Evagrius, On Prayer 47–49


The demon is exceedingly envious of a person at prayer and uses every means to ruin this goal. That’s why it never ceases stirring up thoughts about daily affairs through the memory and inciting compulsive desires through the flesh. It does this so that it can impede our progress in our journey out of this country to God.


Whenever that most foul demon is unable, after much trying, to hinder earnest prayer, it withdraws for a short time and then later has its revenge after the end of prayer. It either kindles some sort of anger within you and ruins that excellent and disciplined state that comes from prayer, or seduces you to some irrational pleasure and does violence to your mind.


After you have prayed as you ought, be on your guard against what you ought not to do and stand with courage as you guard your fruit. After all, in the beginning you were commanded “to work and to keep.” So after you have done your work, do not let the result of your labor go unguarded. Otherwise, you’ll have no benefit from your prayer.

Evagrius, On Prayer 44–46


If your mind still gazes about you during the time of prayer, you know that a solitary mind is no longer praying, but a worldly one, for it is trying to adorn its outward tent.


In your prayer. guard your memory with all your power so that it doesn’t present all the normal things to the mind but instead moves you to knowledge of the presence. By natural inclination the mind is easily held captive by memory during the time of prayer.


While in prayer your memory will present to you either mental images of old matters, or newer concerns, or the face of someone who has caused you pain.

Evagrius, On Prayer 41–43


See to it that you are truly present with God in your prayer rather than being overcome by the desire for human praise. When you spur yourself with human praise you are using prayer as a veil to true presence.


Whether you are praying with your brothers and sisters, or all alone, strive to carry out your prayer not through habit, but with perception.


Perception in prayer is the reverent and sorrowful awareness of a soul in pain from the confession of its faults by silent groaning.

Evagrius, On Prayer 38–40


Pray persistently first to be cleansed of compulsions; second, for deliverance from ignorance and forgetfulness; and third, from every temptation and sense of abandonment.


In your prayer seek only righteousness and the kingdom, that is, virtue and knowledge, and all the rest will be added to you.


It is right to pray not only for your own cleansing, but also for all your fellow people, so that you may imitate the way of the angels.

Evagrius, On Prayer 34–37


Do not fall into doubt when you do not immediately receive from God your request. He wants to bless you still further as you persevere with him in prayer. After all, what could be more exalted than conversing with God and exerting oneself for intimacy with him?


Undistracted prayer is the mind’s highest mental activity.


Prayer is the mind’s ascent toward God.


If you desire to carry out your prayer, reject all things so that you may inherit the all.

Evagrius, On Prayer 31–33


Do not go on praying that your own desires come to pass, since they do not cohere perfectly with the desire of God. Instead, pray persistently as you have learned, “thy will be done in me.” In every endeavor, pray this way, so that his will would be done. After all, he desires what is good and beneficial for your soul. But quite often you do not pursue this.


Often after praying I would ask for what I thought good to come to pass and would persist irrationally in this request, thereby doing violence to the will of God and refusing to yield to it so that he would carry out what he knows to be best. Indeed, when I got what I asked for, I was extremely bitter that I hadn’t been asking for his will instead, for the matter does not work out like I’d supposed.


What is good besides God? So let us entrust all our affairs to him and they will go well. After all, he who is entirely good is also the giver of good gifts.

Evagrius, On Prayer 28–30


Do not go about your prayer only by external postures. Instead, continually direct your mind with great reverence to an awareness of spiritual prayer.


Sometimes when you stand for prayer you will immediately pray well. Other times, you won’t obtain your aim even after striving hard. This is so that you will seek still further. Then, once you obtain it, you will possess this virtue as a shelter.


When an angel is present, all those that besiege us depart at once and the mind finds itself much relaxed and praying in a healthy way. But other times the normal battle takes place, and the mind fights and refuses to relax, because it is stirred up by various compulsions. And yet, when it searches further, it will find what it seeks, for to the “one who knocks vigorously, the door will be opened.”