Members of One another (Part V)
What of the demons? Might they also be saved, and in that case should we not pray also for them? St Isaac the Syrian, as already noted, affirms that the merciful heart is ‘on fire’ with compassion for the demons, but he does not actually say that we should pray for them. St Silouan speaks in similar terms. We are to ‘pity’ the demons, but nothing is stated about intercession on their behalf:
The Spirit of God teaches love towards all, and the soul feels compassion for every being, loves her enemies and pities even devils because they have fallen away from God.
The Starets was emphatically a man of the Church; and so, if asked whether we may legitimately pray for the demons – Fr Sophrony does not in fact record any occasion when he was so asked – surely his answer would have been that the Church has no such practice; and in all such matters we must follow the Church’s rule of prayer. But at the same time it is not for us to set limits to the divine mercy.
Pray for all. Love and prayer go together; if, then, we are to love all human persons, this signifies that we are also to pray for them. So the Starets writes:
I pray Thee, O Merciful Lord, let all mankind, from Adam to the end of time, come to know Thee …. I will pray for the whole human race, that all people may turn to the Lord and find rest in Him …. I beseech Thee, O Lord; let all peoples come to know Thee.
The Starets quotes with approval the words of an ascetic monk with whom he once talked:
Were it possible I would pray everyone out of hell, and only then would my soul be easy and rejoice.
‘Were it possible’: the Starets does not say that it actually is possible. The Starets sees this all-inclusive intercession as the proper and characteristic vocation of the monk.
The constant prayer for others constitutes the monk’s way of serving society as a whole:
Thanks to monks, prayer continues unceasing on earth, for through prayer the world continues to exist…. When there are no men of prayer on the earth, the world will come to an end…. The world is supported by the prayers of the saints.
In this connection Fr Sophrony refers appropriately to the sixth-century elder St Barsanuphius of Gaza, who asserts that in his day there were three men who through their prayers were preserving the whole human race from catastrophe. Barsanuphius mentions the names of the first two, who significantly are otherwise unknown to the annals of history. He does not say who the third was, presumably because God had revealed to him that it was Barsanuphius himself.
By thus praying for the world, the monk not only helps the Church and human society at large, but he also helps himself. Here the Starets describes his own experience as a monastery steward. Most monks consider that this particular ‘obedience’ renders it impossible to preserve continual prayer and inner peace, for it involves contact with large numbers of people throughout the day. Starets Silouan disagrees. If the steward will only intercede constantly for those under his charge, saying ‘The Lord loves His creation’, all will be well: he will find that he is freed from distractions and can maintain an uninterrupted remembrance of God.
~ Adapted from Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, We Must Pray for All: The Salvation of the World According to St Silouan (http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2314168.html).