DEVELOPING A PRAYER LIFE
Pray without ceasing
Most of us desire a sincere communion with God. Yet, it may seem like an impossible task. 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:
- When am I going to pray? Suggestion: pick a regular time each day to pray during which you are awake and have few disturbances.
- Where will I pray? Suggestion: find a place that is quiet, comfortable and practical and make it sacred space.
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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 Thou art blessed always now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
When we pray, we make the sign of the cross and begin in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Daily prayers from an Orthodox prayer book are a fantastic way to begin our prayer life. Prayers also for a special request ofGod’s mercy and help are asked from the heart. Oftentimes it is good for us to talk to God, to talk to Him as our loving Father and tell Him our struggles and to give thanks to Him as He is the source of eternal life and all good things. If your prayer life is uncertain or you have any questions of doubts, it would be beneficial to talk with your priest and he will direct you and offer help on how to follow the life of the Church.
“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 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. We can take advantage of the centuries of wisdom and being by praying from an Orthodox prayer book. These prayers lift us up in our way of communicating with God and often put our thoughts into words that we otherwise might not have been able to describe.
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
- 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. The Jesus Prayer is the prayer of the Publican from the Holy Scriptures asking God’s mercy. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Additional prayers, references, and other materials can be found in any of the standard Orthodox prayer books, some of which are listed here: