I am thoroughly enjoying Shawn’s blog. He is a professional Protestant pastor who is willing to walk away from his job and ministry in order to follow Jesus into the Orthodox Church. His posts are very authentic, well-written, and inspiring.
One of his latest posts, called “Prelest,” discusses an issue I’ve faced personally as well. Spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving, are core practices in Orthodoxy. Because of this, it is easy for us who are naturally self-disciplined to take on the mantle of spiritual disciplines with a bit more ease. Add to that my distorted perfectionism, and I can fall prey to the idea that “more is better.” So if praying for 10 minutes every morning is good, then I’m going to shoot for 20 or 30 or 60 minutes. And if I succeed at this, I fall into a second and more devious trap of judgmentalism toward those who can’t or won’t practice spiritual disciplines with any kind of consistency.
Well, all of that is a spiritual deception called Prelest or spiritual pride. And it is demonic. As Shawn explains in his post, if my spiritual discipline is leading toward spiritual pride, demons will actually empower my spiritual discipline. The idea of demons actually empowering my spiritual disciplines so that they further blind and deceive me is absolutely terrifying to me. Simply engaging in spiritual disciplines is not enough for formation. They can actually hurt me if done incorrectly.
Bottom-line, I must remain humble before the Lord in both my knowledge and practice. Jesus alone is my salvation. And I’m reminded over and over that I need the wisdom and nurture of his Church to help me in my journey towards him.