Prayer of the heart, noetic prayer, that occurs after the nous, the heart of the soul, has been illuminated through divine grace, is “one of the first stages of theoria of God” (Met. Hierotheos, The illness and cure of the soul, pp. 186-9). According to the Cappadocians, once the nous is purified and illuminated, incessant noetic prayer – ecstasy – commences and the individual may also attain theoria, the vision of God – the uncreated Divine Light, if this is the Divine Will. Theoria may be short or long. However, subsequent to experiencing theoria, the individual returns immediately to noetic prayer. Hence, noetic prayer, or prayer of the heart, is a “permanent state for real Christians, who are also baptized with the baptism of the Spirit . . . [it also] grants the first knowledge of God” (ibid.).
During the illumination and theoria, if the latter occurs, the individual may attain both the vision of God while maintaining consciousness of reality – that is, s/he sees both the uncreated Light and created light simultaneously – according to what the Divine Will determines. Meanwhile, the beauty of noetic prayer is that, when prayer of the heart occurs, “not only do we flee from sin, but sin flees from us . . . [we] live in dispassion. The passions are unable to act” (ibid.).