2004, Articles, Raiati

Prayer / 7.3.2004

No other church in the world has written about prayer like ours, starting from the ascetic fathers, passing by the theologian ones and continuing generation after the other. As if the main interest of the Orthodox Church is prayer, its performance and meanings in a way that it can carry all our belief through the divine services that it performs and through individual prayers. All this seems to be an obedience to what Paul said: “pray without ceasing” (1Thessalonians 5: 17) or to what the Lord said: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matthew 26: 41). We have what’s called the continual prayer or the prayer of Jesus or the prayer of the heart: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”. But if we looked at the regular worship, we have the prayers of the first, third, sixth, and ninth hour, and the vespers, the midnight office, and the orthros. This means that we have seven prayers daily, and in the ecclesiastic organization some of them are grouped together in monasteries and sometimes in parishes; this is without mentioning the Small or the Great Compline which is considered an individual prayer though in our churches in the Antiochian Patriarchate we do have the Great Compline during the Great Lent. And the peak of all this is the Divine Liturgy, therefore we actually have nine prayers.

If we study the content of these prayers we see that some of them are request prayers i.e. when we ask from the Lord our need especially graces as the Lord said: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”. Another kind is the thankful prayer where we thank for what the Lord gave us (we give thanks unto thee). Finally, there is the praising prayer where our mind is directed towards the glory of God without requesting anything and thanking for anything.

The Holy Book considers the prayer to be normal for the believer; it even contains a special book for it in the Old Testament which is the book of Psalms. The church recites this entire book every week and quotes a whole psalm in some services or more than one in others or some verses from the book here and there. The Old Testament mentions some of those who prayed (Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Job, Jonah… etc.), until the New Testament comes and mentions the prayer of Jesus to his heavenly Father. The book of Acts mentions that the church used to pray as a whole. The Disciples of Christ were convinced in prayer so they asked Lord Jesus to teach them how to pray, so he said the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father who art in Heaven,…).

The spirit of the Gospel is to pray individually all the time so that our prayer is raised automatically from the heart. Our fathers have defined prayer to be the elevation of the heart to God. If your heart is filled with his presence, you make all your free time a time of prayer so that only God dwells in your heart, and no other worthless or evil thoughts dwell there. You cannot remove this thought except by mentioning God, this way you taste that God is all your life.

One of the most important things in your personal life is to pray for those who irked you; you mention their names so that hatred would vanish from you and them. Also, one of the most important things is to ask forgiveness from your Lord so that the sin won’t breed inside you. Do not sleep before asking for forgiveness, because you might not wake up in the morning. And for you not to just be a requester concentrating on the ego, thank God for what he gave you, and if you carried on in the divine love praise your Lord a good praise that contains all the joy so you feel then that you are God’s companion and associate as if you became for him like his angels.

Pray in any position; standing or kneeling or lying on your bed. And before everything, pray in the hour of temptation because you cannot push the temptation of the sin away from you except if you called the Lord and he comes and becomes a shield between you and the evil tendency. We do not have a way to remove the wrong corruptive thought from us except if we asked God to come himself and keep the temptation away from us.

If you intensified the prayer day after day, you feel that your thought has become a divine one, in harmony with what God said in his Gospel, and the Gospel is God’s speech to you. If his words dwelled in your heart, then the latter will know how to address the Lord. Let God speak in you then return his words to him through prayer. The Prayer is knitted with the words of the scripture; it is the returning of the scripture to the scripture.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “الصلاة” – 7.3.2004

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