|Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - February 2005|
Praying With Tears
During these troubled times we can't help noticing that so many tragic even horrifying - events are happening. Our TV news programs, our newspapers, are all remorseless in showing us in dreadful close-up that is happening to our fellow man. One tragedy follows another, shocking us, and often bringing us to tears as we witness the struggles and sufferings of others.
In each situation - it could be New York City, or Baghdad, or Darfur, or Jerusalem, or Sri Lanka - anguish is etched upon thousands, indeed millions of faces, demanding that we respond with out hearts to what we see. We too find there are times when we have to go through our own struggles and suffering, but as Christians we know we have the power to survive these storms as we call upon the love of our Lord God. All that He has taught us shows that by His Holy Spirit, His inner strength and His joy come to us, fill us, and teach us how to pray.
At times the Holy Spirit will even bring us to the point of weeping. We weep for the lost in our lives, we weep for those who are dear to us and are ill, and we weep for those who are suffering - whether in war, or in times of "peace" when the earth itself suddenly shakes, bringing unexpected death and injury to hundreds of thousands. Suddenly we find ourselves just stopping for a moment when we hear about a soldier who has been killed during a war. We are saddened when we hear about those who persecute our church, and destroy churches and monasteries, as is the situation now in Kosovo and in Methoija. We also ask why so much pressure and persecution is now a "normal" everyday happening at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul -Constantinople.
So many things going on in the world bring these tears to our eyes. But at the same time we must also realize that we have not been abandoned in these times of difficulty. Our God is with us and surely shall comfort us just as He has promised, for He loves us and cares for us on a daily basis - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
In praying to our God with all of our mind, heart and soul, we can pray with tears, confident that He Who is faithful will take those tears as a precious offering of compassion. Then, in His mercy, and again as He has promised, He will wipe away those tears from our eyes and grant us His comfort. To pray in this way, it is good to go to church and bring all those we know, or have been shown by the Spirit of our God, in prayer to the Throne of Grace. We can light a candle for others, and listen to the petitions offered during the liturgical services of our Orthodox Church. We can open up the Holy Scriptures in our homes, discovering afresh the words of instruction and comfort to be found in the Old and New Testaments, and often especially in the Psalms, a rich treasury of wisdom and worship. Then again we can read the lives of the saints, and learn by their good examples how they overcame their sufferings. Such readings can bring us great spiritual nourishment. We can, too, read about those who have lived ascetic lives and their spiritual guidance helps us to grow in the faith.
The most important thing for us all at this time is to have faith, hope, and love for God, and to share His love and compassion with all those with whom we come in contact. For those who are at a distance from us, such as those now suffering in the Indian Ocean area, we are called to pray with tears of compassion as the Holy Spirit leads us. We should seek to find out how we can help these people in practical ways, since we have so many organizations now providing aid. Then we could send help to those who, for example, are homeless and hungry, and seek ways to assist these struggling souls. If we take the first step in offering our help and compassion to our brothers and sisters, then we can discover the comfort which we are offering them being returned into our own hearts by our loving Heavenly Father as He wipes away our tears and restores His joy to us.
At the same time, spiritually speaking, God loves to hear those who pray with tears, and feels the love offered. Our Lord will quickly hear these prayers and offer His comfort in rewarding those who love Him. We must never forget, no matter how difficult the sufferings of others, and our own natural feelings of helplessness, that our Lord God is concerned too, as He cares about those who need help with a depth of love and compassion that we can barely grasp. He even produces miracles for us in any disaster we might face. He watches over us always.
In the Old Testament there are many warnings from God against letting our hearts become hardened. God's servants are those whose hearts are soft, easily moved by the Holy Spirit, bringing tears to our eyes as we supplicate our Lord and our God. Let us all never forget to pray with tears, and we shall be comforted with His blessings and His love for us all. Earthly peace might be beyond our grasp or our hope, but peace within can truly be accomplished, and this in itself is spiritually rewarding. Peace to your soul!
Peace to your soul!
Humbly In Christ Our Lord,
+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
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(c) Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes