You have sinned through pride, conceit, self-love, love of fame, vanity. You do not have a true fear of God. Just think of God’s saints. They, as it is written in the Bible and other holy books, walked before God. That is, they were constantly aware of His mercy and His Providence, His Hand guiding us, His all-seeing Eye, His Ear, always quick to hear our pious prayers. Our forebears often expressed this with a saying: we all walk under God! King David said: “I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8). If you think of God all the time, there appears in your soul and becomes its constant companion a redeeming fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom, by which each person avoids evil. How to acquire this fear of God? The ancient Holy Fathers say: “Remember your last days, remember death, the judgment, hell, the Heavenly Realm, - and you shall never sin.”
Be wary of and run away from bad companions, who corrupt your good character, who emasculate the fear of God from your soul. Malicious conversations corrupt good habits. Forgive us, Lord, that we have not yet acquired a redeeming fear of Thyself, so needful to all of us!
It is impossible to lead a spiritual life and become close to God without constant prayer. Prayer is the breath of the soul, the yearning of the mind and heart towards God. Whoever does not pray has a deadened soul. Such a soul does not die completely, because it is immortal, but it turns to stone, becomes paralyzed, becomes deadened as one burned or drowned, loses all feeling; if it does not receive immediate help - it will die. And a soul dead of sin can perish forever, if it is not reanimated by prayer. Thus, besides church prayer, we must also pray at home - upon awakening, upon going to sleep, before meals and after meals, before leaving home and upon returning, before engaging in good endeavors and after finishing them. If misfortune befalls us - we must first of all call upon God for help; if misfortune passes by the grace of God - we must immediately give heartfelt thanks to Him, the Merciful One. Afterwards we should have a prayer of thanksgiving served in church. As soon as you become aware of having sinned - immediately raise your thoughts to God, and remorsefully asks His forgiveness. Afterwards you will take your sin to confession, and if it is a heavy sin, be sure to remember it and perhaps even write it down, but for the time being do not forget to ask for forgiveness as soon as you realize your sin.
Make sure not to make any foolish vows. It would be better for you not to make a promise than to break a promise. If you have any unfulfilled vows - repent of them, humbly ask your father-confessor to absolve you of your foolish and impracticable vow, and also to absolve you of the sin of having violated your vow and of thus having shown disrespect to our awesome though long-suffering God.
There were times when you were absent-minded in your home prayers, or united prayer with work and bustling about the house. Everyone must have even a brief, but absolutely obligatory morning and evening rule of prayer. Saint Theophanus the Recluse advises us to choose a set time - either in the morning or in the evening, when each of us is a little freer, and then pray for a longer while. When one has to get one’s husband off to work, or the children off to school, it suffices to pray briefly, but nevertheless with feeling. We must also give our blessing to our children - in the morning, and at night, and whenever they go out. If possible, we should habituate our whole family to a brief but common everyday prayer. It is a great thing if the family gathers together at least once a day to pray to God. God’s special blessing will rest on such a pious family! If possible, each family should read the holy Gospel and other divine books daily, at least a little, but it is especially needful to read the Gospel every day. The demons cannot bear to hear the divine voice of the Lord in the Gospel, and they flee from the place where the Gospel is read, and even the very air becomes blessed by the words of the Gospel.
Repent all of you who do not follow these ancient Orthodox customs, and try to incorporate them into your family life. It is well to light lampadas and candles before the holy icons, especially on feast days, to venerate the icons and teach your little ones to do the same. Make all effort to do so.
Try to fulfill the Lord’s commandment: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). May everything that you do be done for the glory of God, piously keeping God’s name in your heart. Call upon the name of God frequently. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Pray to the Lord (you can do it silently, but from the bottom of your heart): Lord, help me; Lord, forgive me; Lord, strengthen me; Lord, chase despair away from me. It is good to read the little prayers of St. John Chrysostome, composed for each of the twenty-four hours of the day, but above all to use the so-called Jesus prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” St. John of the Ladder says the following about the power of this prayer: “With the name of Jesus vanquish, o Christian, your foes. Truly there is not a stronger weapon either in heaven or on earth!”
Whoever does not pray in such a manner, repent and try to accustom yourself to this necessary rule: to pray constantly.
If you are praised - keep silent, if you are berated - do not become irritated and also keep silent. Just as the dead in the cemetery, to whom one of the great elders sent his disciple - first to praise them, then to berate them.
“What did they say to you?” - the elder asked.
“Nothing at all. When I praised them - they remained silent, when I abused them - they likewise remained silent.”
“So should you do, - said the elder to his disciple. - Whether you are praised or abused - it is all the same.”
Even if you have done something good, respond as the Lord commanded: “Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory” (Psalm 115:1). And what are we - “….slaves worth nothing.” We have only done what we were told to do, so why should we be praised? Let us acquire spiritual poverty, whereby we would not lay claim to anything but our sins, and all the rest belongs to God. Even the great Apostle Paul did not consider himself as having done anything or having excelled in anything.
Let us be meek, not offending anyone and not taking offense at anyone. And since we are not meek and humble enough, for that is a gift from God to people who live in God, while we are too occupied with worldly busyness to live in God and receive from Him the gift of humility and meekness; therefore, let us repent with a heart full of remorse, for having made such a feeble attempt to acquire these divine virtues and for not being as meek and as humble as we should be.
Protopriest Anatoly Pravdolyubov.