Saints who experience the power of prayer say it gives them wings to fly: wings of elation from being in proximity with Jesus Christ and relief from the burden of a sinful conscience. Once engulfed in the grace of the Holy Spirit, the person in prayer experiences death to sin, resurrection in the Spirit, and mystical ascension to the Father. The visible touches the Invisible, and joy wells up in the human heart.
This volume evolved experientially: the fruit of fifty-five years of solitude by a contemporary desert monk besieged by prayer. Father Matta's prayer life initially was formed under the direction of the sayings of the Russian Fathers, and later expanded under the direction of other Fathers, both Eastern and Western. He spent whole nights in prayer, reciting one or two passages from these luminaries and begging these saints to enlighten his understanding.
Father Matta discloses:
Whenever physical hunger turned cruel against me, I found my gratification in prayer. Whenever the biting cold of winter was unkind to me, I found my warmth in prayer. Whenever people were harsh to me (and their harshness was severe indeed) I found my comfort in prayer. In short, prayer became my food and my drink, my outfit and my armor, whether by night or by day.
Desiring to share the lessons he learned, and compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so, he wrote this volume so that he might impart to his readers "a whole course" on the life of prayer.
Father Matta El-Maskeen (Matthew the Poor) is a monk in the Monastery of St Macarius the Great, Wadi El-Natroun, Egypt. He also is the author of Communion of Love, published by St Vladimir's Seminary Press.