For us today, the Divine Liturgy is a weekly staple of our Christian lives. We drive to church on a Sunday, walk into a great building with flickering candles and hand-painted icons, gold leaf and carved wood, embroidered vestments, burning incense and chanting filling every corner of the church.
The previous articles (Part 1 and Part 2) discussed why we pray, what prayer is, when we pray and where we should pray, all important practical questions for living in an Orthodox Christian manner. This article deals with how we should pray, and goes very briefly into certain ways to make our prayer more effective.
The previous article discussed what prayer is and why we pray. Now we turn to when and where we should pray, both important practical questions for living in an Orthodox Christian manner. Again, this article will draw heavily from the Church Fathers and Saints.
So much could be said about this topic. This article will start off by answering a couple of basic questions about prayer in order to get the ball rolling.
Just a short disclaimer here, this article doesn’t come from some great authority on prayer and the ascetic struggle. It comes from a struggling student. However, I will quote from real experts, saints who lived the words of St Paul to “pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
This second article on warfare and Orthodoxy plans to focus on the warfare that every baptised Orthodox Christian is called to engage in, the spiritual warfare. Many great books have been written on this very subject, and this author would recommend the four volumes of the Evergetinos, Unseen Warfare by St Theophan the Recluse, and The Field and The Arena by St Ignatius Brianchaninov. These provide step by step methods by which we can start to take our spiritual lives seriously and engage in spiritual exercise. First among these books is the Ladder of Divine Ascent of St John Climacus, which is traditionally read during Great Lent. What follows is but a brief summary of the idea of spiritual warfare.
"What do I need?" A Lenten reflection on passages from the spiritual diary of St John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ
St John of Kronstadt, a saint of the 19th century, made some Lenten reflections on the things that are necessary in this life. He starts, “What do I need? I need nothing upon earth besides the indispensable. What do I need? I need the Lord, I need His grace, His kingdom within me.”
In the year 626, the Byzantine Empire was experiencing political turmoil. The emperor Phocas had recently been overthrown by a young general, Heraclius, and the empire had been invaded by both the Persians to the East and the Avars to the West.
The topic of why we fast in the Orthodox Church was touched on in the previous article (see here) but was not completely explained. The reasons why Orthodox fast during certain periods such as Great Lent or on Wednesdays and Fridays were dealt with in Part 1. Here, we will examine why we fast at all.
St Ephraim the Syrian was a fourth century deacon, hymnographer and theologian. He wrote on a variety of themes and was extremely prolific. His hymns alone cover topics ranging from the Nativity to refuting heresies, and his prose writings on the books of Genesis and Exodus are still read.
Before closely analysing the words of this Lenten Prayer, it is necessary to go into why this Prayer is recited during the Lenten period. Our Church understands that this Prayer captures the penitent aspect of the spirit of Great Lent, and this is prayed in the weekday Lenten services.