Pray by night. Pray alone. Pray using no book, no image, no thought. Just stay awake for ten minutes after you wake up to have a glass of water, after your child or a nightmare wakes you. Stand there in the dark, and make no move or sound. Make time stand still, capture that moment and bring it before Christ as your humble offering: this is me; this is who I am; THIS is who You must save.
In fact, it may be useful to even forget that you need to pray. Most of us have such terribly deformed ideas about what prayer is, that it is better to simply forget you are meant to pray. Just stand there and look into the darkness outside your window. Other times, make a prostration and even close your eyes while you are on the floor; and stay there; wait there. Keep your body in a state of tension, but your mind empty. Say nothing. Think nothing. Imagine nothing. Do not pray. Do not move. Just wait for His presence. Wait for Him to notice your silence, your stillness, your death. Wait for Christ, and He will come, because love forces Him.
This is the advantage of praying at this time; night is a shield against thoughts, against images and feelings. Try to be present in that moment, try to be aware of the silence that surrounds you, let the void of that darkness embrace you, let it enter you and fill you with peace and silence. There is something almost sacramental in this hidden silence and stillness before Christ. This darkness, this solitude, this instinctive awareness of one’s mortality, they all force one to open up in ways which would be impossible by daytime.
Be aware that you are awake before Christ while the world lies asleep, defenseless and vulnerable. You are awake before Christ, fighting for the world; you have become an intercessor for this fallen, sleeping world which is one with you, and for which Christ has died.
Ten minutes alone with Christ, night after night, will change your life. When you wake up and you face the worries of the new day, there is something in you that rejoices – you and Christ share a secret, you and Christ share a fight. Your soul knows that it has been fed, and it also knows that, whatever happens during the day, the night will always return with its silence and its stillness. You will live through the day waiting for the night, because when the night falls, you will again bring yourself as an offering before your Creator, and your Creator will feed you once more.
The is possibly one of the most powerful blog posts I’ve ever read. It has brought tears to my eyes.
The wounded and traumatized youth I work with are the most vulnerable at night, when all the distractions have gone away. That is when they need us the most. That is when all their maladaptive coping strategies come out. They fear the darkness and the silence and the memories that swarm around them. But I don’t think it’s just them. I think many of us experience this to an extent. I know I do. I know that I often work until my face almost hits the keyboard, and then I collapse into bed. Maybe I, too, fear the stillness of nighttime. Maybe I, too, fear being vulnerable before God.
Thank you for reminding us that we need to be vulnerable before Him, that He cannot heal us if we keep our wounds from Him.
Thank you for all that you do.
Your servant in Christ,
Dear Tanya, thank you for your comment. Forgive me for not getting back sooner, I sometimes can hardly manage all the things I need to do. I can understand perfectly what you say; I’ve often done everything in my power to stay away from meeting Him. I’ve also worked until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, just so there is no ‘middle ground’ between being awake and sleeping. We all fear meeting Christ, because the first thing that becomes clear is the state of our own soul. We see ourselves in Him, and that is something we all dread. I understand these things because I’ve fallen and been defeated in all these ways. There is no other way forward, unfortunately, except through the very middle of our own spiritual ugliness. We just have to trust that Beauty awaits on the other side.
What a striking reflection, and one that resonates so clearly!
One of life’s great pleasures is to sit in a darkened chapel at night, the Sanctuary Lamp the only light, and
just release oneself into the Lord’s Presence. This can happen in an actual chapel, or before one’s icon
shelf, or even just sitting in a chair in a favorite spot. God, Who is everywhere, is also there.
We think of it as His “response” to our reaching out to Him. In reality, it is our response to the fact that
He’s already there.
How magnificent a thing to reflect that God, in Whose Presence we delight, also delights in ours!
Fr. James +
Thank you for your comment, dear father. It is a wonderful and encouraging vision to hold on to; Christ rejoices in our salvation as much as we rejoice in Him. It is the essence of true love, isn’t it? Two beings moving towards each other until they become one.
Thank you, Father. Your words about Prayer by Night, and the sincere tenderness with which they are delivered, are timely and of such value to me. God bless you.
God bless you, too. Thank you for your comment, dear Clementine. I take courage when I see that these posts are of some help to someone. Please pray for me and the monastery.
A luscious reflection. So deep and comforting. So deep and challenging. So complete…
I agree with Tanya, this is one of the most profound blog posts I have ever read.
Dear father, it is easy to write these things. It is endlessly more difficult to do them. Thank you for your kind words; I hope one day I may be able to do the things I talk about. Until then, I need your prayers to support me and the monastery.
Dear Father Serafim — I have now read this post several times over several days, and it becomes more powerful with each review. I am seeking to go deeper and deeper seeking not to know about Christ but to truly KNOW HIM. I approach with humility and metanoia, and Prayer by Night is a wonderful new ‘tool.’ I have not appreciated being awake deep in the night, so this is especially useful to me as a small gift of myself and wakefulness I can offer to Christ. Thank you so much for this post. As time allows you, we look forward to your future communications with us.
May you be blessed with the raising of the Monastery!
Bravo, Parinte! This will help people. I have long encouraged 10 mins. of just being silent, whether by day or by night, as a rule of prayer.
Thank you for this blog but also for the podcast on this subject.
I started waking up and doing this and I truly do look forward to the night.
At first I was concerned that I wouldn’t go back to sleep as once my brain turns on it does not let me sleep but this is not the case, in fact I have the most peaceful sleep and wake up very refreshed. I’m so glad you back on your blog and I look forward to your podcast as they truly feed me.
I pray for you and the monastery everyday.
God bless you
Dear Fr Seraphim, this piece of writing and deep insight into one’s consciousness has come as an answer for one of the most strange command given by God to people: Pray incessantly!We have been taught various texts and specialised words to praise , to thank and to ask, but never silence and prostration ,because in silence we might heard our being screaming out for Him. It is an act of courage and Christ encourages us to do so! Thank you for that ! May God enlighten you and guide your way! Irina
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