Let me share with you some examples of how heartfelt prayer can transform our lives. Both affected me directly and taught me one important lesson: shared prayer and faith bring peace and mend relationships.
The first example is from my life in the world. I was working at a church, and one of the women parishioners confided in me. She said that there used to be a lot of warmth in their family, but now it was beginning to disappear. She was married with three children, all girls. They were a nice churchgoing family. So they decided to pick one day in a week to come together as a family and read the Akathist to the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God. Little by little, the warmth returned.
But that was an example of somebody else resorting to prayer and experiencing its power. To me, this was still theory, because I was not practising such prayer myself. But when I came to the Convent, I had similar difficulties with one of my monastic sisters. She was very young, young enough to be my daughter. There was no hostility between us, but also no warmth. At times, I annoyed her, other times she was upset with me. We were both trying to see less of each other – until the day we had to confront one another for many days with nobody else around. We just had to find a way to get along.
On day one, we went for a long walk and she said to me: “Let us pray”. So we began to say the Akathist to the Icon of the Mother of God “Softener of Evil Hearts”. She could say nearly all of it from her memory. We did it in turns – I said one half, and she the other. We were walking in the middle of the forest completely alone. Every word of our prayer was resounding in my heart in some special way.
When we finished, she said: “Let us read it again”. “Would you like to try some other Akathist?” I asked. “No, let us read this one.” So we said it again in the same manner. When we reached the end, we repeated it another time. All of a sudden, I began to warm up to my sister. My heart was overflown with tenderness and sympathy for her. I noticed the beauty of her eyes and her smile. I realised how caring and forthcoming she was as a person. I felt as if she was my daughter, and gave her all my warmth and kindness.
Joint prayer can do wonders, especially if we pray to the Mother of God. She shed her warmth and kindness so generously on all of us. These days together with my sister taught me a lot. For the first time in my life, I saw how coldness and separation could give way to warmth and tenderness in a matter of hours.
It is of course important later on not to let the cold return, and to keep the warmth. Prayer is very helpful in this respect. Just an hour or two spent kneeling before an icon can break the thickest ice and bring down the tallest walls.
Another monastic sister told me that kneeling and bowing in prayer for another person was also a good idea. I am very thankful to her for this advice. And I thank God for all the learning that I have done here at the Convent. I pray that I have the will to continue to use this learning in my daily life.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds