PRAYER

 

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself. The Holy Fathers say that prayer with force is higher than prayer unforced. You do not want to, but force yourself. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force (Matt. 11:12). St. Ambrose of Optina +1891

Through the prayer, man is cleansed, brightened, sanctified. Elder Amphilochios of Patmos +1970

Prayer is the basis of our Christian life through which we come to know God. Prayer is the source and the reality of our experience of Jesus Christ, it is not an option; it is an absolute necessity for every human being.

Prayer is a living reality, a personal encounter with the living God, and as such it cannot be limited to a prescribed set of “prayers” and “practices” which while important in the beginning, lead us to further depth of prayer. Orthodox life goes through the stages of purification, illumination, and théosis. Orthodox prayer similarly progresses from oral to interior to noetic prayer, these stages and phases are not strictly seriatim, and often take place overlapping each other.

We first set out to cleanse our soul and our body of passions and lusts with as fasting and vigils, to prepare us for the next stage: illumination.

Initially we learn to pray by reading the prayers given to us by the Church. Saint Theophan the Recluse said that oral prayer is very important, giving “verbal expression and shape” to our prayers.

It is a common mistake to imagine that anything further than oral prayer is the province of monastics, something that ordinary lay people cannot aspire to. That is nonsense.

As we move from purification to illumination in our spiritual lives, the Light of Christ begins to enlighten our thoughts and actions. Similarly, as we practice the externals of a prayer life with steadfast dedication, we gradually begin to enter into interior prayer when we begin to pray with intent and, as Saint Theophan says, “the mind is focused upon the words, speaking them as if they were our own.”

Oral and interior prayer lead to noetic prayer, or prayer of the heart when prayer is no longer something we do but, but becomes part of our very being. Thus noetic or contemplative prayer is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is not necessarily given to all people. We are given what we individually need and can achieve, since all of us are different. We should not give up, assuming that it is not for us since Saint Theophan wrote, “Growth in prayer has no end, and if this growth ceases, it means that life ceases.”

Pray without ceasing is an Apostolic exhortation, and something we must take to heart. Our relationship with God is entirely accomplished within the bounds of our praying. Praying is not necessarily a conversation, it is rather a means of closeness. It is our highly personal approach to God, that gradually builds a relationship, that becomes slowly apparent to us. We “feel” God rather than anything else, we apprehend His presence as we progress in our prayer. That is as good as any human being can normally aspire.

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