It happened once that an Abbot paid a visit to a certain monk who had been living in the wilderness for many years. The monk had a very mild and saintly appearance, and welcomed the Abbot humbly.
The Abbot felt pleased with the monk’s atmosphere. “I suppose, brother,” he said, “that you spend most of your time in prayer?”
“I would like to pray,” said the monk, “but for a long time I have been unable to.”
The Abbot was very surprised. “But how can this be?” he said with concern. “The wise have taught that prayer should be our constant occupation on the spiritual path.”
“I know it well,” said the monk. “But some time ago, I began to have a doubt: how could I speak to God if my heart was soiled with thoughts of my self? Therefore I began to sweep my heart thoroughly before beginning to pray., casting away all thought of myself, as one casts away rubbish. It is a long work, but I try to leave not a speck of dust to pollute my prayer.”
“Very good,” said the Abbot. “But then – with such meticulous preparation, why do you not pray?”
“Because,” said the monk, “the awe that comes leaves no space for words.”