Prayer and Wisdom against Temptation & Spiritual Danger

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.(Matt. 26:41, Mark 14:38)

Spirit is willing, flesh is weak

St. John Chrysostom: “Inasmuch as Christ Himself came to instruct us in all virtue, He both tells us what ought to be done, and does it… He commanded men to pray for their enemies (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:28) and teaches this by means of His acts; for when He had ascended the cross He said, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).’ Therefore, as He commanded men to pray so does He Himself pray, instructing you to do so by His own persistent utterances of prayer.

“Since then He commanded them to pray ‘lead us not into temptation [but deliver us from evil] (Matt. 6:13),’ He instructs them in this very precept by putting it into practice Himself, saying ‘Father if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me (Matt. 26:39).’ Thus teaching all the saints not to plunge into dangers, not to fling themselves into danger… not to rush forwards themselves, or to be the first to advance against terrors. Why pray this way? Both to teach us lowliness of mind, and also to deliver us from the charge of vainglory. On this account it is also said in this passage that… after He had prayed He said to His disciples ‘Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation.’ Jesus not only prays but also admonishes, ‘For the spirit indeed is willing,’ He said, ‘but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41, Mark 14:38).’

“Now this He said by way of emptying their soul of vanity and delivering them from pride, teaching them self-restraint, training them to practice moderation. Therefore, the prayer which He wished to teach them, He Himself also offered… instructing us to pray, and even to seek deliverance from distress; but, if this be not permitted, then to acquiesce in what seems good to God. Therefore He said ‘Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt (Matt. 26:39);’ not because He had one will and the Father another; but again, that He might instruct men…

“By means of this prayer, Christ taught both these truths, that we should not plunge into dangers, but rather pray that we may not fall into them; but if they come upon us we should bear them bravely, and postpone our own will to the will of God. Knowing these things then let us pray that we may never enter into temptation; but if we do enter it let us beseech God to give us patience and courage, and let us honor His will in preference to every will of our own. For then we shall pass through this present life with safety, and shall obtain the blessings to come: which may we all receive by the favor and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom be to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, glory, might, honor, now and forever world without end. Amen.”  (St. John Chrysostom (347-407), Excerpts from Against Marcionists and Manichaeans)

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St. Cyprian on The Lord’s Prayer and Prayer of the Heart

Christ Pantocrator, Ruler of All

Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil (Matt. 6:9-13).

St. Cyprian: “… what can be a more spiritual prayer than that which was given to us by Christ, by whom also the Holy Spirit was given to us? What praying to the Father can be more truthful than that which was delivered to us by the Son who is the Truth, out of His own mouth?

“Therefore, beloved brethren, let us pray as God our Teacher has taught us. It is a loving and friendly prayer to beseech God with His own word, to come up to His ears in the prayer of Christ. Let the Father acknowledge the words of His Son when we make our prayer, and let Him also who dwells within our breast Himself dwell in our voice. And since we have Jesus as an Advocate with the Father for our sins, let us, when as sinners we petition on behalf of our sins, put forward the words of our Advocate. For since He says, that ‘whatsoever we shall ask of the Father in His name, He will give us (Jn 15:16, 16:23),’ how much more effectually do we obtain what we ask in Christ’s name, if we ask for it in His own prayer.

“But when we pray, let our speech and petition be disciplined, observing quietness and modesty. Let us consider that we are standing in God’s sight. We must please the divine eyes both with the habit of body and with the measure of voice. …Moreover, in His teaching the Lord bids us to pray in secret — in hidden and remote places, in our very bedrooms (Matt. 6:6) — which is best suited to faith, that we may know that God is everywhere present, and hears and sees all, and in the abundance of His majesty penetrates even into hidden and secret places, as it is written, ‘I am a God at hand, and not a God far off. If a man shall hide himself in secret places, shall I not then see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth (Jer. 23:23, 24).’ And again: ‘The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good  (Prov. 15:3).’ And when we meet together with the brethren in one place, and celebrate divine sacrifices with God’s priest, we ought to be mindful of modesty and discipline — not to throw abroad our prayers indiscriminately, with unsubdued voices, nor to cast to God with tumultuous wordiness a petition that ought to be commended to God by modesty; for God is the hearer, not of the voice, but of the heart.

“Take as an example, Hannah (1 Sam 1:9-13)…she did not pray to God with a clamorous petition, but silently and modestly, within the very recesses of her heart. She spoke with hidden prayer, but with manifest faith. She spoke not with her voice, but with her heart, because she knew that God hears; and she effectually obtained what she sought because she asked it with belief. Divine Scripture asserts this, when it says, ‘She spoke in her heart, and her lips moved, and her voice was not heard (1 Sam 1:13);’ but God heard her. We read also in the Psalms, ‘Speak in your hearts, and in your bedsPs. 4:4).’ The Holy Spirit, moreover, suggests these same things by Jeremiah, and teaches, saying, ‘But in the heart ought God to be adored by thee (Baruch 6:6).'” (St. Cyprian (190-258 AD) Bishop of Carthage (248-258 AD) Excerpts from Treatise IV, On the Lord’s Prayer)

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