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Author Topic: Feeling God's Presence?  (Read 3120 times) Average Rating: 0
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ATX
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« on: October 12, 2011, 05:08:10 AM »

I think a life of desperate, failed attempts at feeling God's presence in church, feeling the spirit, whatever you want to call it, has ruined me.  I'll explain.  As some of you know, I was raised Mormon.  All who are familiar with that church know that the summation of Mormon spirituality is the acquisition of a testimony that the LDS church is true.  This is usually accomplished through invitations to read the Book of Mormon and pray for a spiritual witness.  Sometimes, the invitation is to pray and ask God whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or whether the church is true.  Regardless, the point is to gain that all important witness, typically believed to be manifested as feelings of peace, a sense of rightness about the church or Book of Mormon permeating your being, sensing the still small voice whispering "it's true", or the like, in isolation or all of these in combination.  If anything positive is felt, sensed, or detected, this is interpreted and reinforced for the praying person as evidence that "you just got your answer from God."  I was raised in that church, served a mission (wore a white shirt and name tag, rode a bicycle going from door to door), married my wife in the Salt Lake City temple.  I strove mightily all my life for that feeling and never got it.  For a Mormon, this is utterly devastating.  In desperation, I would turn to people I trusted (local leaders, family, friends) and the answer was always to ask if I was truly sincere or if perhaps I lacked faith when I prayed or wasn't 'listening' when the spirit whispered.  That's the standard 'advice' offered to strugglers like I was.  It is enshrined in lesson manuals, propounded over the pulpit during sermons, shared in conversations between members.  It is nothing more than blaming the person.  At first, I took it to heart, but I still felt nothing for years afterward.  Then one day I got angry.  Intensely, blindly angry; filled with rage.  I got to the point where I couldn't hear a Mormon use the words 'feel the spirit' without wanting to punch him in the face.  I know; not good.  Well, this went on for some time, even after I left the church and became an atheist.  I would still attend church with my Mormon wife and subject myself to the same kind of thing, not directly, spoken to my face by well-meaning church members as before, but indirectly, in the form of statements overheard in the hallway or the usual lessons still offered over the pulpit or in Sunday School.  Despite giving up on God completely, I still found myself occasionally praying, trying to feel his presence.  It was too ingrained not to do this.  I only became Orthodox (via Catholicism) because of certain writings to help me believe in God without feeling his presence (C.S. Lewis, Aquinas).  I still haven't felt God's presence, but from time to time I keep trying.  Is that a mistake?  I know and accept on intellectual grounds the Orthodox teaching that God dwells in unapproachable light and that achieving mystical union with him (theosis) is our goal.  I long for that.  But along the way, is my journey doomed (for lack of a better word) to be purely intellectual?  I love attending Divine Liturgy and miss it, but I don't know that what I feel is God's presence.  I find it to be indescribably beautiful.  Whatever the case may be, I fear my experience in Mormonism has ruined my ability to be a spiritual person.  I have to fight to believe in God and depend on those rare moments when I'm standing before the icons in church to actually feel like maybe, just maybe, I'm in God's presence after all.  Since the nearest liturgy in English is over an hour away and visiting requires a battle with my wife, I don't have much exposure to that experience.  So, I struggle.  I do have a prayer book and use it for evening prayer and (sometimes) morning prayer.  I also say the Jesus Prayer.  But it doesn't lead to the same result.  It just feels so dry in comparison to attending Divine Liturgy. 

So, after all of that, here's my question.  Am I on a fool's errand trying to feel God's presence when I pray?  I'm trying to acquire an Orthodox mindset in a difficult situation and I'm afraid my mindset is still simultaneously Mormon and atheist.  My life experiences are huge obstacles.
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2011, 05:21:29 AM »

Have you tried not looking at what you're feeling? I.E. giving yourself a break from sensual introspection?

The most peaceful times in my life have been when I am so busy externalizing myself toward other human beings that I did not have time to bother checking to see if I was feeling the right things or not.

As rare as such times are nowadays, I still remember them.  Wink
« Last Edit: October 12, 2011, 05:22:36 AM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2011, 07:27:45 AM »

Sometimes we find God the most unusual places. I once heard a story that might suit this situation.
It is about a woman who sought advice from a bishop. The old woman told the bishop that she did not progress in prayer. she prayed the jesus prayer many times at day and but she was not able to feel God's presence. The bishop told the woman that instead of praying she should use some time each day to sit in her chair and knit, and that she should try to look around in her living room and just be silent.
The old lady thought this was a very peculiar response and left the bishop rather dissapointed. But nevertheless she decided to tray. And already a few days later she called the bishop and said and joyfully told him that the method worked. After some time of knitting she had looked around in her living room and suddenly realised how beutiful and peaceful it was. It was in that moment of silence that she could feel the presence of God.

I am in a similar situation as you since I toohas a long way to the nearest church, but i think that one thing we must remember is that God never leave us. When we pray, maybe we should try to take a moment of silence. As metropolitan kallistos Ware once said, it is very difficult to hear God when we are talking allthe time.

I hope that this might help. I don't have much knowledge about these things but this is just my thoughts.   
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« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2011, 08:49:41 AM »

Good morning, ATX -

I was not raised Mormon, but was taught that if you didn't 'feel' the presence of God, then you weren't 'right' with God. 

One of the things I'm very thankful that I was taught in the Orthodox Church is that it is in our dryiest moments - when there is no presence felt - when we feel alone - and still we pray, and still we seek, and still we interceded for those the puts in our lives with needs. . . that He truly is with us.  You see that 'feeling' can be a god in its own right.  It can be the end to the means - that 'reward' if you will, and when we are looking 'for that' that is exactly what we'll get.  When we feel it we get all puffed up thinking that WE have the inside on God. 

Heh.  He's a fully faceted person. . .and not subject to our control.  Thank goodness.

So, I go to my prayer corner and I pray. . .whether it's comfortable or not, whether I can feel His presence or not. . .whether I feel like it or not - and what I receive in return?  I'm changing. . . and I so need to change.  I can be so selfish and so unloving.  But more than a feeling of His presence, I am seeing His fruit of HIS Holy Spirit at work in my life.  That's so much more important than anything else.  Because feeling His presence, as much as I would love to - as much as I would love to know that I'm accepted at that very moment - won't change the world.  It won't feed the hungry - it won't care about the sick or the suffering.  It won't reach out to the abandoned or the helpless.  It's all a done deal when I feel it, and it will go away and I will be the same selfish individual I can so be without His grace and Spirit of Holiness.

He's wiser than us pitiful humans and would give us so much more if we will just put the instant gratification aside and look for the true Him. . . the Holy One that is not up to us. . .the Holy One that's solely under His own free will. 

I'm so thankful for this teaching.  It's good, it's wise and it's REAL.

In Christ,
BethAnna
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« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2011, 06:42:12 PM »

Hey ATX. I would say that you should keep praying and keep persevering. For most people it takes a long time to feel God's peace when praying. Praying every day at your icon corner and just reciting the Jesus prayer throughout the day will transform you slowly and you probably won't feel a lot because it's a normalized thing. However, I love the quote from Matthew the Poor:

Quote
Prayer is opening oneself toward he effective, invisible, and imperceptible power of God. Man can never leave the presence of God without being transformed and renewed in his being, for this is what Christ has promised. However, such transformation will not be in the form of a sudden leap. It will take its time and course as an imperceptible but meticulous build-up.

"Orthodox Prayer Life: The Interior Way," p. 15
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« Reply #5 on: October 12, 2011, 09:15:45 PM »

Sometimes we find God the most unusual places. I once heard a story that might suit this situation.
It is about a woman who sought advice from a bishop. The old woman told the bishop that she did not progress in prayer. she prayed the jesus prayer many times at day and but she was not able to feel God's presence. The bishop told the woman that instead of praying she should use some time each day to sit in her chair and knit, and that she should try to look around in her living room and just be silent.
The old lady thought this was a very peculiar response and left the bishop rather dissapointed. But nevertheless she decided to tray. And already a few days later she called the bishop and said and joyfully told him that the method worked. After some time of knitting she had looked around in her living room and suddenly realised how beutiful and peaceful it was. It was in that moment of silence that she could feel the presence of God.

I am in a similar situation as you since I toohas a long way to the nearest church, but i think that one thing we must remember is that God never leave us. When we pray, maybe we should try to take a moment of silence. As metropolitan kallistos Ware once said, it is very difficult to hear God when we are talking allthe time.

I hope that this might help. I don't have much knowledge about these things but this is just my thoughts.   

This post surely deserves deafening applause!! POM nomination from me!
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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2011, 10:02:15 AM »

I really can't add anything to BethAnna's beautiful post, except my own personal experience - which is, that feeling God's presence is not something that comes to me by trying or by my own will. On the contrary, I have usually been blindsided and flabbergasted by experiencing His Presence when I least expected it and was totally unprepared for it. Often in the middle of doing mundance things or when I was totally distracted.

And I've been thinking lately, after going to a funeral where the preacher had an altar call, that perhaps this insistence on "feeling" may be the result of the emphasis in certain faith communities on it all being up to me. If it's up to me, then if I don't jump through the hoops or have the requisite experiences and feelings, then I'm to blame. I always hated that. We are in His Presence all the time, after all, whether we feel it or not.
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2011, 11:45:20 AM »

Thank you for sharing your story.  I do think we should all hope and strive to acquire within us the abiding grace of the Holy Spirit and to be conscious of this grace.  While this is the direction towards which our entire lives should be oriented, I nevertheless do not think we should be *trying* to experience God’s presence at the time of prayer or at any other time.  When we begin our prayers, and at all times, we should remind ourselves that we are in God’s presence, but to *try* to experience God’s presence could be a major mistake which could lead to delusion.  What happens when a person desires to have some kind of special experience of God’s presence is that they may be quick to grasp and hold on to any kind of phenomena which seems pleasant, spiritual, consoling, etc.  In doing so, such a person may elevate and exaggerate experiences that are natural, psychological, sensual, or even from the demons, and fall into idolatry and delusion by mistaking such experiences for the experience of God’s presence. 

St. Mark the Ascetic says the following about becoming conscious of the grace of the Holy Spirit:

“Everyone baptized in the orthodox manner has received mystically the fullness of grace; but he becomes conscious of this grace only to the extent that he actively observes the commandments.”

From an Orthodox understanding, the beginning of our spiritual life is our Orthodox baptism, and from that point a man truly becomes a bearer of grace and a temple of the Holy Spirit through the practice of the commandments; which entails the struggle against the passions, the practice of the virtues, and the continual reception of the grace-filled Mysteries.    As a man proceeds in this way to purify his heart and attract the grace of God, especially through humility, he becomes a vessel of grace and this grace should become perceptible to him.  That being said, sometimes God may grant us a special experience of His presence and then *seemingly* withdraw in order that we might grow in humility and not fall into pride or laxity in response to such an experience.  This occurred with St. Silouan of Mt. Athos.  Christ appeared to him and gave him great consolation, but this was followed by many years of dryness and struggle wherein God seemed absent and prayer become extremely difficult.  This time of dryness was given by God to further purify and humble St. Silouan, so that he might become even more a vessel of divine grace.     

So, while we should come to the perceptible experience of God’s grace as His grace begins to reside in us by virtue of an Orthodox baptism and the practice of the commandments, I nevertheless do not think that we should consciously “seek” or “try” to experience God’s grace at the time of prayer or at other times.  Rather, shouldn’t we strive to uncover our sins, to repent, to humble ourselves, and to uproot the passions?  Isn’t it true that the expectation that we *will* experience God’s presence at the time of prayer could be a sign of pride?  It seems best that we should apply our efforts towards becoming blameless and pure dwelling places of God and leave the outcome to Him, remembering His instruction that, “when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' " (Luke 17:10)
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2011, 12:24:52 PM »

I would also like to provide the following quote from St. Ambrose of Optina which I think is very applicable to the present subject


Elder Ambrose of Optina
By Fr. Sergius Chetverikov
pp.216-218


“Respected A. came to the Monastery with an entirely good disposition and the desire to ‘seek Jesus,’ that is, to acquire His love. This is very good and noble, but it needs to have a firm foundation: for love is tested by opposition.

“Because of her fervency and purity of soul, she will soon experience consoling and pleasing feelings. This will give her hope in acquiring Jesus and His love. But these feelings are very dangerous and close to prelest, for without her having first warred with the passions, without coming to know her weaknesses and humbling herself, they are not reliable nor consoling feelings. Let them come when they do, but she must not accept them or be deceived by them, but rather consider herself unworthy. St. Isaac the Syrian writes in his second homily: ‘The activity of taking up the cross is twofold, in conformity with the duality of our nature, which is divided into two parts. The first is patient endurance of the tribulations of the flesh, which is accomplished by the activity of the soul’s incensive part and this is called righteous activity. The second is to be found in the subtle workings of the intellect, in steady divine rumination, in unfailing constancy of prayer, and in other such practices…. Every man who, before training completely in the first part, proceeds to that second activity, though it be not out of sloth but out of passionate longing for its sweetness, has God’s wrath come upon him, because he did not first mortify his members which are upon the earth, that is, he did not heal the infirmity of his thoughts by patient endurance of the labor which belongs to the shame of the cross. For he dared to imagine in his mind the cross’s glory,’ (that is, consolations), which are given only after the soul is cleansed from the passions, and humility is settled in the heart; then it will not be dangerous. Therefore we propose that you take care to caution her should she begin to have feelings of delight, that she should not rely on them and not consider them to be anything great; they will soon leave her. If on the other hand she is deceived by them and accepts them out of time, she will soon be deprived; and when it is time she will not receive them, like a careless and foolish husbandman who, when he sees a blossom growing plucks it as though it were fruit – he will never have any fruit. Many have suffered along this path and have gone astray. Instead of humility they had a high opinion of themselves, seeking exultation. In the words of the same St. Isaac: ‘The prayer of one who does not consider himself sinful is not well-pleasing to God.’ Remind her that divine love is tested by adversity: various passions will rise up with which she must struggle, and for him who possesses humble wisdom even the struggle can be uplifting. But against him who has a high opinion of himself and relies on his consoling feelings, a greater warfare is allowed, so that he would be humbled by an awareness of his weakness. Defeat is unbearable to such people and makes them fainthearted – and that is a sign of their pride. One must beware of prelest, which is multiform. Either by deceiving her with false sanctity it will blind the eyes of her soul, or, if after a burst of joyful and consoling movements she is deprived of them, she will fall into various kinds of passions. But if you work with her gradually and steadily lead her, working meticulously, then something good can come of her in time. Tell her to read more active patristic teachings: Abba Dorotheos, St. John of the Ladder, and St. Symeon the New Theologian; and have her reveal all of her words, deeds, thoughts and actions to you. For what is revealed is light, and what is not revealed is darkness.”
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« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2011, 12:43:21 PM »

And I can't help but share the following quote from St. Theophan the Recluse.  I hope you find it helpful:

"Warmth of heart, about which you write, is a good condition, which should be guarded and maintained. When it weakens, you must continue to kindle it, gathering yourself together inwardly with all your strength and calling upon God. To prevent it leaving you, you must avoid distraction of thoughts and impressions coming through the senses, which are incompatible with this state. Avoid the attachment of your heart to anything visible, or the absorption of your attention by any worldly care. Let your attention toward God be unwavering, and the tautness of your body unslackened, like a bowstring, or a soldier on parade. But the most important thing is to pray to God and ask Him to prolong this mercy of warmth in the heart.

"When the query arises 'Is this it?', make it your rule once and for all mercilessly to drive away all such questions as soon as they appear. They originate from the enemy. If you linger over this question the enemy will pronounce the decision without delay, 'Oh yes, certainly it is - you have done very well!' From then on you stand on stilts and begin to harbor illusions about yourself and to think that others are good for nothing. Grace will vanish: but the enemy will make you think that grace is still with you. This will mean that you think you possess something, when really you have nothing at all. The Holy Fathers wrote, 'Do not measure yourself.' If you think you can decide any question about your progress, it means that you are beginning to measure yourself to see how much you have grown. Please avoid this as you would avoid fire."

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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2011, 12:46:58 PM »

Just read this, and it seems appropriate for this thread as well:
http://www.holytransfiguration.info/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/October-Syndiakonia-2011.pdf


"In the recent 60-minutes section on Mount Athos, one of the monks
points out how on the Holy Mountain a thousand liturgies are
celebrated every day. This is an amazing statement. What the monk
wanted to emphasize (I believe) is that the whole mountain is
turned into the Throne of God every day as the monks offer
themselves as living sacrifices to the Lord in the Divine Liturgy.
What a powerful image!!! We have the possibility to transform the
whole world into the Kingdom of God and be present at His throne if
we just turn everything we do into "a liturgy".
This is, indeed, what is missing from the world we live in. We go
about every day doing things that are not always pleasing to God.
What the monks are telling us is that we can also do what they do,
even where we are. We can also turn everything we do into an act of worship. The Divine Liturgy, which most of us attend on Sunday morning, does not have to end the moment we walk out of the church. We are able, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to turn every moment of our lives into a "liturgy"; help someone in need and you are worshiping God; comfort a person in distress and you are offering honor to Christ; witness your faith when the opportunity is offered and you will please the Lord. Above all, if you surrender every moment
of your life, everything you have and everything you do to the Lord (as the monks seek to do) you receive great spiritual blessings; you experience the Kingdom of God in the here and now."
Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2011, 12:50:52 PM »

Whenever I feel that god isn't in my life and prayer becomes an obstruction. I usually turn towards charity and giving. Nothing can overcome the feeling that you receive by personally making a difference in someones life. Whether monetarily or the simple act of donating your time to a just cause is very rewarding to your soul. As well as to those that need you. Sometimes we have to make the first move and than god will reward us with his presents.
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2011, 03:08:08 PM »

How many times have we rejected God?  Is it no surprise we have trouble finding our way back to Him?

If all one saw was death and suffering and either blamed God for it or ignored Him, it is hard to rid oneself of that habit.  When you fast you'll feel only hunger, when you pray you'll hear only silence, when you worship you'll only see cracks on the painted walls.  I cannot imagine our salvation resting on the perfection of our material life.  Could we ever see that day of no suffering with which to damn God?  There is no choir of angels on earth so why do we look for that either?  Maybe we look for confirmation of God in the wrong places, I think that's certainly true for me.
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« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2011, 04:04:27 PM »

Whenever I feel that god isn't in my life and prayer becomes an obstruction. I usually turn towards charity and giving. Nothing can overcome the feeling that you receive by personally making a difference in someones life. Whether monetarily or the simple act of donating your time to a just cause is very rewarding to your soul. As well as to those that need you. Sometimes we have to make the first move and than god will reward us with his presents.

This is good practical advice. Instead of looking internally, try focusing externally for a while. Tend to the sick, the poor, the suffering, and look for Christ in everyone.
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« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2011, 09:16:26 PM »

I really can't add anything to BethAnna's beautiful post, except my own personal experience - which is, that feeling God's presence is not something that comes to me by trying or by my own will. On the contrary, I have usually been blindsided and flabbergasted by experiencing His Presence when I least expected it and was totally unprepared for it. Often in the middle of doing mundance things or when I was totally distracted.

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« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2011, 09:40:19 PM »

I really can't add anything to BethAnna's beautiful post, except my own personal experience - which is, that feeling God's presence is not something that comes to me by trying or by my own will. On the contrary, I have usually been blindsided and flabbergasted by experiencing His Presence when I least expected it and was totally unprepared for it. Often in the middle of doing mundance things or when I was totally distracted.

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« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2011, 09:42:59 PM »

I really can't add anything to BethAnna's beautiful post, except my own personal experience - which is, that feeling God's presence is not something that comes to me by trying or by my own will. On the contrary, I have usually been blindsided and flabbergasted by experiencing His Presence when I least expected it and was totally unprepared for it. Often in the middle of doing mundance things or when I was totally distracted.

+1

RE: Your Blog

If it weren't so *********** funny, I would beat you senseless.

<3

EDIT:  double lulz for the first comment: Chuck Norris watches this video three times a day!

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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2011, 04:40:47 AM »

Wow!  Thank you, everyone.  There is so much good advice here; thanks for the counsel, the stories, and quotes from church fathers.  All of it is so helpful.  There's a lot for me to digest.  One thing that comes across loud and clear is the need for patience, to stop trying to feel anything, rely solely on seeking to do God's will, and not seeking to experience anything.  Rather, I must externalize, serve others, seek to glorify God, purifying myself to be a receptacle for His graces, which He will bestow according to His will.  

Some of the things people said perfectly illustrate what I think is the flaw in the tradition I was raised in.  "If you didn't 'feel' the presence of God, then you weren't 'right' with God."  "If it's up to me, if I don't jump through the hoops or have the requisite experiences or feelings, then I'm to blame."  Exactly.  That is just how Mormons talk.  That's how I used to talk.  The quote from Theophan the Recluse is so descriptive of people in my life who have talked like that when I told them I've never felt God's spirit: "When the query arises 'Is this it?', make it your rule once and for all mercilessly to drive away all such questions as soon as they appear. They originate from the enemy. If you linger over this question the enemy will pronounce the decision without delay, 'Oh yes, certainly it is - you have done very well!' From then on you stand on stilts and begin to harbor illusions about yourself and to think that others are good for nothing. Grace will vanish: but the enemy will make you think that grace is still with you. This will mean that you think you possess something, when really you have nothing at all."  I don't want to be harsh or judge the people in my life who mean well but tell me I must have done something wrong, because "they've certainly received a spiritual witness that the Mormon church is true.  There can be only one reason why you haven't received that witness."  It does seem that what you shared from Theophan the Recluse said applies to the Mormon approach.  Would it be wrong of me to suggest that the Mormon approach is a spirituality of pride?  "What do I get, where's my spiritual experiences?  I've done everything God asked of me, where's my reward?  I was a good missionary, a good Mormon."  I've certainly felt that way many times.  I think I'm beginning to understand what it means to acquire an Orthodox mindset.  It's all about God, not about me.  These habits will be hard to root out.  There's a Mormon scripture that says "I, the Lord, am bound when you do what I say.  When you do not what I say, you have no promise."  This sets up a relationship with God that is contractual, as if God is an equal partner.  Mormons are so keen on experiencing those positive, warm feelings to support their testimonies, that they'll latch onto any positive emotions.  Again, the quotes from church elders are so helpful.  I love the one from Elder Ambrose of Optina about 'consoling and pleasing feelings':  "These feelings are very dangerous and close to prelest, for without her having first warred with the passions, without coming to know her weaknesses and humbling herself, they are not reliable nor consoling feelings.  Let them come when they do, but she must no accept them or be deceived by them, but rather consider herself unworthy."  I was a Mormon for nearly 40 years, and still attend with my wife and sons (only to be with them).  I have NEVER heard a Mormon talk like that when someone reports that they felt the spirit. 

So..it seems the answer to rooting out the Mormonism and atheistic impulses is to stop expecting anything from God as if he owes me, stop looking for a spiritual experience, which can easily become a god in it's own right, an idol, a source of illusion and delusion, and follow the simple advice (summarizing what you all have said) of focusing externally through conscientiously following my prayer rule, turn everything into a liturgy that glorifies God, turning towards charity, giving, tending to the sick, the poor, the suffering, and looking for Christ in everyone.  Hearing and accepting that advice is easy; putting into practice is hard.  Lord have mercy.

Thank you so much for the advice and counsel.  My Christ's blessings be upon all of you.  

P.S. I had a brief phone conversation with the Orthodox chaplain in Ramstein yesterday.  He's now working with me long distance to continue my journey toward chrismation.  He directed me to add to my prayer rule prayers to the Theotokos, specifically for intercession in my wife's and sons' behalf, that they might one day be brought into unity with me in the Orthodox faith.  It's such a relief to have a spiritual father, again.  Being able to hang out here helps, too.  It gives me a feeling of belonging to a local parish community.  

« Last Edit: October 14, 2011, 04:59:31 AM by ATX » Logged
katherineofdixie
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2011, 10:00:20 AM »

Hearing and accepting that advice is easy; putting into practice is hard.  Lord have mercy.

Ain't it the truth...
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« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2011, 05:55:44 PM »

Whenever I feel that god isn't in my life and prayer becomes an obstruction. I usually turn towards charity and giving. Nothing can overcome the feeling that you receive by personally making a difference in someones life. Whether monetarily or the simple act of donating your time to a just cause is very rewarding to your soul. As well as to those that need you. Sometimes we have to make the first move and than god will reward us with his presents.

This is good practical advice. Instead of looking internally, try focusing externally for a while. Tend to the sick, the poor, the suffering, and look for Christ in everyone.

This is great advice.  When those times come where I don't "feel" able to pray (or don't feel like it), as well as those times when I don't "feel" right with God (because of something I have thought or done), I just pray for others, especially those who might consider me an enemy, and try to put the focus on others and their needs.  It really does help.
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« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2011, 06:52:38 PM »

Hello ATX,

I don't have much to add, except to say that you're not alone.  I rarely feel God's presence.  I can count on two hands the number of times I have "felt" His presence.  I used to worry about such things, but not much anymore.  I just trudge through.  Yes, it gets terribly dry and laborious, but I've come to recognize that this is part and parcel of the spiritual life.  If you are able, I recommend "Remember Thy First Love" by Archimandrite Zacharias.  It provides some comfort.  In it Fr. Zacharias addresses the issues you struggle with.  You might want to google his name (or his spiritual father's, Archimandrite Sophrony) and see if you can find any articles on "godforsakenness".

John
« Last Edit: October 15, 2011, 06:53:17 PM by Ionnis » Logged

"If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice.”  -The Divine John Chrysostom

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« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2011, 12:59:59 PM »

atx,
keep going.
the important thing is to search for Truth and to trust in Jesus, the Son of God, Way, Truth and Life, not in your own feelings.
may God guide you.
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ATX
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« Reply #22 on: October 17, 2011, 07:44:20 AM »

Thank you for the encouragement, Peteprint and Mabsoota.  I am trying to find ways to increasingly focus my attention on Christ and finding ways to love others.  My loyalties are divided.  One step I took yesterday was to quit posting in forums that Mormons frequent and avoid debating with them.  I don't need the extra angst and boost of pride that always goes with that.  

John, thanks for the recommendation.  I ordered a copy of Fr. Zacharias' "Remember Thy First Love".  I do have the means, thanks be to God.  
« Last Edit: October 17, 2011, 07:45:56 AM by ATX » Logged
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« Reply #23 on: November 05, 2011, 09:08:23 PM »

I can relate much to what ATX has gone through. When I became disillusioned with Catholicism and the presentation of religion before my inquiriy into Orthodoxy, I too was trying hard to feel the 'presence' of God just to confirm Him. I've spent much of time reading religious material just to give me an extra boost of confidence in my faith. I was even reading and trying out stuff in my time which are quite contrary to what the Orthodox church teaches just to get the feeling, y'know? This helped lead to the bit of scruffle between my parents and me when they noticed I was reading more religious material when they kept stressing that I just "believe" (in a punitive sense).

Even now while I'm digesting what the Orthodox teach, I still have a felling inside of me that I've "bitten off more than I could chew". I get burned out and dried-out when this happens. Sometimes I even ask myself if I just need to stop for a while and recollect myself. But other times I feel like I'm not being that faithful to and inspired by God when I take a break on stuff like this to feel His presence. Like, I don't know whether I'm wasting my time or just relaxing it for the future. It's kinda stressful for me. How should I relax my efforts in my inquiry?

- GTA
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Quote from: IoanC
the best way of conveying God's love to people is through your own presence and deeds.
No longer posting on this forum. Thanks to all the helpful people who inspired me. God bless.
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« Reply #24 on: November 07, 2011, 11:16:27 AM »

Even now while I'm digesting what the Orthodox teach, I still have a felling inside of me that I've "bitten off more than I could chew".

Well, but that's because you have! Grin Seriously, though, becoming the person God meant you to be is often difficult. That's where grace comes in - that and all the "tools" that the Church gives us: prayer, fasting, worship, receiving the Sacraments, charity. A friend of mine said he became Orthodox because "Orthodoxy has a plan. I can follow a plan, even when I don't particularly 'feel' it."
My advice? (oddly enough for a mildly obsessive-compulsive reader/studier theology and history geek) pray more and read less, unless it's the Psalms. Oh, and attend every service you can.
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« Reply #25 on: November 07, 2011, 11:41:07 AM »

Thank you. I'll do my best.
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God be merciful to us sinners.

Quote from: IoanC
the best way of conveying God's love to people is through your own presence and deeds.
No longer posting on this forum. Thanks to all the helpful people who inspired me. God bless.
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