Source: The Morning Offering
March 11, 2016
As we begin the Lenten Journey, it would be good for us to consider the use of a “prayer rule.” This “rule” is of critical importance, for it will help us develop the discipline we need to progress spiritually. It is one of the great tools the Orthodox Church has to offer, since it has been handed down from the Fathers of the Church. This “art of prayer,” comes directly to us from the experience of the Early Church.
Along with keeping the fasting rules of the Church, including the Wednesday and Friday fasts, the prayer rule, received in consultation with your priest, your confessor, or your spiritual father or mother, is the medicine that will help you progress spiritually on your journey into the Heart of God.
An integral part of anyone’s prayer rule should be the recitation of the Morning and Evening Prayers, as found in the numerous translations available of the Orthodox Prayer Book. These prayers, together with the Precommunion Prayers, and the prayers to the Holy Virgin, train our hearts in the discipline that help us sustain the grace that we receive when we commune of the Life Giving Mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood, and help us go deeper into our faith.
The use of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” throughout the day, further aids us as we attempt to live out our day, focused on Christ. There is power in the Holy Name of Jesus, and this prayer fulfills Saint Paul’s injunction that we “should pray always.” The Jesus Prayer, also known as the Prayer of the Heart, gives us the strength to walk with Jesus throughout the day, even when driving through heavy traffic, weeding in the garden, waiting for the bus, or sitting in a long board meeting.
Finally, it is important to remember that the Church, as defined by the Church Fathers, is not a religious institution, but is a living organism that is the Hospital for the Soul. Therefore, the frequent use of the “tools” given to the Church, are of the utmost importance for our spiritual progress. Weekly confession, as well as the weekly reception of Holy Communion, fortify us spiritually, enabling us to live “in the world” without being “of the world”.
Because the Orthodox Church is “wholistic” our living out this Faith should not be confined to Sunday morning. If we were a pianist who made our living accompanying an orchestra, we wouldn’t think of going through a week without daily practice. The conductor of the orchestra wouldn’t put up with an unrehearsed pianist. As well, a marriage that is not worked at on a daily basis is doomed to ultimate failure since a relationship between two people requires effort. If we expect to have a relationship with God we have to prioritize our spiritual life. An occasional Liturgy does not suffice if we expect to grow in Faith and Wisdom.
With love in Christ,