Prayer in the Orthodox Church

DEVELOPING A PRAYER LIFE

“Pray constantly to find God. Love greatly to know God. Partake of His Sacraments to experience God.” – Unknown

Most of us desire a sincere communion with God. Yet, it may seem like an impossible task. In fact, even with a great commitment of time and energy we may never be satisfied with our prayer life. THAT’S THE IDEA!!! WE SHOULD NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH OUR PRAYER LIFE BECAUSE WE CAN ALWAYS BE CLOSER TO GOD AND MORE COMMITTED TO OUR LIFE IN CHRIST.

First and foremost we should remember that prayer, like any exercise, is a process and a discipline. With this thought in mind, we have a number of decisions to make before we begin:

  1. When am I going to pray? Suggestion: pick a regular time each day to pray during which you are awake and have few disturbances.
  2. Where will I pray? Suggestion: find a place that is quiet, comfortable and practical and make it sacred space.
  3. What do I need to pray? Suggestion: you should have whatever will help you in your efforts i.e., prayer/service book, bible, icons, candles, a Cross.
  4. What will my posture be when I pray? Suggestion: Is it more comfortable to stand, sit or use a combination of these (you should not lay down as you are in a dialogue with someone, God!).
  5. What will the content of my prayer be? Suggestion: warm-up by reading from Scripture and the Church Fathers or a particular saint. Then begin your prayer with a Doxology (praise) e.g. “blessed is our God, always now and forevermore. Amen.” Second, offer thanks to God for all of His blessings. Third, ask God for forgiveness of your sins as you forgive others their trespasses against you. Fourth, petition God for the health and well being of others and then yourself. Finally, end with a doxology e.g. “for you are blessed now and forevermore.”

Origen, an early Christian writer tells us to work on prayer by:

  1. Pausing and preparing ourselves, so that our prayer may become more intense
  2. Recalling the grandeur and greatness of God
  3. Setting aside everything else from our minds
  4. Turning our soul to Him
  5. Forgiving those who have upset or hurt us
  6. Kneeling down as a symbol of surrender to God

There exists no set formula for prayer. One can simply utter the Jesus prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner” if this is an effective means of communion with God. Try various methods of prayer, talk to your spiritual father, follow the life of the Church, and pray about your prayer life. The important thing to do is find something that works for you.

“Prayer is essential. It is the very life…it is the very breath of the human soul.” – Dionysios & Egle-Ekaterine Potamitis

Prayer in the Orthodox Church

“He who is able to pray correctly, even if he is the poorest of all people, is essentially the richest. And he who does not have proper prayer, is the poorest of all, even if he sits on a royal throne.” – St John Chrysostom

Prayer is the elevation of the mind and the heart to God in praise, in thanksgiving, and in petition for the spiritual and material goods we need. Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to enter into our inner room and there pray to God the Father in secret. This inner room means the heart, the core of our being. The Apostle Paul says that we must always pray in our spirit. He commands prayer for all Christians without exception and asks us to pray unceasingly. Orthodox Christians engage in both corporate and personal prayer. One’s individual prayer life is balanced with participation in the liturgical services of the Church where the whole community gathers for prayer and worship.

A Sample Prayer Rule

A prayer rule is the outline of our daily prayer routine. It is important to have a thought out rule. Casually going to your place for prayer and simply talking with God is not the best way to begin to develop your prayer life. We will find that we end up babbling in front of our God. We can take advantage of the centuries of wisdom and being by using proven prayers that will lift us up in our way of communicating with God. A prayer rule should first specify the place and time of prayer.   Then it should outline the sequence of your prayers and the specific prayers you will say. Below is an example of a beginners prayer rule. Always consult with your spiritual father about your prayer rule. He will help you develop one that fits your level of prayer.

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Outline for Morning and Evening Prayer

  • Place: At the icon stand in the bedroom
  • Time: Morning and evening for 20 minutes each time

Begin by lighting a candle, and making three prostrations and then stand quietly to collect yourself in your heart.  Introductory Prayers (detailed below):

  • Prayer to Holy Spirit
  • Trisagion Prayer
  • Lord’s Prayer
  • One of six Morning or Evening Psalms
  • Intercessions for the living and the dead
  • Psalm 51 and confession of your sinfulness
  • Doxology and the morning or evening prayer
  • Personal dialogue with the Jesus prayer – repeat 100 times
  • Reflect quietly on the tasks of the day and prepare yourself for the difficulties you might face asking God to help you or in the evening reflect on the day and the difficulties you encountered and how you dealt with them
  • Dismissal prayer
  • Remember to stop mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon to say a simple prayer.
  • Repeat the Jesus Prayer in your mind whenever you can throughout the day. Offer a prayer before and after each meal thanking God and asking for His blessing. Examples of Complete Prayers for Suggested Prayer Rule. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to You our God, Glory to You.

Additional prayers, references, and other materials can be found in any of the standard Orthodox prayer books, some of which are listed here:

Prayer to Holy Spirit

Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, Treasury of Goodness and Giver of life: come and abide in us. Cleanse us from every stain of sin and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.

Trisagion Prayer

Holy God. Holy Mighty. Holy Immortal Have mercy on us.(x3) Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen

All Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, forgive our sins. Master, pardon our transgressions. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for the glory of Your Name. Lord, have mercy.(x3) Glory to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen

Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Morning Psalms

3, 38, 63, 88, 103, 143 – Choose one each day

Evening Psalms

70 and 143 – alternate

In morning only:

  • Commemorate the Living
    • Lord have mercy on: The leaders of the church, nation, spiritual fathers and mothers, parents and relative, Old and young, needy, orphans, widows, those in sickness and sorrow, those in captivity or confinement. Remember, strengthen and comfort them and grant them speedy relief and freedom and deliverance. (add your own names of living)
  • Commemorate the Departed
    • Remember Your servants who have fallen asleep: our grandparents, parents and family members and friends. Forgive them all their sins committed knowingly or unknowingly and grant them Your Kingdom, a portion of Your eternal blessing and the enjoyment of Your unending life. (add your own names of departed)

Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I realize my iniquity, and my sin is before me continually. (Pause and remember your sinfulness) Against Thee only have I sinned I and done evil in Thy sight, that Thou mayest be justified in Thy words and win when Thou art judged. For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother desire me. For, lo, Thou lovest truth; the unknown and secret things of Thy wisdom Thou hast made known to me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear joy and gladness; the bones that have been humbled will rejoice. Turn Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy face, I and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and confirm me with a princely spirit. I shall teach Thy ways to the lawless and the godless will return to Thee. Deliver me from blood, O God – O God of my salvation – and my tongue shall extol Thy justice. O Lord, Thou wilt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would have given it; but burnt offerings do not please Thee. The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and humble heart God will not despise. Gladden Sion, O Lord, with Thy good will; and let the walls of Jerusalem be built. Then Thou wilt be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, the oblation and burnt offerings; then they will offer calves on Thine altar.

The Creed (Symbol of Faith)

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; begotten of the Father before all ages; Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, of One Essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became Man: And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried: And  the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures: And ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father: He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; His Kingdom shall have no end: And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of the Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets: And in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the Resurrection of the Dead; And the life of the World to come. Amen.

Lesser Doxology

Glory to God, who has shown us the Light! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men! We praise You! We bless You! We worship You! We glorify You and give thanks to You for Your great glory! O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty! O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit! O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us! You, Who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer! You, Who sit on the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us! For You alone are holy, and You alone are Lord. You alone, O Lord Jesus Christ, are most high in the glory of God the Father! Amen! I will give thanks to You every day and praise Your Name for ever and ever. Lord, You have been our refuge from generation to generation! I said, “Lord, have mercy on me. Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You!” Lord, I flee to You, Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God. For with You is the fountain of Life, and in Your light shall we see light. Continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You. Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. Blessed are You, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your Name for ever. Amen. Let Your mercy be upon us, O Lord, even as we have set our hope on You. Blessed are You, O Lord; teach me Your statutes. Blessed are You, O Master; make me to understand Your commandments. Blessed are You, O Holy One; enlighten me with your precepts. Your mercy endures forever, O Lord! Do not despise the works of your hands! To You belongs worship, to You belongs praise, to You belongs glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Morning Prayer

Having arisen from sleep, we fall down before Thee, O Blessed One, and sing to Thee, O Mighty One, the angelic hymn: Holy! Holy! Holy! art Thou, O God; through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Do Thou, O Lord, Who hast raised me from my bed and from sleep, enlighten my mind and heart, and open my lips that I may praise Thee, O Holy Trinity: Holy! Holy! Holy! art Thou, O God; through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.

Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The Judge will come suddenly and the acts of every man will be revealed; but with fear we cry in the middle of the night: Holy! Holy! Holy! art Thou, O God; through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.

Evening Prayer

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us; for laying aside all excuse, we sinners offer to Thee, as to our Master, this supplication: Have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

O Lord, have mercy on us, for in Thee have we put our trust. Do not be angry with us, nor remember our iniquities, but look down on us even now, since Thou art compassionate, and deliver us from our enemies. For Thou art our God, and we are Thy people; we are all the work of Thy hands, and we call on Thy name.

Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

O blessed Theotokos, open the doors of compassion to us whose hope is in you, that we may not perish but be delivered from adversity through you, who are the salvation of the Christian people.

Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Dismissal Prayer

Confirm, O God, the holy Orthodox Faith unto ages of ages! Amen.

Most holy Theotokos, save us!
More honorable than the cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim! Without corruption you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify you!

Glory to You, O Christ, our God and our hope, glory to You!
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lord, have mercy!
Lord, have mercy!
Lord, have mercy!

Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

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