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The prayer

Prayer is the basic element of a Christian life and especially of the Holy Liturgy.The word prayer is derived from the Latin "precari", meaning “to entreat", “to ask earnestly". Religious prayer is a reverent supplication tendered to God; it is an expression of the universal human need which all religions strive to satisfy.

In Christianity, prayer is the central function of a devotional life. Some define Christianity as the religion of prayer, indicating that to pray and to be devout virtually means the same.

Prayer signifies the ascent of our hearts and minds to God. Through prayer we come into direct communion with God and with the spiritual world, to wit; with the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Saints, and Angels, with the living and the dead.

Prayer is a personal expression of our yearnings and noblest desires to God whether for ourselves or for others; it is an appeal to God’s unfathomable goodness; it is a supplication for heavenly blessings and graces; it is a manifestation of our gratitude and praise of God.

The purpose of prayer is to bring our minds, sentiments, and volitons into harmony with the Divine; its ultimate aim being to change God’s decisions about us and to change ourselves, to attune ourselves to the will of God. When this is achieved, then our souls are rendered capable of receiving benefits which before seemed unattainable.

Prayer is founded upon faith in God. Our Lord Jesus Christ often asked those who came to Him for help: “Believe ye that I am able to do this?" (Mt. 9:28).  

Love towards God and fellow men is another indispensable condition of Christian prayer. St. Paul wrote: “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am becoming as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal". (1 Cor. 13:1).

Perseverance in  prayer is of the utmost importance. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak", warned Jesus Christ. (Mk. 14:38)    

The theme of prayer is not always supplication, it may also be adoration and praise of God, expression of our loyalty to God as well as of our gratitude for the heavenly blessing received; and it may be also a discourse and communion with God. Ultimately, prayer may be a combination of several or even of all these various topics.

However, it should be remembered that it would be useless to recite prayer unless the recitation is accompanied by a strong religious emotion. Praying, whether at home or in the Church, must not be hypocritical, an outward show. Regretfully, how often it happens that a man has one thing  upon his lips and quite another in his heart. Jesus Christ pointed to this when He said: “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from me". (Mt. 15:8).

Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Apostles not only gave instructions to others about Prayer, but they themselves also prayed. It will be to our advantage to examine some places recorded in the Gospels in which Jesus Christ and His Apostles are represented as praying:

“When Jesus had been baptised and was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him". (Luke 3:21-22).
“In the early morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and went away out to a lonely spot. He was praying there when Simon and his compa – nions found Him". (Mark 1:35-17).
“Jesus went off to the hillside to pray. He spent the whole night in prayer to God". (Luke 6:12).
“Now it happened that while Jesus was praying and His Disciples were beside Him. So He inquired of them; “Who do the crowds say that I am?" (Luke 9:18).
“It was about eight days after … Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up the hillside to pray. While  He was praying, the  appearance of His face altered and His dress turned dazzling white". (Luke 9, 28-29).

Since Christ is mentioned as praying, we must ask: Why did He pray? Did He need to pray to God – the Father? This is the answer: Jesus Christ is at the same time both God and man. As God He did not need to pray for Himself being of the same substance and divine nature as God-the Father. As a man He did pray to show that salvation could not be obtained without prayer. A man in various occasions of life and temptations must pray to obtain spiritual strength from God – the Creator and to endure in various difficulties of life.

A faithful Christian directs his prayers to the Holy Trinity, God-the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Mother of God - Virgin Mary, the Apostles, the Angels, and the Saints. The Christian prays everywhere, in homes, in schools, on travel, etc.; but especially in Churches consecrated for the purpose of congregational prayer and glorification of God. The Church commands that the faithful summon the priest to pray for them, to bless their homes or work, to pray for their sick to absolve and forgive their trespasses in the name of God and Jesus Christ.

An Orthodox Christian prays before he commences any work and after, before meals and after, before going to sleep and every occasion and need.

We should glorify God and thank Him for everything  good we receive from Him in our life !