St. Isaac of Nineveh on Petitioning God

Extract from On Asceticism Homily Three

trans. Mary Hansbury, St. Vladimir Seminary Press, ©1989

Behold the angels and the archangels who are the King's chiefs, look on you at the time of prayer to see what petition you will present to the Lord. They marvel at you when they see a carnal one abandon his dunghill and ask for heavenly things

Do not ask God for anything that even without our request He takes care to give us. He does not withhold these things from his housemates, nor from those who are utterly alien to the knowledge of Him and who do not even know that He exists.

"Do not prater like the heathens." What is this "like the heathens"? (Mat. 6:7) The peoples of the earth seek these things of the body. But you do not think, "What will we eat or what will we drink or with what will be clothed"? Your Father knows that these things are necessary to your, too.

A son never asks for bread from his father but he presents petitions concerning the great portions which will be his in his father's house.

That which our Lord commanded concerning daily bread, namely to ask for it in prayer, is a petition which He handed down to mankind in general because of the weakness of its mind. But see what He commands those who are perfect in knowledge and healthy of soul: "Take no thought about food or clothing. If God cars for bird which have no soul, how much more for you. But seek from God the kingdom and righteousness and these things He will give to you over and above" (Mat. 6:25-27)

If He delays over your request, in that you seek but you do not readily receive, do not be grieved; for you are not wiser than God. When you wait like this it is either because your way of life does not conform with your request or because the ways of your heart differ from the purpose of your prayer; or because your inner state is like that of a child in comparison with the greatness of the matter."

It is not fitting that great things fall readily into our hands, lest the gift of God be undervalued because of the east of its discovery.

Everything which is gained with labor is guarded with vigilance.

Thirst for Jesus, that He may intoxicate you with his love. Close your eyes to the precious things of the world that you may deserve to have the peace of God reign in your heart.

Abstain from the attractions which glitter before the eyes, that you may be worthy of joy in the Spirit.

If your way of life is not worthy of God, do not ask Him for glorious things, that you may not appear as one who tempts God.

Indeed, prayer corresponds directly with way of life.

No one earnestly desires heavenly things while bound by voluntary bounds because of the body; and no one asks for these things while occupied with earthly things. The desire of everyone known by his works; the things he cares about solicitously, he will ask for in prayer. And the things he prays for he will diligently demonstrate with deeds.

Whoever desires great things is not engrossed with the lesser.

Be free while you are bound by the body and show submission in your freedom because of Christ; and be wise in you innocence lest you be seduced.

Love humility in your conduct that you may be delivered from the imperceptible snares which are always found beside the paths where the humble walk. Do no refuse tribulations, for by their means you will enter into knowledge.

Do not fear temptations, for in them you will find precious things.

Pray lest you enter into temptations of the soul. But for those of the body, make ready with all your strength and swim in them with every limb and muscle. Indeed, apart from them it is not possible for you to draw near to God, for within them lies divine rest.