St. George
Serbian Orthodox Church
Carmichaels, PA

On Prayer - June 5, 2005

by Fr. Rodney Torbic

Prayer is an essential part of the Orthodox Christian life. Prayer requires discipline and commitment. Prayer requires steadiness of effort and resolute faith. Prayer requires a firm belief in God and that God listens to and responds to prayer.

Prayer includes consideration of the saints of the Church and the Mother of God and the importance of intercession. Prayer includes belief that praying for one another is beneficial

Prayer is not limited to requests directed toward God. Prayer involves expressions of belief and inner thoughts. Prayer includes basic structures and basic rules but allows for spontaneity.

The Holy Orthodox Church has certain rules for prayer. The Holy Orthodox Church has a certain order for prayers. Certain prayers are designated for specific offices or individuals in the Church.

Many prayers of the Church can be found in the Holy Scriptures. The reading of Holy Scriptures can be a form of prayer. The reading of the Psalms is readily recognized as a form of prayer.

When individuals come to the Divine services, the come to pray. Some say that the way one lives a life can be a form of prayer. The Holy Apostle Paul set the standard for prayer when he told the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17)

The multi-volume Philokalia 1 is a studied work on prayer. It sets forth extensive teachings and rules for prayer. Philokalia reveals the complexity of prayer. It challenges the mind.

Prayer is for individuals of any age capable of formulating thought and expressing faith in God. Pray can be vocal or silent. Prayer can involve one or more people.

The Orthodox Church has certain rules regarding who Orthodox Christians can pray with. The Orthodox Church has certain prayers which are prescribed for specific times of the year, for instance St. Ephrem's Prayer used during Great Lent.

A review of the Table of Contents of The Book of Needs 2 will show a long list of prayers for various needs from the blessing of an ambulance, to the blessing of a childless couple, to a prayer before an operation. Many more prayers are listed and deserve the attention of Orthodox Christians.

The more familiar Orthodox believers become with the prayers of the Church, the more these prayers will be integrated in daily life. Learning about prayers requires an interest in searching them out. Learning about prayers requires a willingness to be open to new information. Learning about prayers involves interest in drawing near to God and recognizing life and God are inseparable.

While prayer can be complex, simple prayers are of great value. Repeating the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner" is something each Orthodox Christian can do.

The Name of Jesus has transforming value and great power. Repeating the Name of Jesus, reading the Holy Scriptures where the Name of Jesus is mentioned frequently and the Akathist to Jesus Christ are of direct value to serious believers.

Reciting the Akathist to the Tomb and Resurrection of Christ, the Akathist to the Resurrection, the Akathist to the Cross and the Akathist to Holy Communion focus the believers' thoughts on Christ. 3

When illness or tragedy strikes, believers are moved to prayer. Serious believers pray daily. The amount of time devoted to prayer and the amount of attention devoted to prayer varies from individual to individual.

Morning and evening prayers are common in Orthodox prayer books. Prayers before and after meals are considered proper practices. Prayer before beginning work or before a journey is an appropriate consideration.

Love of God is reflected in the prayer life of the individual. The words addressed to God and the demeanor of the person tell a great deal about the person's love for God.

Children seeing their parent pray will learn from them. Children taken to church regularly will learn the prayers of the Church.

Monastics are known to pray for long periods of time. Many benefit from the prayers of monasteries burning brightly with prayer.

Single individuals and prayerful families can benefit many from their prayers. All prayers should be consistent with the practices and teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church.

Joy is experienced in prayer as one draws closer to God and experiences God in prayer. Individuals generally can't or don't go to Divine services on a daily basis. Each person has the opportunity to pray for a large portion of each twenty-four hour day.

While regular participation in the Divine services of the Church is expected of believers, individual and family prayers serve to strengthen Orthodox Christian life.

Prayers for the health of loved ones and prayers for loved ones departed this life are common prayers of Orthodox believers. Certain prayers are said at various stages of the life cycle. At birth, at baptism, at marriage, at ordination, at death.

Prayers at the time of Holy Confession and Communion focus on sin and unity with Christ. Our Lord taught us to pray "The Lord's Prayer" (Mt. 6:9ff). Our Lord Jesus Christ also said: "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to the Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." (Mt. 6:6)

Prayer is a voluntary effort. Each person elects individually to draw near to God in prayer. Coercion is not part of the prayer process. Being attentive in prayer over an extended period of time takes some doing.

One must work at prayer. Prayer is work. Distractions will occur. Interruptions will occur. Laziness or tiredness can set it. Inattentiveness can take place. These are obstacles and challenges to regularity of prayer.

Each believer must decide what his or her prayer rule will be. Will it be too great and cause frustration? Will it be too little an effort and seem not to meet the needs for growth in Christ?

What is the motivation for daily prayer is a question for each believer? What is the goal? What are the goals?

Books abound on Orthodox prayer. Reading books on prayer is not a substitute for regular prayer. Many Orthodox prayer books are published. Most have certain prayer sections in common.

Earthly life is time limited. The Psalmist states the average life to be seventy to eighty years (Ps. 90:10). We know individuals today living to hundred years and some beyond.

Prayer affects the quality of life. Prayer goes to the Source of life. By prayer we connect with God. We connect with the Giver of Life.

Prayer is an investment in a better life. Prayer is a reaching out for eternal life. Prayer is a step toward the Kingdom of God.

Praying for self and others is a constructive act. Praying as part of a parish community is a contribution to and investment in the parish.

We will never know all there is to know about God. Praying helps us to come to know God. Praying is a way of making ourselves known to God even though God knows all there is to know about us.

In the act of praying, we may find the steps necessary for us to move forward to a better life in Christ.

Prayer brings peace. Prayer can bring silence and tranquility in the midst of chaos and noise.

When we face difficult situations and we don't know what to do, we can pray. When we know what to do and are about to begin, we can pray. When we have accomplished a goal or a project, we can offer a prayer of thanksgiving.

Ten lepers were healed by Jesus. One returned to say thank you. (Lk. 17:12-19). Prayers of thanksgiving are always in order. God gives us more than we will ever know. In prayer, let us give "thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep. 5:20)

1This is a four volume set in English published by Faber and Faber translated from the Greek and edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware.

2The Book of Needs.(Abridged). Compiled and Edited by a Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery. St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania 1995.

3Book of Akathists. Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York, 1994.

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