Which Thoughts Should Be Confessed

Saints Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet. "Letters".


Question from the same brother to the same Old Man: “Should one ask the elders about all the thoughts that arise in the heart? Moreover, when one prays or chants the Psalms, should one do this with one’s voice? In addition, about memories of what one has done, heard, or spoken. Finally, should one enter into discussions with the fathers?”

Response by John.

Brother, it is not necessary to ask about all of the thoughts that may arise; for [many of] these are fleeting. One should ask about those which abide and tempt us. For a person who is insulted many times will take no notice of these insults and become carefree in regard to them; however, if someone should attack or assault that person, then the latter will accuse the culprit before the magistrate. That is how we, too, should act.

As for prayer and chanting the Psalms, it should be done not only with the intellect but also with one’s lips. For the prophet David says: “Lord, you shall open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise.” (Ps 50.17) Furthermore, the Apostle reveals that the lips are required, when he speaks of “the fruit of the lips,” (Heb 13.15) and so on.

As for those things which you have seen or heard or practiced or thought, nothing else can put an end to these except humble prayer, namely, a prayer that has no will of its own at all and is accompanied by tears. Those fathers who achieved this did not do so without toil, tears, and the excision of the will. Now, entering into discussions [with the fathers] means counting yourself as being something and regarding yourself as their equal. Asking questions and trusting their answers, however, is humility and progress in the Lord. Pray for me, brother.