|This article forms part of the series|
|Baptism - Chrismation |
Confession - Eucharist
Marriage - Ordination
|Nepsis - Metanoia |
Hesychia - Phronema
Mysticism - Nous
|Chastity - Obedience |
Stability - Fasting
Poverty - Monasticism
|Humility - Generosity |
Chastity - Meekness
Temperance - Contentment
|Worship - Veneration |
Prayer Rule - Jesus Prayer
Relics - Sign of the Cross
|Apostolic Fathers |
The Ladder of Divine Ascent
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Personal and private prayer
Personal prayer must be in secret. In the spiritual tradition of the Church, Christ’s words "go into your room" have been interpreted both, literally, and also to mean that the praying person must enter within himself, a unification of the mind and the heart, within the soul.
Prayer must be brief. It must be simple and regular. It can be the totally silent inner attitude of the soul before God, the fulfillment of the words of the psalmist: ‘’Commune with your hearts... and be silent. Be still, and know that I am God.’’ Spiritual teachers warn against being too long and demanding of the Lord because prayer directed to God in faith is answered. One may get what they want but should not have. God knows best what is needed, and one should trust him in prayer, "Give what is needed, 0 Lord. Thy will be done." The teaching of Christ on how to pray, is the Our Father.
St. Paul, in his first letter to the Thessalonians says, "pray without ceasing", and to the Romans, "be constant in prayer." This has been interpreted by Orthodox tradition in two different ways. One is to have regular times for prayer which are never skipped, a prayer rule. The other is to have a brief prayer verse, usually the Jesus Prayer which is repeated over and over, literally hundreds of times throughout the day and night, until it becomes perpetually implanted in the heart, as a continual presence in the soul, calling out to the Lord.
According with Father Cleopa there are the following stages of prayer:
- prayer of the lips - when prayer is just said
- prayer of the mind - when mind comprehends the prayer
- prayer of the heart - when mind descends into heart
- active prayer - when heart starts praying alone even in sleep
- all-seeing prayer - when unseen world including angels becomes visible together with future, past
- ecstasy prayer - when mind is taken to Heaven
- contemplative prayer - when people can be taken to Heaven
Father Paisios, Father Porphyrios, Father Iakobov, Father Arsenie Boca, Father Ilarion Argatu were examples of people at a high level of Prayer of the Heart. Here is an Hesychast speaking about speaking to God and about Prayer of the Heart.
All seeing prayer
To have an idea about how the unseen world looks like we can watch this movie with an angel taking the soul of a man. Also, we have the pictures from Drăgănescu Church near Bucharest done by Father Arsenie Boca that was advanced in the stages of prayer. He confessed that he saw the Saints he painted and that he spoke with them. Looking at the pictures in Drăgănescu Church, we see that it looks like beings are presented as being made of light. If in majority of the Churches, bodies are painted, in Drăgănescu Church it seems that souls are painted.
According with the confessions of people that knew Father Arsenie Boca and of other people , we can conclude that being at the all seeing level of prayer , people:
- can see the sins of people and of their ancestors
- can see the state of souls after death
- can speak with Saints and people in after life
- can see the future or the past
- can see anywhere on Earth, under Earth and in the air
- can help people with salvation
Practical teachings on Jesus prayer for people in our age can be found in the book "On the Prayer of Jesus" by Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov.This book is important because it shows the dangers coming while walking on this way and arriving at the high levels of prayer.
When seeing the unseen world, sick angels can become visible too and can do some harm. Father Ilarion Argatu, an experienced exorcist, tells that sick angel materialized and palmed his face and that he prayed for the protection of the people around him as not to be affected by the sick angel. Praying for the protection of the family members, including grandchildren can be very important as well as praying for the protection of the goods. Father Ilarion Argatu children and grandchildren families have around 40 priests so praying for family members and for their future and salvation is very beneficial.
To allocate an important time to the prayer can have an impact on life and can be sustainable on some occupations and lifestyles. The decision to go on this way , as well as the decision of entering a monastery should probably not be taken based on an impulse. The best way can be seen immediately by somebody on a high level of prayer or by passing of several years on going on the way.
Practical teachings are also on another much older book named The Way of a Pilgrim and this book recommends saying "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me !" many times.
The following steps are recommended:
- To say the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me !" for 3000 times a day for around one week,
- To say the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me !" for 6000 times a day for around another week
- To say the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me !" for 12000 times a day for around another week and then to continue the prayer many times
Also, practical advice about the Prayer of the Heart is found in the book named Philokalia. The Way of a Pilgrim book recommends a certain way in reading Philokalia so as to better understand the Prayer of the Heart. The book "On the Prayer of Jesus" contains comments of the Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov on the books of the Philokalia dedicated to the Prayer of the Heart. The following chapters are recommended to be read from Philokalia
- The book of Nicephorus the monk (in part two)
- The whole book of Gregory of Sinai, except the short chapters
- Simeon the new theologian on the three forms of prayer and his discourse on faith
- The book of Callistus and Ignatius.
- Part four with the summarized pattern of prayer by the most holy Callistus, Patriarch of Constantinople
- Repetition of a prayer is accepted and recommended in the Church and as an example we have The Lord's Prayer
- By repeating the name of the Son of God and asking for his mercy over and over, the soul together with the soul vision becomes cleaner and cleaner until the invisible world becomes visible. Continuing this exercise, people can get so clean that they can go home, to Heaven. John 3:3 together with John 3:5 may add the condition of being baptized as a precondition to visiting the Kingdom of God. Anyhow with God everything is possible so if feel in an impossible situation ask for a resolution from God.
- In 2 Corinthians 12:2 Apostle Paul speaks about knowing somebody that visited the Third Heaven from this life so this is possible and the Tradition of the Church kept alive this at least from the period of the Fathers of the Church
- Discernment should be used to distinguish between good and bad mystical experiences and prayer to God can be made for discernment
- A prayer at midnight values like 40 prayers at daytime. Both Father Arsenie Boca and Father Paisios were known to pray at night.
Orthodoxy teaches that Jesus, in praying to his Father, prayed for his people, and he is the only competent intercessor for mankind before God. In his resurrected glory, he prays eternally to his Father on behalf of all. In and through Christ, Orthodox Christians become competent to intercede before God. In the name of Jesus, Christians are authorized to pray for each other and for all creation. All prayer is to God the Father, through his Son, in his Holy Spirit, even if not mentioned in the words of the prayer.
God, outside of time, knows all things eternally and takes into consideration each act in his overall plan. Even before the creation of the world, God has heard, or rather, more accurately, eternally hears, the prayers of his people. The Lord does not hear prayers after something is finished, because for God there is no before and after at all. God knows what is asked even prior to it being asked, for he knows all of life in one divine act of all-embracing vision and knowledge. Prayers, even for those who are dead, are heard and considered by God before they are said. Failure to pray is also known to God from eternity, and takes its effect in God's plan of salvation.
In the Orthodox Church, liturgical prayer is the Church's participation in Christ's perpetual prayer in the presence of God in the Kingdom of heaven, offering his "body" and "bride" to the Father in the Spirit. It is the official prayer of the formally assembled Church, the body of Christ, and the bride of Christ.
In the liturgical prayer of the Church, one should make every effort to join oneself fully with all the members of the body. This is not a time for personal prayer, one should pray with the Church. Not to forgets one’s own needs and desires, not just become a voice in the crowd, rather one should unite one’s own person, one’s own needs and desires, with all those who are present, with the church throughout the world, throughout time, with the angels and saints, with Christ Himself in the one great "divine" and "heavenly liturgy" of all creation before God.
Prayer for the dead
The deceased are remembered at a special service called "Saturday of the Souls" held four times a year: the two Saturdays prior to Great Lent, the first Saturday of Great Lent, and the Saturday before Pentecost. Orthodox believe that it is the duty of the living to remember and pray for the deceased. A general prayer is said for specific individuals and all unknown souls who have no one to pray for them. Parishoners bring small dishes of kollyva to the church and submit a list of first names of the deceased loved ones to the priest.
- Prayer as an Important Aspect of Our Spiritual Life by Monk Moses in Athonite Flowers. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1999.
- What is Prayer? from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Department of Religious Education in Orthodox Prayer Book: My Holy Pascha, April 14, 1985. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
- Prayer to the Saints from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
- Mary / Prayer / Death from the Orthodox Church in America website
- Prayer in the Orthodox Christian Church from the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia
- Prayer - V. Rev. Thomas Hopko
- Purpose of Orthodox Christian prayer, Bishop. Christodoulos of the Holy Metropolis Old Calendar G.O. Church discusses the purpose of Orthodox Christian prayer.
- Orthodox Prayer
- Amateur video on Orthodox Prayer