It happens often that we make our evening prayer in a sleepy mood when our thoughts are scattered in the little things of the day and also in the worryes of tomorrow. Thus, our prayer is difficult, without strength, without depth, with the sense of obligation to God, that is with “a typical prayer not involving the heart”, as was saying father Arsenie Papacioc.
All these feelings are the effects of neglecting the evening prayer. But from all this negligence of prayer we suffer during the night temptations of all kind: dirty dreams, nightmares, thoughts of blasfemy, vain imaginations and others.
The sleep that brings temptation during the night is a sleep that wearies the soul in its spiritual struggle, a sleep that tires the mind instead of clearing it, a sleep that irritates and creates discomfort for the next day; but a clean sleep, free from temptations, is always a good night’s sleep for the body and especially for the soul. By sleeping, the body restores its reserves of energy necessary for daily activities (work, school, home and children care) and the soul restores its will to resist the temptations of the day. From these points of view the evening prayer is extremely important for our life and and especially for our spiritual growth.
But which are the causes of neglecting the evening prayer? They are the same as those that got us sick of a lukewarm Cristianity, when we are in times of peace and plenty: convenience and life’s pleasures. And life’s pleasures that suppres the evening prayer are as follows:
a) computer and television in excess
b) excess of food (glottony), especially at late hours
c) night outs with our friends until (too) late hours.
All these excesses consume stealthily the resourses needed for our spiritual life so that with the end of the day we also end the vigil of our senses, although senses are tempted including at night. Not for nothing divine Paul urged us to pray whitout ceasing because, among other things, continuously prayer is the constant guard of the senses, so the extemption from falls.
But there are also other kind of temptations from Satan to trick us and to neglect the evening prayer such as reading spiritual books util our exhaustion, to the detriment of prayer. This is a temptation from the right side because when our tempter sees that he cannot overcome us with the life’s pleasures, he overcomes us with the intemperate zeal for the holy things.
Saint Barsanuphius, “Is it well to insist in the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have pity on me” or is better to read the Holy Scripture and to say Psalms? It must be both done, a liitle bit from the first and a little bit from the second because it is written: “You must make this and not let the other one”.”
There are also other reasons for which the evening prayer is neglected such as hard work or the care for the children, but these reasons, if they are substantiated, are not harmful to the soul, with the condition that the work and the children care to be accompanied by prayer, with all our effort. However, even if we are tired, an evening prayer how small means very much to God.
Here are some tips that can avoid neglecting the evening prayer:
a) an orderly life program, with a sleep hour that doesn’t vary much from day to day;
b) the last meal of the day must not be taken very late, but earlier, so that our thougths will not stop in the stomach and that the body’s drowsiness will not banish the spiritual desire;
c) moderation in household things;
d) beginning the evening prayer before the installation of the first signs of fatigue.
Finally, the evening prayer is the best opportunity to learn the self-examination, by thinking of all the thoughts, the words and the deeds during the day. So we are better aware of what we have done right and wrong, but also what we could have done right and we didn’t done it. As a consequence of this research, the evening prayer is a mean of reconciliation with God for all the evil things of the day, for which we became aware as a result of our research, and also to leave ourselves in the care of God during the night.
Then, the evening prayer is a mean “to counter” to God all men with which we had to do during the day: praying for the lightning and forgivness of those that we have seen in sin, pray for the deliverness of those that we have seen in the need, and pray for the perseverence in good of those who are rightneouss to God. So the evening prayer is also a way of secret communion with all people.
Saint Barsanuphius tells us that: “Who prays for other wins for himself because he makes an act of love and increses within it rising to a higher state. Then he also prays for himself because for the very fact that he prays, he connects with God from Whom come the goodness and the power. So praying continuously for other you are also praying continously for you, and how many are capable to do this? Then who can have them always in mind all continuously? But the accomplished one can have virtually everyone in his mind. In any case the prayer of someone for another unites him with the other in his mind. Thus the prayer is a way of union between the people because it is a mean of union between them.”
It is necessary to realize that by neglecting the evening prayer we are putting a big obstacle in the acquisition of ceaseless prayer. And who feels that is not increasing spiritually , must examine carefully and see if he made a habit from neglecting the prayer and especially the evening prayer.
But who is accustomed with the evening prayer, gets to know in time also the sweetness of the midnight prayer and becomes worthy also of the lightning of its mind through meditation on holy things during the night vigil.