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2013-02-17 message

posted Feb 26, 2013, 3:55 PM by St. John's Webmaster

Taking another look at the epistle of St. James, this past Wednesday, we read “What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jas. 4:1-3).

From the beginning, you may recognize a word that has been cropping up quite a bit lately: passions. I had mentioned the topic in past weeks while quoting the Church Fathers on the topic. We see here that the concern with the freedom of the soul from passions was presented in similar terms in New Testament times. So we have a continuation of the ministry of the apostles, both in form and spirit, through the history of the Church.

What does St. James say about passions? First, he says that they are the cause of strife, war, and arguments among those who are pray to them. So an important thing that each of us can do in an argument is to reflect on our passions: “Am I the cause of this argument because of something I desire and cannot obtain?”

It is obvious that what we desire determines what we ask for. What St. James says relative to this is again important: that we do not receive what we ask because we ask in order to satisfy our passions. The natural question is: what should I ask for, then? The best way to finding an answer is to see what Christ and the Church have said about it.

Jesus teaches His disciples: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do […] For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name…” (Matt. 6:7-9 and ff).

In the marriage service, we pray, “Fill their houses with bountiful food, and with every good thing, that they may have to give to them that are in need, bestowing also on them that are here assembled with us all their supplications that are unto salvation.” In baptism we ask God to “bestow upon him (her) also the Seal of Your omnipotent and adorable Holy Spirit, and the Communion of the Holy Body and Most Precious Blood of Your Christ; keep him (her) in Your sanctification; confirm him (her) in the Orthodox Faith; deliver him (her) from the Evil One and all his devices; preserve his (her) soul, through Your saving fear, in purity and righteousness, that in every work and word, being acceptable before You, he (she) may become a child and heir of Your heavenly Kingdom.”

There is, of course, much more to be said about healing our passions and about asking things of God. By His grace, we will explore that in time. For now, as we see from the examples above, the important thing is to focus on salvation and the kingdom. Asking for things that are to our salvation, especially if we leave God enough space to give us those things which we truly need, is a good place to begin in prayer.

With love in Christ,
+Fr. Peter