“… Gradually we will learn how to focus our thoughts and pray with intensity.”
“So we should not despair if we keep falling asleep during prayer or if our mind is wandering during prayer,” I said.
“Naturally not. All of us suffer from such shortcomings. We may read whole pages from the Psalms and after a while we realize that our mind was not there and we have no clue what we read. Only angels and those who have reached their angelic condition do not suffer from such problems of focusing the mind on prayer. When we are in elementary school we must first learn the alphabet, and then move on from there. We do not punish little kids when they face difficulties as they clumsily try to read a book. It takes time, practice, and growth to master such skills. We could not expect a child to act as if he is a university graduate. It’s the same with prayer. When we are beginners we are bound to face difficulties and make mistakes. We will pray in an imperfect way. Having that in mind, we must not lose our courage and interest in getting into the habit of prayer.”
“After all,” I mentioned, “persistence and hard work are necessary to master any skill … “
What is true of prayer, here, is true of the Christian spiritual life. So don’t be discouraged if you sin. Have the will to repent and keep advancing. Overall, keep advancing while you are not sinning. For those who are imitating Paul, keep growing the word of God in your heart (growing the amount of Scripture that you know by heart, remembering to recite several times a week what you memorized, so as to not lose it). For those who are imitating the saints who have mercy on the poor, keep having mercy on the poor until the day that you die. For those who are imitating Christ the pastor and presbyter, endure in being a good shepherd till the end.
Paul is only one of twelve imitations of Christ. There are also seventy more imitations of Christ (apostles of the seventy). There are other imitations of Christ, which are the other saints of the Orthodox Church.
In other words, memorizing the Scripture completely is only one of many imitations of Christ. You don’t have to memorize Scripture if it is above your strength. There are also people who don’t have time because they have to work, or raise kids. You can keep donating small amounts of money to the poor, and do it once a week for the rest of your life, and you will go to heaven. But you must keep doing it for the rest of your life. That’s another way to imitate Christ. “… he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 10:22