Original Posting At http://www.jasonvalendy.net/blog/2019/12/13/not-wanting-to-know-that-we-know
The brothers came to Antony and said to him, “Tell us: How are we to be saved?” The old man said to them, “You have heard the Scriptures. That should teach you how.” But they said, “We want to hear from you, too, Father.” Then the old man said to them, “The Gospel says: If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matthew 5:39). They said, “We cannot do that.” The old man said, “If you cannot offer the other cheek, at least allow one cheek to be struck.” “We cannot do that, either,” they said. So he said, “If you are not able to do that, do not return evil for evil,” and they said, “We cannot do that, either.” Then the old man said to his disciple, “Prepare a little brew of corn for these invalids. If you cannot do this, or that, what can I do for you? What you need is prayers.”
This translation of this desert story is found in The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, There is a lot going on in this story, however what stands out to me is the line “we want to hear from you, too, Father.” These seekers ask a question but Antony says these seekers know the answer. The seekers seem to pretend they do not like or understand the answer they know from the scriptures, so they ask Antony for an answer.
Antony tells them that they know the answer – it is in the scriptures. He goes on to share with them the things they already know (turn the cheek, forgive, do not repay evil for evil). But they feign an inability to do such things.
The seekers know the answer, but they do not want to know that they know. As long as they can pretend to not know the answer, the longer they can hold out hope that there is some other, more palatable, answer out there.
So Antony says what the seekers really need is prayer. Not prayer for salvation, but prayer that they may come to accept what they already but refuse to know.
This is a function of prayer. Prayer helps us come to terms with what we know but we don’t want to know that we know. It is the tool God gives for us to face the truths we know but pretend to not know, in the hope that there is some other, more palatable, answer out there.
We often know what we seek. We often do not want to know that we know it.
Prayer changes us because it revels to us what we know. We no longer pray for that which we know that we know.
No wonder so many of us resist prayer. We are not unlike the seekers. We do not want to know that we know.