Aphrahat (?-c.345), monk and Bishop near Mosul
The Demonstrations, no.4
(Cistercian publications; SC 349, p. 316)
“Be vigilant at all times and pray”
My beloved, that a person should do the will of God is what constitutes prayer.
That is how prayer seems to me to excel. Above all, be eager for prayer and do not weary in it, as it is written that our Lord said: “Pray and do not weary.”
You should be eager in wakefulness and remove far from yourself drowsiness and sleep; you should be watchful both by day and by night and not be disheartened.
Now I shall show you the different occasions for prayer.
There is petition, thanksgiving, and praise (Phil 4,6).
In petition one asks for mercy for one’s sins, in thanksgiving you give thanks to your Father who is in heaven, while in praise you praise him for his works.
At a time when you are in trouble, offer up petition, and when you are well supplied with good things, you should give thanks to the Giver, and when your mind rejoices, offer up praise.
Make all these prayers of yours with discernment to God. See how David was always saying: “I have risen to give thanks to you for your judgments, O Just One.” (Ps 119,62).
And in another psalm he said: “Praise the Lord in heaven, praise him in the heights” (Ps 149,1).
Again he says: “I will bless the Lord at all times, and at all times his praises are in my mouth” (Ps 34,2).
Do not pray using only one kind of prayer, but all separately according to circumstance.
I am convinced, my beloved, that everything people ask for with diligence,
God will grant them.
But he takes no pleasure in the person who offers up prayer in mockery.
As it is written: “This is required of the person who prays, offering up prayer: that he turn over and inspect his offering well, lest some blemish be found on it; only then should he offer it” (cf Mt 5,23-24; Mk 11,25), so that your offering does not remain on earth.
What is this offering if not prayer?… Of all offerings pure prayer is the best.