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pray_hands.GIF (680 bytes) Prayer & Spirituality
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Guidelines for Pious Living
By HG Job Mar Philoxenos, Bishop, Indian Orthodox Church

There is in the heart of all of us a yearning longing for doing things that would please God. We fail often to do that as the worldly thoughts and passions encompass us. As a result, what we lost is the inner peace and tranquility that is given to those who are in communion with God. Regular practice is needed to keep off the evil and stay in communion with God. 

Given below are some practical suggestions that would help us to reach this goal. These guidelines for pious living are modified from the writings of one of the great Fathers of Christendom and were well received by many. In the hope that this would enable all those who wish to lead a pious life, I hereby reproduce the same. If possible get a laminated copy of this and try to follow the instructions as far as possible. Much of the tensions will find relief by regular practice.

Guidelines for Pious Living

Force yourself to get up early and at a definite time. Do not sleep too much. Take seven hours maximum as a general rule, unless you are unusually fatigued. As soon as you wake up direct your thoughts to God and piously cross yourself, thinking of our crucified Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sake of our salvation. Get up from your bed at once and get dressed. Do not pamper yourself. While dressing remember that you are in the presence of the Lord and your guardian angel. Then start your morning prayers immediately. Make a firm resolution to do everything for the Lord and to receive everything from His Fatherly Hand. Meditate in this way: may be this is the last day of my life, then do everything the way you would-if you were preparing to come before the justice of God.

After your prayers, start your work. Let your deeds and actions are for the glory of God. Remember that God sees you everywhere, sees all your actions, doings, feelings, thoughts and desires, and will generously reward you for all your good deeds. Do not begin anything without praying to God, because the things we do or say without prayer later proved to be either sinful or harmful. Amid your labors be not down cast, and entrust their success to God's Grace. Fulfill all that is difficult for you as though it were a penance for your sin in the spirit of obedience and humbleness. Repeat brief prayers especially the Jesus prayer, while you are working. If your work is being accomplished with success, as your hearts desires- thank the Lord: if without success- then remembers that this, too God allows, and He works everything for good.

If you wish for a spiritually peaceful life give yourself to God. You will not find any spiritual peace until you are satisfied with God alone, loving Him only. Always and in everything think of God and His holy love for us sinners. In everything try to fulfill God's will and to please God alone. Do not care to be respected and loved by people. 

Keep a vigilant watch over your feelings, thoughts and motions of your heart and your passions. Give consideration to nothing trivial where your personal salvation is concerned. In everything ask yourselves: In this case what would Jesus Christ have thought, said, or done? Be meek, quite, and humble, be silent and endure by the example of Jesus. He will not lay a cross upon you, which you are not able to carry. He Himself will help you carry your cross. 

Do not expect to acquire anyone virtue without any sorrow and pains of the soul. Beg God to give you grace to fulfill in the best way possible. His holiest commandments- even though they may seem difficult for you. When you have fulfilled any one of the God's commandments, await temptation, for love for our conquering the obstacles tests Christ. 

Do not dwell in idleness even for a short time, but always remain in labor and be occupied. Do everything in the name of Jesus Christ and in this way all your actions will be deeds of piety. Flee even the smallest of sins, because one, who does not commit the smallest, certainly will not fold into great and deep ones. If you do not want to be bothered by evil thoughts, then humbly receive all disparagement of soul and bodily suffering. Every thought which withdraws you further away from God, especially filthy thoughts of the flesh, banish from your heart, as quickly as possible, as you would cast from your clothes a spark of fire that fell burning on them. Amidst temptations do not be troubled. He, who gives you the circumstance of a battle, will also give you strength for victory. Let your spirit be at rest, trust in God. Pray to God that He takes from you everything that feeds your self-love, even though it may be very bitter for you. Wish to live and die for God alone, and to belong to Him entirely. 

If you have food and clothing, be content with it by the example of Jesus Who became impoverished for our sake. Never argue and do not depend or excuse yourselves too much. Do not say anything against your superiors or your neighbors without need or obligation. 

Be sincere and simple in heart; with love accept directions, admonitions, and being exposed by others, even though you may be wise. Do not detest or be envious or exceedingly stern in word and deeds. What you do not wish for yourselves do not do unto others and what you wish others to do to you, do it first unto them. Be gentle, modest, careful, wise, blind and deaf, according to the situation. Remember that Jesus is present among those with whom you are and among those with whom you speak. Say nothing without thought. Bear it firmly in mind, that time is short and that man must give and account of every idle word that he speak. 

Listen more than speak; in verbosity you will not escape sin. Beg God to give you blessing to be silent and to speak at the right time. Do not be curious about news, it diverts the spirit. Try to do good to every one any kind of good and at any time you can, not thinking whether it will be appreciated, with gratitude or without. If one does not obey you the first time, do not force him through debate, make use of the good yourself, which he has lost, because meekness will bring you great profiting supper remember the last supper of Jesus Christ, begging Him to honor you with heavenly food.

Before going to sleep, examine conscience, pray to be given light to recognize your sins: think of them, beg for forgiveness and promise to reform. Then give yourself up to God, as though to night you will have to appear before Him. Entrust yourself to the mother of God, your guardian angel, the saint whose name you bear. Picture your bed as your coffin and your blanket as your shroud. Cross yourself and kissing the cross you wear, fall asleep under the protection of Shepherd of Israel! He will not nod or fall asleep.

During an illness first of all entrust yourself to God in order to strengthen your spirit in the midst of your misery, often remember and think of the suffering and the death of Jesus Christ. Ceaselessly say all the prayers you know and can. Beg God to forgive you your sins and to give you patience while ill. In all ways possible abstain from complaining an irritation that are common when ill. Our Lord Jesus Christ underwent, for the sake of our salvation the most painful illness and suffering and what have we done or suffered for the sake of our salvation?

Go to the services in church as often as possible; try especially to be present often at the liturgy. Go to confession and receive the holy sacraments as often as possible. Receive holy communion always with sincere hunger and real thirst of your soul, with a contrite heart, with reverence, humbleness, faith, trust and love. Think of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as often as possible, begging Him to veil your sins and receive you into His kingdom. May the name of Jesus always be on your lips, in your soul and your heart? As often as possible meditate on God's great love to you, glorified and worshipped in the Trinity so that you yourself may love Him with all your heart, all your soul and with all your thoughts. Doing so you will lead a peaceful life on this earth and a blessed one in Heaven forever.

Source: Parish Bulletin of St. George Orthodox Church, Abu Dhabi and IOIF

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