My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Gethsemane: Jesus' Prayers (St. Mark 14:32; St. Luke 22:39-46; St. John 18:1)
"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, 'Sit here while I go and pray over there.' And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful deeply distressed. Then He said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. stay here and watch with me.' He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as your will.' Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? 'Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak…' (Saint Matthew 26:36-41).
"The inward Temple. There is no need to weep much over the destruction of a church; after all, each of us, according to God's mercy, has or should have his own church--the heart; go in there and pray, as much as you have strength and time. If this church is not well made and is abandoned (without inward prayer), then the visible church will be of little benefit." (Archbishop Barlaam to Abbess M., Russia's Catacomb Saints).
An outstanding "handbook" on the Jesus Prayer is The Art of Prayer (Faber @ Faber). Here is an excerpt from that classic work:
"There are many among you who have no knowledge of the inner work required of the man who would hold God in remembrance. Nor do such people even understand what remembrance of God means, or know anything about spiritual prayer, for they imagine that the only right way of praying is to use such prayers as are to be found in Church books. As for secret communion with God in the heart, they know nothing of this, nor of the profit that comes from it, nor do they ever taste its spiritual sweetness. Those who only hear about spiritual meditation and prayer and have no direct knowledge of it are like men blind from birth, who hear about the sunshine without ever knowing what it really is. Through this ignorance they lose many spiritual blessings, and are slow in arriving at the virtues which make for the fulfillment of God's good pleasure."
"Prayer needs no teacher. It requires diligence, effort and personal ardor, and then God will be its Teacher." (Saint Meletius the Confessor)
AN HOMILY ON PRAYER
by Saint John Chrysostom
"As Christians we are obligated to honor and appreciate the Saints of God for two reasons. The first reason is because all the Saints had placed the hope of their spiritual salvation upon the sacred prayers. The second reason is because the prayers which they offered to God with joy and fear have been preserved in their writings. Thus their spiritual treasures, having been transmitted to us, may draw all subsequent believers toward the zeal of these Saints. The way of life of the teachers must be transmitted to their pupils. Thus the pupils of the Saints, that is, us Christians, must prove ourselves to be imitators of their righteousness. This we may do by always being preoccupied with prayers and the worship of God, considering thus as life and health and wealth and the end of all good things our prayer toward God with a pure heart and an incorruptible soul. For as the sun illumines the body so also does prayer illumine the soul. If then the blind person is deprived because he cannot see the sun, how much more is the Christian diminished and harmed who does not pray constantly, and who, consequently, does not gather into his or her soul, through prayer, the light of Christ.
Who is there that is not surprised and does not marvel at the love of God, which He demonstrates by rendering such a great honor to human beings in making them worthy to pray and to converse with God Himself! When we converse with God at the time of prayer we become similar to the Angels and dissimilar to the irrational beings. For the work par excellence of the Angels is prayer and worship. By praying with much awe and presenting themselves to us as an example, the Angels teach us to learn and to know that we must pray to God with joy and with fear. We must pray both with fear of being found unworthy of the prayer which connects us with God, but also with fullness of joy for the magnitude of honor which is bestowed upon the human race through the very possibility of prayer. Divine Providence has made us capable of enjoying constant communion with God, through which we appear not to be mortal and transient. Even though by nature we are mortal, it is through our conversation with God that we are transferred into immortal life. For the one who holds conversation with God must be by necessity above death and every moral and spiritual corruption. And by the same token, as it is most essential for one who enjoys the rays of the sun to be free of darkness, so also the one who enjoys conversation with God must no longer be mortal, precisely because the magnitude of this honor transfers us into the realm of spiritual immortality. It is impossible for those who pray and speak to God to have mortal souls. The death of the soul is precisely impiety and a sinful life, while the life of the soul is the worship of God and a way of life in the believer that is becoming to such worship….
"...For the one who does not pray to God and does not desire to enjoy constantly this conversation with God is indeed dead, without a living soul, and certainly without prudence…
Types and Levels of Prayer
In the Orthodox spiritual tradition prayer has a broad, comprehensive and profound meaning. To pray does not mean simply and only to petition and to beseech, that is, to ask for something from God. This is, of course, the familiar meaning of prayer, and certainly one of the types of prayer. It is important to note, however, that there are various types of prayer, as well as various levels of prayer, which are always analogous to the spiritual experience and progress of each praying person.
Prayer begins as petition and supplication when we express our needs and our deficiencies to God. This type of prayer is the most familiar to all of us because this is the type we use most often...Faithful persons pray because they recognize that it is from God that they receive their life and all that is necessary for their natural and spiritual sustenance. Most especially however we pray for the mercy of God and for the forgiveness of our sins.
The prayer of supplication, however, must be extended to include our fellow human beings for whom we are responsible. In our petitions we must also present the needs not only of our family, but also the needs of all those people who are known to us. Moreover, we must also have in mind, in our petitions, the needs of our whole community, as well as the current events of contemporary history, including the universal deficiencies and sorrows of our time.
Prayer of Thanksgiving. After the prayer of supplication what usually follows is the prayer of thanksgiving. This is a higher type of prayer because the believer does not any longer seek something from God but rather expresses gratitude and thanksgiving to Him for the benefits (seen and unseen) and the gifts already received. When the prayer of supplication receives its necessary response, the believer usually expresses a prayer of thanksgiving to the God Who loves mankind because we recognize and acknowledge the grace of God, which we have received in the past or in the present...
This sense of gratitude and thanksgiving must include the difficulties, the testings and the incomprehensible things that happen in our life. When immovable Christian faith and hope exist, our prayer of thanksgiving will be all the more broadened to include even our misfortunes. It is precisely our fervent prayer communion with God in prayer that can transform even tragic events into opportunities for spiritual growth, according to the measure of our faith. Prayer of thanksgiving means that in an ever growing spiritual understanding, we come to accept all the aspects of our life as a gift of God and, in all circumstances, we turn to Him with humble thanksgiving from the depths of our soul.
The worshipful prayer of doxology and praise confirms in a way the following affirmations: "You Lord are God and I am a human person, Your creation. You exist forever and eternally, while I have been created by You and depends upon You." Our life must always be based upon the truth. And the basic truth in this instance is that God is God and man is man, God is the Creator and man is the creation, and not the other way around.
These then are the three basic types of prayer that we encounter in the spiritual tradition of the Orthodox Church."
DAILY PERSONAL PRAYER
Once you begin to outwardly order your life, prayer is the first discipline you should develop. What is prayer? It is the mutual and persona encounter with God. It is through prayer that we open ourselves to the Invisible, Imperceptible Power of God. The perfect example of personal prayer, is the one given to us by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself: "Our Father..."
HOW DO WE PRAY?
First, you need to establish a regular time to pray. You should have as a minimum a time in the morning and a time in the evening. With our busy lives this means you will have to make some conscious changes to make time for prayer. Pick a time that you know you can keep no matter what. Strict discipline in this is important. The length of time is something that only you can determine in consultation with your spiritual Father or Father Confessor. Your prayer time should not be less than ten minutes in the morning and then again in the evening. Your time in prayer will grow as your relationship with God grows. At first you will find it a struggle to maintain what seem like a simple discipline as there are negative (evil) forces that will try and keep you from regular prayer. But, there will come a time when you can't wait for the time to pray. Expect a struggle in the beginning to maintain a strict schedule.
Next, you need to find a quiet private place where you will not be disturbed for you daily prayer. This may be a corner in the bedroom or other. If you are fortunate to have an extra room or perhaps a guest room, use that for your private prayer. Once you choose the place, you should set up a small home icon stand. On it place an icon of Christ or the Theotokos and Christ-Child, your patron Saint, etc. Have an oil lamp or a candle that you can light while you pray. Also, an incense burner, a cross and your prayer book and Holy Bible.
Saint Paisios said: "The most blessed of all people are those who exhibited the greatest repentance, with pain and inner contrition, and, in this way, extinguished the proud enemy. They humbled their unruly flesh with asceticism - subdued it to the spirit-and granted the greatest joy to Heaven with their repentance (their return to God)."
TODAY'S SYNAXARION (THE COMMEMORATION OF TODAY'S SAINTS):
On February 12th Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the following Saints: Saint Meletius, Archbishop of Antioch; St. Anthony II, Patriarch of Constantinople; Saint Alexis, Wonderworker of All Russia; St. Meletius, Archbishop of Kharkov; St. Mary, called Marinus, and her father St. Eugene, at Alexandria; New Holy Martyr Alexius, Bishop of Voronez (1930); Holy Martyrs Plotinus and Saturnius; St. Bassian of Uglich; Sts. Nicholas Dvali, Prochorus the Georgian, Luka of Jerusalem, and the Holy Fathers of the Georgian Monasteries in Jerusalem; New holy Martyr Chrestos of Constantinople; St. Meletios of Lardos.
TODAY'S HOLY SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE:
Holy Epistle Lesson: 1 John 4:20-21, 5:1-21
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Mark 15: 1-15
INSPIRING SAYINGS FROM THE HOLY ASCETICS, HOLY MOTHERS AND HOLY FATHERS:
"Have confidence: for thirty (30) years I have not prayed to God about my faults, but I have made this prayer to Him: 'Lord Jesus, save me from my tongue,' and until now every day, I fall because of it, and commit sin." (Saint Sisoes the Great)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of god and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God