Roosh V: Learning How to Pray

Several months ago, we published a YouTube video from Daryoosh Valizadeh, also known as “Roosh V”.  The video was created right after he made a pilgrimage to St Anthony-of-the-Desert where he met the late Elder Ephraim. Roosh was somewhat conflicted but nevertheless profoundly affected by his encounter.

Since then, Roosh appears to have undergone a religious conversion to Orthodoxy.  He has delved further into the Faith and has surprisingly crafted one of the best essays I’ve ever read on prayer.  Please take the time to read it below.

But what about. . . ? Well, Jesus said something about angels leaping for joy when a sinner repents. God will choose whom He will.   We need to get out of the way and listen.


  1. Not the Zen Master says

    He’s an interesting guy and his journey is real. Some of his pick up artist techniques are very revealing about the nature of men and women and masculinity.
    Correction to the post. He didn’t make a pilgrimage to the monastery, he was en route through Arizona on a 40 city lecture tour and he semi-happened on St Anthony’s where he was tossed out of Vesper Services by a monk who told him he wasn’t allowed to be there unless he was a full up Orthodox. He left pissed off but hung around outside and later simply encountered Ephraim and had a transformational experience. Ephraim died within days after that, I seem to recall. 
    Roosh lives in the Washington DC suburban Maryland area and he graduated from the University of Maryland. I’ve exchanged emails with him from time to time with the hopes that he become a dedicated Orthodox churchman and example in parish life and not a pseudo-monk type trying to make parish life into monastic life.
    “We’ll see,” saith the Zen Master.

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      He was not “tossed out” of a vespers service, anymore than I was when I was asked to sit in the narthex because I was not Orthodoxos. In my case, however, Father Paisios saw me sitting in the dark by myself and decided to make me a catechumen. In Roosh’s case, Elder Ephraim appeared as he sometimes did. People who have seen him will tell you even being in his presence is a life changing experience. Perhaps the Zen Master should take a little trip over there himself to see what’s possible.

      • Would you mind expanding on that a little more about Elder Ephraim and “a life changing experience”?

        • Gail Michalopulos says

          David, I have known many people who have been in his presence and 100% of them have reported to me that it was a life changing experience. I’ve heard things like, “I don’t know what came over me because I never do this, but I got down on my knees and put my head in his lap while he prayed.” Another said, “He once told me to come with him and we went out in the desert to pick up trash. It felt so strange but there was nowhere else I wanted to be.” (This coming from a 6’7″ man who would have towered over the Elder. The image makes me smile.) I’ve been told he passed out little things to people wherever he went, like prayer ropes, candy, even cake! He seemingly wanted to connect with people in any way he could. – I’ve also heard stories that are too fantastic to report because I would not be able to do them justice.

          That Roosh would be changed by Elder Ephraim? . . . Oh, yeah, I believe it.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Gail, ZenMaster, you are correct. I misspoke when I said that he was on a “pilgrimage” to St Antony’s. He was (as you write) passing through and decided to drop by.

        In my opinion, that and his perchance meeting with the late Elder Ephraim (who reposed in the Lord soon after) make this entire episode all the more miraculous.

  2. That’s amazing to hear about Roosh. I followed him for a while on his journey across the U.S as I was doing something similar. What was he before? Wasn’t he Armenian Apostolic? 

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      I’m afraid to touch your question with a 10 foot pole. I’m sure George will enlighten you!

      For what it’s worth, I believe his conversion is real and because of his background, he is a master communicator. It appears as if God intends to use that talent for good. Praise God!

      • George Michalopulos says

        Petros, since Gail directed your question to me, I do believe that his father was a Shi’ite Muslim and his mother Armenian Orthodox (whether that’s monophysite or Eastern-Rite Catholic I don’t know).

        From what I have been told, he has entered into the Orthodox Church. (Perhaps our friends over at Russia Faith can enlighten us in this regard.) In any event, his writing on prayer and his own personal rule of prayer are spiritually edifying.

  3. Sage-Girl says

    Roosh is a hoot! Everybody:  invite him in future to speak in your churches — when apocalypse is done,
    I did. He will…I contacted him months past, because of YT video visit at St. Anthony monastery & meeting Elder Ephraim. Seems prodigal son type of believers are more appreciative of holiness – Roosh was impacted big time from Ephraim blessing!

    • George Michalopulos says

      Sounds like an excellent idea –after 3 years. St Paul went into the Judean desert for that long under obedience to the Apostles before he was allowed to preach.

      • Estonian Slovak says

        I’m leery about famous converts who become experts because of the Frank Schaefer experience.  I bought in to him at first, though his heavy use of the first singular personal pronoun in describing his journey to the Faith should have sent up a red flag. 
             Give the OCA credit for one thing; nobody who hasn’t been Orthodox for three years can enter the seminary. Makes sense to me.

        • Gail Michalopulos says

          Frank Schaefer is kind of an aberration. I can’t think of anyone else (although I’m sure there have been others) who was as influential as he was in bringing people into the Church and then changed his mind.

          • Yes, Schaefer certainly is an interesting psychological specimen. Anyone whom states: “I’m an atheist who believes in God”…is certainly interesting.

          • When I was in university, Frank Schaeffer’s “Dancing Alone” book was pivotal in me sticking with the Orthodox faith instead of moving to Ev-prot-ism. I still think this book remains an important work outlining the religious and cultural history of America – it greatly helped me understand some of the cultural presuppositions about God that we Americans bring to the table, many of which by any Orthodox Christian account simply are not true. Our Calvinist history and presuppositions remain with us as a nation and as a culture to this day.

            Reading more of his autobiographical accounts, I do believe that Frank Schaeffer suffered tremendously at the hands of an emotionally distant and emotionally abusive father – a father whom who so many Protestants adored. That didn’t make his life any easier, with the world saying how wonderful his father was and all the while Frank and his siblings suffering at their dad’s hands. I pray for him and pray that he finds Christ, healing, and peace in his own way.

            Indeed, it’s probably better for Frank and his soul to be out of the limelight these days.

            I, too, agree with others – the over-eager Orthodox zealot who then falls away from the Church is an all-too-common phenomenon, almost a caricature any more. Give the “zealot” 5 years, I say – then after 5 years maybe I’ll start listening to them.

            • George Michalopulos says

              FTS, I hear you.  However regarding your critique of Francis Schaeffer (as well as Frankie’s hatchet-job on both of his parents), I find myself having to reach for the salt-shaker.  When Frankie wrote his pathography about his parents, many people who had known and loved immediately came to the parents’ defense.  Some of these people had lived with the Schaeffers at L’Abri for months and on and off for years and saw nothing of the sort.  If memory serves, one of Frankie’s sisters likewise came to her parents’ defense.

              Now, I realize that this puts me in the position of passing judgment on Frankie and –worse–acknowledging the fact that I was not present in the Schaeffer household.  As such, my discernment must likewise be taken with a whole shovelful of salt.  Instead, I base this assessment on the many people who knew the Schaeffer family and who never saw (or heard) of anything that Frankie alleges.

              Frankie has issues, of that we can be sure.  But all of us do.  I know I do.  My own take is that Frankie was very much in the Evangelical/conservative milieu, a rock star as it were.  And a true believer.  I first got to know him in the great Bush vs Gore crisis of late 2000 and I can confidently state that he was completely on board with the GOP then. 

              Then Iraq happened and he was there as well.  In fact, once I was watching C-SPAN and First Lady Laura Bush was praising his and his son’s book.  It was a real flag-waiver.  I called the Schaeffers to let them know that Mrs Bush was lauding the book and the younger Schaeffer’s enlistment in the Marines.  Frank himself was very proud of his son’s deployment to Iraq.

              This was perhaps 2005.  Then something happened to cause Frank to turn.  Perhaps it was his son’s involvement in Iraq and Frank got a first-hand look at the Bush Administration’s bungling of that entire enterprise.  I don’t know.  But by 2010, he was openly singing Obama’s praises and predicting that the Democrats were going to take control of the Congress.

              Then, somewhere after that, he tried on the “atheist-who-loves-God” shtick and became the darling of the secular Left.

              That’s all I know.

              • Not surprising at all that the Iraq war and his son’s joining the Marines rocked Frank Schaeffer’s world. His family had no military service tradition, and they lived in the liberal suburbs of Boston. Folks in that part of the country simply don’t join the military, unless they are uneducated or economically needy.

                As is too common in the United States, people turn to a political party or to politics to find a “savior” and a sense of connection/belonging. Maybe that’s what Frank Schaeffer did with his overtures to the political left. Don’t know. Not being judgmental, but I do believe that it’s always better to turn to Christ and not to put one’s trust “in princes or in sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.” Politics and political parties can provide a transient sense of purpose/belonging, but ultimately they will fizzle out just like everything else in this world.

                One thing I do believe from years of experience is that for some/many people, it is very difficult for them to put faith and trust in Christ. I do not know why He seems to make trusting Him easier for some than for others. But perhaps for Frank Schaeffer, faith/trust in Christ is more difficult. I don’t know. All I know is that my response to him should be love and compassion, and I remain thankful to him for his books, some of which have touched me to bring me closer to Christ and His Church.

            • FTS,
              do you happen to know,
              is it just a coincidence that Frank’s change slowly began after publishing his book:
              “KEEPING FAITH A Father-Son Story about Love and the United States Marine Corps”

      • After St. Paul did his initial preaching it was another 15 years or so before he started his ministry. Building men of God takes time, especially if they come from a strong heterodox background.

  4. I think we need to clarify that he is, indeed, Orthodox before inviting him to our churches to give talks, etc.

    First of all: last I heard, he was part of the Armenian church, which is heretical.
    Secondly: He’s a fresh convert – newly baked – he really doesn’t need the adulation yet. We don’t want another Frankie Schaeffer on our hands.
    Thirdly: The man led a very immoral life and will need a lot of time to recover from it. Let him be.
    He needs to learn not teach (and actually become Orthodox, too).
    Zen master, if you’re still in contact with him, encourage him to join the real Orthodox Church.

  5. Sage-Girl says

    I must add, how humble Rooshe’s response was when I first invited him to speak at my NY cathedral — he said he wasn’t worthy yet…

    later I told him he could instead visit our Wednesday night small spiritual group whenever he was in town & he said that’s more possible.

    So I must be clear, he’s Not yet coming to give any public talk.
    Yes, he does need time to establish himself in the faith especially after writing books to be a pick up artist.

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      Your life is pretty amazing Sage-Girl!

      • Not the Zen Master says

        Yes, Sage-Girl’s life is amazing because it’s run by Fr. Alex.
        All of you forgot to mention Eric Metaxas when you jumped on the Schaeffer Roosh band wagon.
        The point is this: disruption might be good but you have to be careful. Schaeffer Metaxas and now RooshV gain an audience because the hierarchy and the church are so weak and so is their messaging.  The clergy need to do their job and rally the troops to Christ.
        As for monks, Ephraim or otherwise, and monasteries, if I want that brand of Orthodoxy, I will become a monk. I do not want to be a monk. I want to live, work, and die in a vibrant, parish community centered around American and Orthodox values. I like to wear my cross inside my shirt and I don’t need to wear 5 prayer bracelets around my wrists to show my piety or run to monasteries to be a monk groupie. I don’t need my parish priest and monks giving me conflicting advice and counsel. Your spiritual father is your parish priest, like it or not.

  6. Michael Bauman says

    There is one super star convert who has not gone off the ledge: Hank Haanegraff, The Bible Answer Man. He has a deep foundation in the Bible. For years before entering the. Church he had an evangelical radio program called The Bible Answer Man.

    When he announced his conversion several things happened in immediate succession: his program was terminated, he was diagnosed with cancer and the evangelical knives came out. Heavy weights such as John D mMcArthur condemned him. Showing their ignorance in the process.

    Hank politely but authoritatively rebuked the ignorance while praising the man.

    Hank is solid because he is deeply indued with Holy Scripture and dedicated to the Truth. I listened to his program in the old days and found him remarkably Orthodox even then. He now eloquently and knowledgeably articulates the Orthodox faith from the ground of Holy Scripture. McArthur, in his public condemnation of Hank, quoted contemptuously from The Confession of Dositheus on faith and works. Hank, in his rebuttal, expertly put the matter in historical context, gave a short homily on the Epistle of James and quoted from St. Mark, the Ascetic all the while affirming his love for John D McArthur.

    Hank is a member of the GOA. His web site is I am certain he could use and be grateful for whatever prayers and financial support you might be moved to.

    I just don’t think we should let flashy but as yet ungrounded conversions take all the oxygen..

    • Mr. Haanegraff was off the ledge before he ever converted to Orthodoxy. He was and is now dogged by financial and personal controversy from his time at CRI. He remains unrepentant. He is an outstanding example of why any new convert should not even think about the ministry for at least 5 years and probably much longer if they are steeped in a theology so foreign to Orthodoxy as is Protestantism.

      His rebuttal to Dr. John MacArthur was pure weak sauce. He rambled on and in no way answered directly anything that Dr. MacArthur said. He did reveal that after all those years of being “The Bible Answer Man” he does not understand the Orthodox view of justification. As a leader of an apologetics institute he should have even if he didn’t believe it (after all on this point Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy agree). Neither apparently do a number of popular Orthodox personalities who came to his defense. 

      Ironically, Dr. MacArthur himself holds a view of justification which is not in any way representative of classical Protestantism but is essentially Roman Catholic in nature. Given Dr. MacArthur’s view of Rome that is pretty hilarious. 

      No, Hank Haanegraff is a perfect example of why high profile new converts need to be ‘churched’ for many years before being allowed to operate in a ministerial fashion within the Orthodox Church.

      If you want the full lowdown on Hank Haanegraff I suggest you read ‘The Hankadox Files’

      at the Energetic Procession blog.

  7. Sage-Girl says

    Eric Metaxas is really good guy,
    really on fire ? for Jesus – since his mystical experience & despite Greek Orthodox faith he was raised in, he’s left for evangelical path…
    it saddens me he switched, thus renouncing beloved Theotokos & the Saints…
    I’ve read Metaxas’s insightful books & enjoy his sharp humor… by synchronicity I one day ran into him on street in NY, recognizing his radio broadcast voice & yes I invited him to NY cathedral years ago — ballroom was packed to hear him! But I’m still mad at him – for not answering my question why he abandoned Panagia.