When we stand in church or at home before the holy icons, make the sign of the cross, bow our heads or prostrate ourselves, say the words of prayer, make charitable contributions to the church, abstain from non-Lenten food, i.e. keep the fast, etc., – then we are externally serving and worshipping God. However, such worship is not yet the worship “in spirit and in truth” that was mentioned in today’s Gospel, it is not yet genuine prayer, but only its outward manifestation.
Today’s Gospel reading tells us of how Jesus Christ in His conversation with the Samaritan woman teaches us, too, how to pray and how to worship God.
We have just celebrated the great feast of Christ’s Resurrection, the celebration of which continues until the end of the paschal period. And throughout this period of time, every Sunday the Church brings to our attention Gospel readings from St. John the Theologian, whose Gospel is distinguished from the others by its lofty spiritual style, and which most frequently deals with dogmatic teaching and speaks of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, as the Messiah.
The Holy Church, preparing us throughout the entire year for the feast of Pascha, now offers us supreme truths in these Gospel readings.
Often in prayer our soul is distracted by various earthly thoughts, even against our will. Often we ourselves do not know what we are saying, since our lips say one thing, while the heart deals with another. How can we expect God to hear our prayer when we ourselves often do not hear it? Rarely are we able to pray sincerely, sometimes not at all, and there is little benefit from automatic prayer. What should we do? Should we stop praying?
No, dear brethren! The Lord answers us through the Samaritan woman.
The Lord met this woman at the well, and during His conversation with her He made her aware of her sinful life. This revelation set her on the path to salvation – she was the first among the Samaritans to acknowledge Christ as Messiah. Without even having had time to do any penance, she asks this Stranger about spiritual life, and He explains it to her. He does not reject her, though she is a sinner, but discourses with her on the same level as with His listeners in the synagogues.