Prayer in the Life of the Orthodox Christian

St. Euthymius the Elder of the St. John the Baptist Monastery

St. Euthymius the Elder of the St. John the Baptist Monastery

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.

PRAYER IN THE LIFE OF THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN

"Prayer is a universal, spiritual phenomenon, the fundamental and inseparable element of every religion and every person piety. As such, prayer has appeared in the history of mankind with an astonishing multiplicity of forms and expressions that range from the most crude and primitive to the most spiritually sublime...The basic presumption of any real and truly spiritual prayer is the belief in the existence of the Living God. The believer not only believes that the infinite and invisible God exists, but that He also reveals Himself to people. It is through this revelation of God that it becomes possible for man to have a personal communion with God. When, therefore, the believer prays, he or she speaks directly to God and becomes aware of a communion with Him. Consequently, prayer presupposes faith in the reality and presence of God, which is nothing less than a direct and real spiritual contact and personal conversation between persons, between an "I" and a "You". The person who prays is the "I" and the God Who is addressed in prayer is the "You".

When therefore we say that we are praying, we mean that we are talking with and having a relationship with God, as a child speaks and relates to a father or a mother. Without this personal contact and relationship with God, provided for us through prayer, our faith in God remains theoretical, merely an intellectual conviction without practical consequences. But when we actually pray, our faith in God becomes a living and active faith. Moreover, our every other moral and ethical act is enriched by prayer to acquire spiritual depth and meaning. The moral and ontological abyss that exists between God and man, between the infinite and the finite, is bridged with prayer. Prayer exalts the believer up to heaven, while heaven is condescendingly lowered to earth. The existing veil between the visible and the invisible is drawn aside by prayer, and man is thus made worthy to stand before the Holy God and to speak with Him--"face to face", that is, person to person, and to express to Him the overflowing content of one's praying heart. In this way our prayer draws the omnipotent God, from heaven and includes Him in our humble and praying heart, while, at the same time, the ecstatic and suspended soul of the praying person is exalted to heaven and united with the infinite God."

Saint Isaac the Syrian writes the following about prayer: "When man becomes humble, he is at once encircled by the mercy of God, and it is then that the heart becomes aware of Divine intervention, and discovers a certain power of faith and reassurance moving within itself. Again, when man becomes aware of this Divine help and knows that it is within him and empowers him, the heart is then is filled with joy and faith. It is from this that man understands prayer to be a refuge of assistance, a source of salvation and a treasury of reassurance and conviction, a haven where man finds rescue from the temptations, a light to see in darkness, a staff of support of the infirm, a shelter at the time of temptations, a medicinal help at the height of illness, a shield of protection during unseen warfare, an arrow aimed at demons, and, in general it may be said, that all good things find their way into the heart of man through prayer. From this point, man moves forward with faith and is nourished by prayer, while his heart rejoices and delights in the assurance it has in God, and no longer remains in its former blindness and simples speech of the tongue. When man comes to understand all of these things rightly, he then acquires the gift of prayer in his soul and considers it to be such a great treasure that, out of much joy and gladness, his prayer is transformed into shouts of thanksgiving..."

Saint John Climacus (of the Ladder) writes on prayer: "...This prayer is remission and forgiveness of sins; a bridge that separates and frees man from temptations and dangers and transports him to freedom and rest; it is a wall of separation which obstructs the grief of the passions both of men and of demons, and does not permit them (the demons) to enter into us and to torment us; it is a celestial activity that nourishes all the Angels and the Saints; it is the endless joy and delight of the righteous; it is the virtue which must never cease; it is a source from which spring all good things; it is a mediator for all the gifts; and invisible progress in the heart..."

Saint Neilos the Ascetic says, "...When the demons see you truly willing to pray ardently, they will present you with certain thoughts about things that are presumably important and then, after a short while, will remove them from your memory. But the mind, moved to pursue these thoughts and unable to find them, becomes greatly despondent and saddened. When at such a time you stand in prayer, they will remind you of these thoughts again so that the mind may be again distracted by them and thus about the loss of fruitful prayer. During the time of prayer, struggle to make your mind deaf and dumb, and then you will be able to pray..."

Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes: "...When the heart is praying, the mind must be within the heart to always revolve around it and protect it, and from there within, from the depths of the heart, the mind will offer up prayers to God. And when from within the depths of the heart the mind tastes and sees that the Lord is good and delights therein, the mind will no longer wish to leave the place of the heart. And then the mind will want to say the same words spoken by the Apostle Peter: "It is good for us to be here" (St. Matthew 17:4)."

Saint Gregory of Sinai speaking on prayer says, "Faith alone is not sufficient for grace; active prayer is also required. For true faith which reveals in practice the life of Jesus comes through the Spirit in active love. Therefore, one who does not see faith activated in his life possesses only a dead and lifeless faith. A man does not even have the right to be called faithful, if his faith is merely one of words and is not activated by the Spirit and the observance of the Commandments. Thus faith must be made evident by progress in good works (works of charity), or, activated by works, it must shine in the light and be obvious, as the divine Apostle says: "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (St. James 2:19). Thus, the faith of grace is manifested by the good works performed in accordance with the Commandments, just as the Commandments are fulfilled and made bright through the faith which is indeed full of Grace. While faith is the root of the Commandments, or rather the spring which irrigates them for growth and development and has two aspects: profession and grace, it nevertheless remains essentially indivisible and one by nature."

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me."

All Lenten seasons are a time of prayer and worship. The first fifteen days of August is such a time. If an Orthodox Christian needs help to learn how to pray, there are many Orthodox prayer books that have been written to assist the believer with prayer and many inspirational books written by the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church that one should turn to. However all of us need the aid of the Almighty God to pray rightly.

"God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, having raised us up from our beds and brought us together at the hour of prayer, give us grace as we open our lips and accept the best thanks we can offer. And teach us Your statutes, for we know not how to pray fittingly unless You, Lord, through Your Holy Spirit, lead us. Wherefore we pray, if up to this moment we have sinned, in word or in deed or in thought, deliberately or not, loose, remit, forgive. If You retain sins, Lord, O Lord, who can stand: With You there is deliverance. You alone are Holy, our help, mighty champion of our lives, and our hymns of praise is to You forever. May the might of Your Kingdom be blessed and magnified, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. (Seventh Prayer of the Office of Orthros [Matins]).

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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.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"-St. John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George