate “self” can there be joy or suffering. But life, according to the Christian teaching in its true sense, is neither joy nor suffering but the birth and growth of the true spiritual “self“ of the person, in which can neither be joy nor pain.
3. According to the Christian teaching, human life is the constant growth of consciousness of love. And because the growth of human soul – the increase of love – is in constant process, so is the work of God, which is accomplished by this growth, in constant process in the world, and so the person who understands his life the way that the Christian teaching instructs - as the growth of love for the establishment of the Kingdom of God – he can never be unhappy or unsatisfied.
4. On the path of his life, there may be joy and suffering for his animal personality, which the person can't not to feel, can’t not to rejoice at and can’t not to suffer from, but he never can feel the complete happiness (and therefore he may not long for it), and he can never be unhappy (and therefore cannot be afraid of sufferings and cannot desire to avoid them if they stand in his way).
5. A person living the Christian life, does not attribute much value to his joys, does not see them as the fulfillment of his desires but only as accidentally occurring on his life journey phenomena and sees them as something that by itself accompanies the one who seeks the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and he regards his sufferings not as something that should not happen, but, on the contrary, as equally necessary in the life phenomenon as friction at work, knowing that as friction is a sign of the ongoing work, so as suffering is the sign of the produced work of God.
6. A person living the Christian life is always free, because the very same that constitutes the meaning of his life – the removal of obstacles obstructing love, and, as a consequence of that, the growth of love and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, - is the same what he always wants and what inevitably takes place in his life; he is always calm because nothing can happen to him that he does not want.
7. You do not need to think that a person living the Christian life always experiences such freedom and peace of mind, that he always receives joys as something accidental, without getting excited about them, does not want to retain them, and regards his sufferings as a necessary condition for the progression of the life. The Christian may temporarily get carried away by joys, trying to produce and retain them; he may be temporarily troubled by sufferings, regarding them as something needless which could be avoided, but when he loses joy, or when he is in fear or in the pain of suffering, the Christian immediately regains his Christian dignity, recalls his mission, and then both joys and sufferings take their proper meaning, and he again becomes free and calm.
8. So even from the worldly point of view, the position of the Christian is not worse but better than that of the non-Christian. "Seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the rest will follow you" - means that all worldly pleasures are not closed from the Christian but quite available to him, with the only difference that whereas joys of the non-Christian may be artificial and transgress to satiety and sufferings, and therefore are regarded by him as unnecessary and hopeless, - for the Christian the same joys are more simple, natural, and, therefore, strong; they can never produce satiety or sufferings, can neither be so painful nor appear so meaningless as they do to the non-Christian. This is the position of the Christian in the current life; but what can the Christian expect in the future?
64. What can a person expect in the future?
1. A person living in this world in his corporeal shell cannot imagine his life differently rather than in space and time, and therefore he naturally asks, where he will be after his death.
2. But this question is incorrect: the divine nature of our soul, spiritual, independent of time and space, in this life enclosed in the body, upon leaving this body, ceases to be limited by space and time, and therefore you cannot say about this entity that it will. It is. As Christ said: "Before Abraham was, I am". And so all of us. If we are, we have always been and will be. We are.
3. The same is in regards to the question about where we will be. When we say ‘where’, we talk about the place where we're going. But the notion of a place was derived only with the separation from the rest in which we have been placed. With our death this separation will disappear, and therefore for people living in this world we will be everywhere or nowhere. We will be that for which there is no place.
4. There are many different predictions about what and where will be after death; but all of them, from the roughest to the most sophisticated, cannot satisfy a reasonable person. Bliss, voluptuousness of Mohammad is too rough and obviously incompatible with true understanding of human and God. Similarly, incompatible with the concept of God of love is the ecclesiastical idea of heaven and hell. Reincarnation is less crude idea, but similarly holds on to the idea of separateness of an individual; the concept of Nirvana eliminates all the roughness of reincarnation, but violates the requirement of reason – the reasonableness of existence.
5. So neither idea about what will happen after death gives an answer that would satisfy a reasonable person.
6. And it could not be otherwise. The question is set incorrectly. Human mind, which is able to think only in terms of space and time, wants to give an answer to what will be outside of these conditions. Reason knows one thing: that there is our divine essence, and that it grew in this world. And, having reached a certain stage of its growth, it has come out of these conditions.
7. Will this entity continue to function separately again? Will this increase of love cause a new division? All these are guesses, and there may be many of such guesses, but none of them can be credible.
8. One thing is certain and undoubted is what Christ said when he was dying: "Into thy hands I commend my spirit". Precisely that, when dying, I go back to where I came from. And if I believe that what I came from is reason and love (these two properties I know), then I am joyfully returning to it, knowing that I will be well. And not only I do not regret, but I am rejoiced over the transition that is ahead for me to make.
(Source: Translated with God's spirit by EarthlyFireFlies.org, 2020)