“Praying is raising the spirit to God”, said the Greek Father Johannes Chrysostomus. This means that in prayer we have to withdraw our spirit from everyday concerns. And raise it towards God, undivided in all its simplicity.
“My desire is lifted up to you!”, writes the psalmist (Ps 85) in prayer. Saint Augustine says: “Your desire is your prayer: if you continue your desire, your prayer is continuous!”
If prayer is desire, praying should be easy. After all, does not a person always desire something in one way or another? Is he then not always praying? In a certain sense, yes. However, for the most part human desire is not pure, because it is not aimed at Who it should be aimed at. Thus we do not spontaneously desire what is good for us, and what is ultimately good for everybody. That is why praying can be corrupted and hence - because prayer is under the continual threat of being directed at the wrong things - also so difficult and hard. For example, because we do not get what we believe we ‘must’ have, we then do not seem to get what we need.
Praying is above all about listening. People often think of praying as largely being about asking, and thus speaking: speaking through endless uttered or silent unuttered sentences. It can be. However, prayer is more about being open and attentive to what is given to us without asking for it, and being grateful: seeing that we are constantly offered what we need. Praying is listening, through our inner ear, with our whole being.
The psalms - the oldest prayer book of the Church - teaches us that praying can be about imploring or asking, and sometimes even cursing! However, true prayer always leads to thanksgiving and praise, and is completed in … silence. In monastic communities, the psalms are also sung as the prayer of Christ.