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Communing with God in Prayer

The reading of prayers and prostrations are essential, of course, )ut these only e8press the state of prayer, while the prayer itself should come from the heart. 1nd it is only such prayer, from the )ottom of the heart and of the soul, that is the life of the spirit. True prayer, however, is a gift of God, and this gift is not granted The goal of the Christian's life on earth is salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ and, to us without diligence and struggle. Therefore it is necessary for us to pray that at the same time, communion with God. The means for this communion is prayer, the Lord should deem us worthy of this gift and grant us the grace to offer up to and through his prayer the Christian is joined in one spirit with the Lord ! Cor. -im our sincere, pure and heartfelt prayer, for we are only a)le to pray when "#$%&. Prayer is the focal point and foundation of spiritual life and the source of strengthened )y the -oly (pirit. Therefore we must )e mindful that the -oly (pirit salvation. 'ithout prayer, as (t. John Chrysostom says, there is no life in the is drawn to a soul cleansed of the stain of sin and worldly passions, and only in spirit. 'ithout prayer man is deprived of communion with God and can )e such a soul will -e a)ide. compared to a dry and )arren tree, which is cut down and thrown into the fire *att. %#$+&. 4ur prayers will gradually grow more perfect as we improve the manner of our lives and cleanse our hearts of sinful passion. This )anishment of sinful ways !n prayer, the Christian concentrates together all his spiritual acts. Prayer draws from our lives )rings as its reward our success in prayer. 1t the same time, we down to him the grace of God and is an invalua)le instrument of spiritual defense must say that prayer cannot achieve perfection in isolation, )ut must )e in the Christian's struggles against the sinful passions and vices. ,y prayer our accompanied )y all the virtues, for as we grow in virtue, so does our prayer grow thoughts, desires and deeds are sanctified, for he who prays receives the ever more perfect. )lessing of the Lord on his deeds, for, as -oly (cripture tells us, unless the Lord )uilds the house, those who )uild it la)or in vain Ps. $.%#$&. /othing so helps us Therefore we say that a Christian does not achieve true prayer at once, )ut only to grow in virtue as our pure and pious prayers to God. Thus it was the shared gradually, through various e8ertions and la)or. 1ll of life's deeds re9uire toil and opinion of all the -oly 0athers that prayer is the mother of virtues. ,y repeated patience, )ut nowhere more than in the striving after the supreme virtue prayer. and fervent prayer, man is made more worthy of God's mercy and more capa)le of receiving the gifts of grace which God, )y reason of -is infinite goodness, is already to )estow on us out of -is immeasura)le )ounties. Conditions for Prayer. !n prayer, the Christian prays not only for himself, )ut for all men, for we all are The first condition for the attainment of true prayer is a fervent desire to )e saved the children of God. 'e must pray for the salvation of our neigh)or just as we pray for our own salvation, and the )est means of correcting our neigh)or is to and )e pleasing to God a readiness to sacrifice all for the sa2e of God and the salvation of one's soul. 1s ,ishop Theophan the :ecluse states# Consider prayer pray for him, )ecause prayer for our neigh)or has far greater effect than denunciation of his sins. !n addition, we pray not only for the living, )ut also for to )e the first and foremost duty in your life and as such 2eep it in your heart. Go the departed, that God may forgive them their sins and grant them repose in the a)out your prayers as to the fulfillment of your primary duty, and not as to something to )e done )etween tas2s. heavenly mansions of the righteous. 1 ha)it of a)sentminded, inattentive and careless prayer )reeds a coldness 1s with any spiritual endeavor, however, the Christian must learn how to pray towards God, dejection, a wea2ening of the faith and a dar2ening of the mind, properly. 1s (t. Ti2hon of 3adons2 cautions us# 4f no value is that prayer in which the tongue prays )ut the mind is empty5 the tongue spea2s, )ut the mind and these in their turn lead to spiritual num)ness. 0or prayer to )e fruitful it must lies silent5 the tongue calls God, )ut the mind wanders amongst created things. )e fervent, offered up with an awareness of the need for what we are as2ing Col. 'e must, therefore, pray in fear and trem)ling and try in every way to ensure that ;#.& and it must )e untiring and relentless, pursuing its purpose with the firm resolve of the widow in 4ur Lord's para)le who see2s protection from her our minds are with our words, or, as (t. John of the Ladder tells us, to enclose our mind in the words of our prayer, 6so that7 the heart may respond to the words adversary Lu2e $<#.=<&. 1t the same time, however, we must ensure that our supplications )e worthy of God and of -is glory and not opposed to -is divine of the prayers. will. (urely we must pray# Lord, let Thy, and not my, will )e done in all things>

There are different degrees of prayer and for the )eginner the effort of prayer in silence for a few moments until all your senses are calmed. 0urthermore, as consists mainly in attentively reading or listening to prayer, in standing, )owing -oly (cripture tells us# ,efore offering a prayer, prepare yourself5 and do not )e and ma2ing the (ign of the Cross. -ere a great deal of self=e8ertion and patience li2e a man who tempts the Lord (irach $<#.A&. !n addition to this, )efore entering is called for, )ecause our attention )ecomes distracted in this process and our into prayer, one must prepare himself not only inwardly, )ut also outwardly. heart may not feel the words of the Prayer. Through this ver)al prayer through the diligent e8ercise of it the Christian, with the help of God, gradually trains his ?uring prayer one should stand straight with ones eyes fi8ed on the icon or lowered to the ground, while, at the same time, the eyes of the soul, together with mind to collect itself, to understand and penetrate into the words of the prayer one's soulful aspirations, should )e lifted up to God. This outward attitude of piety and to pronounce them without )ecoming distracted )y outside thoughts. in prayer is )oth necessary and )eneficial, for the disposition of the soul is in The Christian must remain constantly mindful of God and must wal2 in fear of conformity with the disposition of the )ody. God. -e is always )efore the eyes of God as God is invisi)ly with him always and everywhere. 4ne's Guardian 1ngel is also always )y his side. 4ne must also 4ne must also prepare himself for prayer in the soul, the essence of which )e mindful of the fact that earthly life is not eternal. ?eath, which passes no one consists of purging all vengeful thoughts from one's heart *ar2 $$#.B=."&, in an )y and carries us off in many ways, must always )e )rought to remem)rance as awareness of one's own sinfulness and with the contrition and humility of soul well as the fearsome ?ay of Judgment, where we all shall have to answer for our that such awareness )rings. 0or the only sacrifice pleasing to God is a )ro2en every sinful word, deed and thought. 'e must always call to mind -ell and the spirit# a )ro2en and contrite heart, 4 God, Thou wilt not despise Ps. BC#$%&. 1s the -oly 0athers teach us, whosoever does not avow himself a sinner, his prayer eternal torment which awaits all sinners, as well as the @ingdom of -eaven prepared for the faithful who lived in righteousness. !n this way we may lead our shall not )e pleasing to the Lord. lives in the fear of the Lord. !n his daily devotions, the Christian must adhere to a strict home rule of prayer. 1ll the great ascetics had such a rule and 2ept to it diligently. The e8tent of our 'hen we pray we must remem)er that if our prayers will rise speedily to God, they must )e said with charity, for prayer said without love is not heard. 1ccording home rule of prayer is determined for each of us in accordance with our manner of life and the state of our spiritual and physical strength. !t is )etter that we offer to (t. John Chrysostom, charity is the wing of prayer. 1s the -oly 0athers also teach us, we should )egin our prayers with glorification of the Creator of all, with up a few prayers, made, however, in proper devotion, than that we say many prayers in haste, a danger difficult to avoid if we ta2e upon ourselves too heavy a a sincere than2sgiving to God for all -is mercies, for all the trials and sorrows sent down for our )enefit and the )enefit of our neigh)ors. Then we must ma2e a )urden. confession of sins in repentance of heart after which we will )e deemed worthy to !n the Prayer)oo2 the Church provides all Christians with a rule of morning and entreat the @ing of -eaven in prayer. evening prayers. This is a moderate rule and is of special help to those who are just learning to pray. 1s one fulfills his devotional o)ligations, one must not )e thin2ing only of reciting all of the prescri)ed prayers, )ut must strive to arouse and strengthen in the soul the proper prayerful feelings and devotional attitude. *echanics of Prayer. 4ne must strengthen himself against the temptations of sloth and must see2 not The Church of Christ teaches us prayers composed )y righteous and holy men. to e8cuse himself from prayers on the grounds of lac2 of time. 4ne must not let The -oly 0athers and 1scetics of the Church, enlightened )y the grace of God, off reading the prayers even when fatigued after a day of hard wor2, since such have composed many )eautiful prayers, filled with holy thoughts and deep prayer, done with such great effort, is especially pleasing to God. 4ne must )e feeling for the guidance and admonition of Christians. 'e hear these prayers in prepared to sacrifice some moments of )odily repose for the Lord, for )y rushing Church during the ?ivine (ervices, )ut for private prayer at home, each Christian through one's prayers in the an8iety for )odily rest, one will only deprive himself must recite the prayers contained in the Prayer)oo2. of )oth physical and spiritual repose. 'hen we )egin to pray, we do not immediately )rea2 off from our daily tas2s and 1n unhurried and devout recitation of the words will greatly help in 2eeping just start praying, )ut we must prepare ourselves. 1s the Prayer)oo2 says# (tand attention on the prayers. !f one only has a little time for prayer, it would )e far

)etter to say fewer prayers, )ut with careful thought and attention, than to rush through many prayers without proper attention. ,ut, one must also not allow the omitted prayers to go unheeded5 these can )e completed later when there is time. 'hile saying a prayer, especially if reading it from a )oo2, one must not hasten from one word to the ne8t, lest there )e a failure to grasp the truth of the te8t and to receive it into the heart. The -oly 0athers recommend for greater spirituality of mind and heart the rule of e8ecuting )ows, prostrations, and ma2ing the (ign of the Cross, during prayer, as an e8pression of heartfelt feelings of penitence, humility, deep piety, fear of God and devotion to -im, for when one's )ody is prostrate, the soul ascends heavenwards to God>

part of our time. -e even as2ed Christians to pray during the night, for he 2new from e8perience what )enefit such prayers )ring. Prayers at night are often purer )ecause the mind is more at ease and there are fewer worries. These prayers can )e short and few, )ut, as (t. John says, let us rise during the night. !f you do not say many prayers, then say one with attentive concern and this is enough. ! demand no more. !f not in the middle of the night, at least towards morning. 0asting also proves to )e an invalua)le aid to man in the achievement of perfect prayer. 'hile fasting, as the (aint notes, a man does not doDe off, does not tal2 a lot, neither does he yawn or grow wea2 in prayer as often happens to many when not fasting. (pea2ing of the content of prayer, (t. John advises first of all to than2 God for everything. :eceiving all gifts from God, a Christian not only must than2 God for them, )ut must also as2 them of -im. ,ut, not all that is as2ed of God can )ring )enefit to man or can )e good for him. *any are not heard )ecause they as2 for useless things, )ecause they insist on the fulfillment of their own will and not God's, show indulgence towards their own wea2nesses, and do not gather spiritual treasure. 1 man must also )e taught )y reason of his limitations and sinfulness that he cannot always correctly determine what will )ring him what he as2s for in prayer.

(t. John Chrysostom on Prayers.

!n his earthly ministry, (t. John Chrysostom was well 2nown as a super) homilist and for his efforts received the well=deserved title Golden=mouth. !n his sermons, (t. John was especially concerned for the spiritual and moral development of his floc2 and, as a result, he was especially interested in teaching them how to pray. 1s trees cannot live without water, so man's soul cannot live without prayerful contact with God, he taught. !f you deprive yourself of prayer, you will do as 'hether we are heard or not when we pray, depends upon the following# $& 1re though you had ta2en a fish out of water# as life is water for a fish, so is prayer for we worthy to receiveE .& ?o we pray according to ?ivine LawE A& ?o we pray you. incessantlyE ;& ?o we avoid as2ing for worldly thingsE B& ?o we fulfill everything that is re9uired on our partE and, finally, "& ?o we as2 for )eneficial thingsE To live in God means that one must always and everywhere )e with God, and without prayer, such a union is impossi)le. Therefore the -oly 0ather, (t. John, 'hen these conditions are fulfilled, prayer ac9uires a truly ineffa)le power. !t did not limit conversation with God in prayer to one set time of day or to one spiritualiDes a man, renews him, inspires him, and carries him away to heavenly definite place. 1s he taught, one can say prolonged prayers while wal2ing to the pastures. 1s (t. John affirms, in truth prayer is the light of the soul, the true s9uare, while wal2ing a)out the streets. 'hile sitting and wor2ing in a wor2shop, 2nowledge of God and men, the healer of vices, the physician of diseases, the one can dedicate his spirit to God. 4ne can say prolonged and fervent prayers, ! peace of the soul, the heavenly guide which does not revolve around the earth, say, )oth coming in and going out. 'hile in pu)lic, (t. John did not recommend )ut which leads up to -eaven> Therefore, the )eneficial devotion of prayer is the that prayer )e said with the lips, for the power of prayer lies not in words uttered )reath of life. )y the lips, )ut )y the heart. 4ne can )e heard without uttering any words. 'hile wal2ing a)out a s9uare, one can pray in thought with great Deal, and while sitting with friends and doing any sort of thing, one can call upon God with a great cry ! Church Prayer. mean an internal cry& without ma2ing it 2nown to any of those present. 'hile not diminishing the role and importance of prayer set for definite hours, (t. 1part from private or home prayer, which is said in private, according to the words of the (avior, 'hen you pray, go into your room and shut the door and John, nonetheless, sees the time of prayer in much )roader terms. 'e can pray to your 0ather 'ho is in secret5 and your 0ather 'ho sees in secret will o)tain )enefit from praying during our entire lives )y devoting to it the greater

reward you *att. "#"&, as a Christian one must also participate in church prayer, Thy will )e done, on earth as it is in heaven. conducted during ?ivine (ervice, )efore the gathering of the faithful. The Give us this day our daily )read5 importance and significance of this type of prayer at the ?ivine (ervices is stressed in the Gospels. The Lord -imself, during -is earthly life, used to visit the 1nd forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us5 Temple of Jerusalem, as well as the synagogue, and pray therein. -e often prayed, not only in solitude, )ut also )efore the people, and the first Christians 1nd lead us not into temptation, were day )y day, attending the temple together 1cts .#;"&. Therefore our -oly 4rthodo8 Church our *other strictly commands her children to attend ?ivine ,ut deliver us from the Gvil 4ne. (ervices, which is particularly essential to our salvation. The words 4ur 0ather 'ho art in heaven )ear witness to the truth that God is the ,y its very significance church prayer is incompara)ly higher than prayer said at 0ather of all that e8ists. -e not only created the universe, the entire world home, for as (t. John Chrysostom tells us, a single Lord, have mercy uttered in material and spiritual, visi)le and invisi)le )ut, )eing the 0ather, -e loves -is church together with the congregation of )elievers, is worth a hundred creation, cares for it, and guides it to the goals of goodness and perfection as -e prostrations during lonely home prayer. 'hy is this soE ,ecause our Lord said# has planned. The 0ather is -e 'ho calls us to life, 'ho loves -is creation and 0or where two or three are gathered in *y name, there am ! in the midst of them cares for it. 1ccording to ,ishop /icholas of 4chrid, when ! open my mouth and *att. $<#.C&. cry# '0ather>' love e8pels fear, and the earth seems to draw closer to -eaven....Ggoism cries to Thee# '*y 0ather,' )ut love says# '4ur 0ather>' (ome say that it is not essential to go to church to pray, that one can pray just as well at home. ,eware, for you deceive only yourselves, warns (t. John The universe created )y God is diverse, for, on the one hand, it is our world the Chrysostom. Fou can, of course, pray at home, )ut you cannot there pray as you world of nature and man and, on the other hand, it is spiritual the world of the can in church, amidst so many people, spea2ing to God as with one voice. 'hen 1ngelic -ost and the Church Triumphant=2nown )i)lically as -eaven. Therefore you pray to the Lord alone you will not )e heard as soon as when you pray God is called the 0ather of our natural=human world and the -eavenly 0ather together with your )rethren, for together with them your prayer is great# you pray 'ho art in -eaven, that is, the 0ather of the spiritual world. -eaven also implies in unanimity, concord, a union of love and of prayer with the officiating priests. that purity and sanctity of divine life to which man is called, and which does not That is why the priests stand )efore us, that the prayers of the people, who are e8ist in him if he is entirely captivated )y (in. 1s ,ishop /icholas says# -eaven wea2 in spirit, may )e united with their stronger prayers and thus )e uplifted to is very, very far for a man whose heart and soul have turned away from -eaven. (uch prayer has much greater power, is far more )old and effective than Thee...)ut -eaven is very, very close for a man whose soul is open and awaits private prayer recited at home. ?uring church prayer it is not only people who lift Thy coming. up their voices, )ut 1ngels, too, come to the Lord with prayer, and the 1rchangels The Lord's Prayer consists of seven petitions, and these are things that we also ma2e their devotions to -im. should as2 of our -eavenly 0ather. $& 4ur 0ather 'ho art in -eaven, hallowed )e Thy name. The Lord's Prayer. !n the first petition, we should )eseech our -eavenly 0ather that -is name, which 'hen the ?isciples as2ed 4ur Lord to teach them how to pray, he gave to them is always holy in itself, )e hallowed, with -is )lessing, )oth in us and through us *att. B#$"&. The Lord is the fullness and perfection of sanctity )ut, )y glorifying the words of the Lord's Prayer, which, in (t. *atthew's Gospel is worded thus# -im, we sanctify ourselves and the surrounding world. 4ur 0ather, 'ho art in heaven, hallowed )e Thy name. .& Thy 2ingdom come. Thy 2ingdom come. !n the second petition, we as2 the Lord to help us and ma2e us worthy, through

-is grace, of the @ingdom of -eaven which )egins, as Christ -imself said, here !n the si8th petition we as2 of the Lord that -e not allow us to fall into sin. 'e as2 on earth, within us. ,ut it will only come to us in the fullness of its power when -im to preserve us from all that confuses our spirit and from temptations that are (in ceases to hold undivided sway in us and righteousness, peace, and joy in the )eyond our strength to reject. !f we encounter on our earthly path trials and -oly (pirit :om. $;#$%& a)ide in us. temptations sent for our purification from sin and spiritual fortification, then we as2 God to send us -is timely help. God is faithful, and -e will not let you )e A& Thy will )e done on earth, as it is in -eaven. tempted )eyond your strength, )ut with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may )e a)le to endure it ! Cor. $C#$A&. 0or )ecause -e !n the third petition, we )eseech God the 0ather that -e not allow us to live out -imself has suffered and )een tempted, -e is a)le to help those who are our earthly lives according to our sinful ways, )ut according to -is will, which is tempted -e). .#$<&, (t. Paul says, indicating the -elper and 1ccomplisher of our always good, and accepta)le, and perfect :om. $.#.&. ,y o)eying the will of salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. God, we )egin to esta)lish the @ingdom of God within ourselves. ;& Give us this day our daily )read5 !n the fourth petition we )eseech God to give us our daily )read everything we need in life, spiritual as well as physical. 4ur spiritual )read is the grace= )estowing (acraments of the Church, instituted for our salvation. 0irst and foremost, our daily )read means -oly Communion, of which the Lord said# ! am the )read of life...and the )read which ! shall give for the life of the world is *y flesh John "#;<, B$&. *aterial )read means all that is necessary for human e8istence, directly associated with the surrounding world. The words this day warn us against too many cares, and teaches us to as2 only for what is most essential, )ecause the Lord says# ,ut see2 first -is 2ingdom and -is righteousness, and all these things shall )e yours as well. Therefore, do not )e an8ious a)out tomorrow, for tomorrow will )e an8ious for itself. Let the day's own trou)le )e sufficient for the day *att. "#AA=A;&. B& 1nd forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. !n the fifth petition the Lord teaches us how to as2 forgiveness for our sins from the -eavenly 0ather, and how they may )e forgiven. 1nd whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one5 so that your 0ather also 'ho is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. ,ut if you do not forgive, neither will your 0ather 'ho is in heaven forgive your trespasses *ar2 $$#.B= ."&. *an's sins are called trespasses against God in this petition and here we )eg for God's mercy. This is our confession, as2ing for -is forgiveness. 'hoever see2s forgiveness should resort to the healing power of repentance and forgive his neigh)or, the trespasser. 'hen we forgive our trespassers, then God will also forgive us our sins *ar2 ;#.;&. "& 1nd lead us not into temptation, %& ,ut deliver us from the Gvil 4ne. !n the seventh and final petition, we as2 that we )e protected against and saved from Gvil and the ?evil, who is a murderer from the )eginning and wor2s for our destruction. 1s (t. Peter says, the ?evil prowls around li2e a roaring lion, see2ing some one to devour $ Pet. B#<&. :emem)ering the Gnemy of our salvation, the Lord urges us to )e vigilant and so)er of spirit, to have courage to accomplish a feat, teaches us to pray for one another, and )y prayer to the -eavenly 0ather, to fortify ourselves spiritually and free ourselves from misfortune and disaster. Thus the Lord's Prayer is the unfailing model and rule for all prayers. The Church uses it in all the sacramental orders, and in all the ?ivine (ervices. 1s (t. John Chrysostom says, it is the crown of all prayers.