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Introduction to Prayer

Prayer is a conscious, intentional and purposeful act of uniting with God one's mind, heart, soul and body, with every thought, feeling, word and deed, in every time, place, and circumstance.  The sole purpose of prayer is to glorify God by discovering and doing His will.

Christian prayer is consciously performed in the name of Jesus Christ.  It is done in accordance with Christ's teachings and in imitation of Christ's actions.  It is done with Christ, and in and through Him, to God the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is also directed to Christ Himself, as God's divine Son, in the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is also addressed to the Holy Spirit, especially when one begins to pray to God the Father and to His Son, Jesus Christ.  Prayers are also made to the Holy Trinity -- the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, One in essence and undivided.  And prayers are also made to Christ's Mother, Mary, and to the saints, asking them to pray and intercede for us with God.

Three Ways of Prayer

Christians are taught to pray in three ways.  These three ways enable and empower each other.  When prayer is an honest and real dialogue with God, they are always held together; they are not separated.  In truth, if any of these three ways is missing, a person'a prayer is at best superficial, weak, and one-sided.  At worst it is deformed and distorted to the point where it ceases to be prayer at all.  This is especially true when any of the three ways is willfully suppressed or rejected. 

In long, fancy words the three essential ways of prayer for a Christian are:

(1)  The corporate liturgical and sacramental worship of the Christian ecclesial community whereby the baptized believer enters into the ceaseless and eternal glorification of God the Father by His divine Son and Word, Jesus Christ, in and through the power and operation of the Holy Spirit, together with the bodiless hosts of heaven and the assembly of saints;

(2)  The maintenance of a set rule (kanon, regula, pravilo) of prayer done in secret at specific times of the day and week within one's room, the door being shut, according to texts (or memozied words, especially if the person is illiterate) prescribed and guided by a pastor and/or spiritual elder, which rule always includes "O Heavenly King" and the Trisagion prayers concluding with the Lord's Prayer.  It may also include psalmody, the Creed, scripture reading, silence and intercession; and

(3)  The practice of continuous and unceasing spritual prayer of the mind united with the heart usually accomplished, at least at first, by the verbal repetition of a short line of a psalm, or a short prayer, most often a form of the Jesus Prayer such as the shorter "Lord have mercy," or the longer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

My parents, like all devoted Christians without much formal religious education, knew these three forms of prayer.  Without any theological training, they practiced them and taught them to their children in three short rules which were never to be broken.  These rules were:

1.  Go to church,

2.  Say your prayers,

3.  Remember God.

Saying Set Prayers

Christians always begin praying by using set prayers.  They begin with words provided by God in the Bible and liturgy.  The central set prayers for Christians are the Psalms, the Trisagion (Holy! Holy! Holy!), the Alleluia (Praise the Lord!), the Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy), the Lord's Prayer (Our Father...), the Doxology to the Holy Trinity (Glory to the Father ...), and the acclamation to the Theotokos (Rejoice, O Virgin...)

The "Our Father" is the paradigmatic and quintessential prayer for Christians (see Matthew 6:7-13 and Luke 11:1-4).  It is, to use a biblical way of speaking, the prayer of prayers.  All other prayers are either abbreviations or elaborations of the Lord's Prayer.  If they are not, then they are not acceptable prayers for Christians.  The saints teach us that we should be very careful if we pray something that is not specifically contained in the Lord's Prayer.  They warn us as well never to pray anyting contrary to it.

Beginning with set prayers in words given to us by God, we may then move on to prayers in our own words, inspired by God, or to prayers beyond words and thoughts, in the silence of God's Holy Spirit in a realm too high and too deep for words or thoughts of any kind at all.  But we never begin in our own words.  To do so is disobedient, dangerous, and foolish.  If we begin to pray in our own words, and certainly if we try exclusively to pray in our own words, we will almost surely end up making prayers that are insulting to God and contrary to His holy will.

Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, St. Vladimir's Seminary, 2002

Prayer - Beginning of the Day

[by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow]
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by You. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, and You, Yourself, pray in me. Amen.

Trisagion

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth who are everywhere and fillest all things. Treasury of Blessings, and Giver of Life: Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

O most-holy Trinity: have mercy on us. O Lord: cleanse us from our sins. O Master: pardon our transgressions. O Holy One: visit and heal our infirmities, for Thy name's sake.

Lord, have mercy. (Three times)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory: of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.


The Creed

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Psalm 50

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight - that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from You presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart - these, O God, You will not despire. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Prayer - End of the Day

[by Macarius the Great]
O eternal God, King of all creation, who have kept me safe to attain to this hour, forgive me the sins which I have committed this day in thought, word, and deed. And cleanse, O Lord, my humble soul from every stain of flesh and spirit. Grant me, O Lord, to pass this night in peace, to rise from my bed, and to please Your Holy Name all the days of my life, and to vanquish the enemies, both corporeal and incorporeal, that contend against me. Deliver me, O Lord, from the vain thoughts that stain me, and from evil desires. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

O Father, my hope; O Son, my refuge; O Holy Spirit, my protection: O Holy Trinity, glory to thee.

Closing

It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word; true Theotokos, we magnify you.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lord, have mercy. (Three times)

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Before Going to Sleep

(Making the sign of the Cross over your bed) Surround me, O Lord, with the power of Your honorable and life-giving Cross, and preserve me from every evil.
(Making the sign of the Cross on yourself) Into Your hands, O Lord Jesus Christ, I commend my spirit and body; bless me, save me, and grant me eternal life. Amen.
A Meditation on The Prayer of St. Ephraim

O Lord and Master of my life!
    Is Jesus Christ the master of my life, or am I a slave to another?

Take from me the spirit of sloth,
    Am I lazy?

faint-heartedness,
    Have I seen only the bad in life and become weak?

lust of power,
    Have I been self-centered?

and idle talk.
    Have I misused God's gift of speech to betray or deride myself or others?

But rather give the spirit of chastity
    Let me seek after integrity (wholeness),

humility,
    Let me stand before You, as Your compassion allows.

patience,
    Let me wait on the working out of Your will for my life.

and love to Thy servant:
    grant me the self-less love of Christ.

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brothers;
    Let me be aware of my faults and avoid falling into pride. Let me not "cast a     stone" at my brother.

For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen

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