A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON PRAYER
By The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, who passed away in 1633 wrote down a prayer that he often said before he studied the Scriptures, or contemplated Holy things. It goes like this: "O Lord, I know not what to ask of Thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on Thee. My heart is open to Thee. Visit and help me, for Thy great mercyís sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Thy Holy Will and Thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to Thee. I put all my trust in Thee. I have no other desire than to fulfill Thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray Thou Thyself in me."
Prayer is communion with God. It is a sacred bond with Almighty God and with each member of the Church of Christ. Prayer is both powerful and never-ending, since it not only unites each of us with God and one another, but those who have died and have gone on before us. Christians are called to pray always and glorify God with every action and every word. It is this sense of prayer which motivated and permeated the thought of the Church Fathers and elders.
Vasili Rozanov, a Russian theologian once said, "There is no life without prayer. Without prayer, there is only madness and horror. The soul of Orthodoxy consists in the gift of prayer."
No doubt, prayer is the first, most important charge a Christian is given. Prayer does not require riches. Prayer does not take up space, nor does it require that we be in any special place, at any special time. Prayer can take many forms. It can be as small as a remembrance of the Lord during your busy day. It can be a quick "Thank You" to God for your many blessings. It can be a cry for help when you feel scared or backed into a corner. It can be an expression of sorrow for yourself, or a loved one.
Whatever form it takes, whatever reason you go to the Lord, the important thing is that you remembered Him. Itís not how many words you say, your feelings often say it for you. Itís not how elaborate your prayer is, for the greatest prayer on earth is the most simple prayer, "Lord, have mercy". When you participate in the Divine Liturgy do you realize that the entire service is a "Prayer Service" to the Lord. Itís often been said that when you sing, you pray twice; this is certainly true when you respond to the prayer petitions of the Priest with "Lord, have mercy".
As Americans, we are not usually conditioned to pray. In Moslem countries, there are calls to prayer that are broadcast throughout the Moslem country every day. Yet in the frantic, fast-paced world we live in, we often canít squeeze in time to whisper a small prayer before going to sleep at night. We become pre-occupied with making a living, working at our jobs, tending to children, and just trying to keep up with the whirlwind pace of life we have grown accustomed to. We tend to lose track of God in the midst of all this turmoil.
Itís a small victory for us every time we stop and remember the Lord. For every prayer we manage to send toward Heaven we receive rewards 100 times greater than we can measure. How can we train ourselves to take time during our busy lives to stop and pray.
I donít mean that we have to be like the Moslems that interrupt everything theyíre doing and fall to the ground and pray. Such a method of prayer is more for show than it is helpful for the individual. What type of prayer I am suggesting is a quiet, inner-style of prayer. When you pray, no one will ever suspect that you are praying, but Your Father in Heaven will know it, and reward you openly for your remembrance of Him.
Let me make a suggestion to you. Have you ever tied a string around your finger, or perhaps tied a string to an object in order to remind yourself of something important that you needed to do? Iím suggesting that you take a string and perhaps tie it onto your refrigerator door. That way every time you open it, you will remember to give thanks to the Lord that you have been blessed with food to eat.
You could tie a string to your bed post to remind you to ask God to protect you as you sleep. You could tie a string onto the steering wheel of your car so that every time you arrive at a destination you remember to thank the Lord for blessing you with a safe journey. There are hundreds and hundreds of things that you could tie a string to which could help you remember the Lord in prayer.
The best thing about using a string is when someone asks you why it is tied to your refrigerator door, or onto your steering wheel, you are given the opportunity to tell them why itís there, and then pass on the knowledge to them. A simple string, a small reminder, a great reward and opportunity to become a Christian that is closer to God through prayer.
As St. Augustine said, "Prayer rises to Heaven, and immediately Godís mercy descends upon the earth". Truly, we do not remember to pray as often as we should. We must appear to God to be ungrateful for His many blessings. Sadly enough, many people forget God exists until tribulation arises in their lives, they suddenly they are Christian again!
I was talking to a gentleman who served in the Army during a World War. He shared story with me about being in a foxhole with an atheist. During a very fierce attack one evening, they thought surely that they both would perish in the battle. The atheist turned to the Christian and asked, "Would you say a prayer for me, too?" The Christian responded, "But, I thought you were an atheist!" The atheist responded, "Just in case!"
Donít let it have to come down to a life and death situation for you to remember the Lord.
By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
O Lord, Almighty, Who knows what we need before we ask it of Thee, we ask You to search our hearts today. Arrange our lives according to Your Holy Will. Teach us Your Will with gentle loving kindness that we may serve You the Awesome God.
Take us and use us as instruments to glorify Your Holy Kingdom. Guide us, guard us, and repel all attacks of the evil one from us, so that being defended by Your Grace we may walk as true Christians through the journeys of our lives.
Purge us of all hate, and fill us with love. Sweep away the soil of sin from our hearts and purify us with Your tender compassion and mercy. Grant us, O loving God, the gift of frequent, heart-felt prayer and remembrance of You, that we may remain constantly in the protection of Your mighty Presence.
Forgive us of every sin, stain, or transgression, whether it is against You, or against any of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Allow us to forgive freely those who do wrong to us and purge from us any grudges we have against others.
Let us stand uncondemned before the Dread Judgment Seat of Christ through the Holy Power and the Forgiving Grace and Mercy of Your Life-Giving Cross.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
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