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How should I pray?

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February 11, 2017

How should I pray?

When we go to a store to buy something we need or want, we usually know what we will buy. We have read and know the use and function of the object/tool we will buy before buying it and following its instructions. We should have the same manner when it comes to prayer. Indeed, before asking how to pray, we should first understand what is prayer and its importance. This is the first step into beginning a life of prayer.

 What is prayer? Let’s start with what it isn’t: a request for material things (God is not Santa Claus), a go-to for our needs, and an empty routine where we pray words we do not mean. Therefore, prayer is when I’m in communion with God and I worship Him. The purest form of prayer is the Agios (Isaiah 6). Our objective is to be standing in front of God enjoying and spending time with Him. Prayer is also, as St. Isaac the Syrian states, when we talk with the heart: a prayer with such requires a completely focused mind. In fact, just as St. Mark wrote in his gospel, “you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” – Mark 12:30.

 Moreover, prayer makes you know who you are and brings forth a spirit of humility, a contrite heart, just like the tax collector and unlike the Pharisee: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 18:10-14

 In addition to all these characteristics, prayer is a source of strength and a relationship with God: the more we speak with someone, the more our relationship develops. There are several agreeable types of prayer, such as for thanksgiving, praise, repentance, spiritual gifts, people other than ourselves, and submission to God’s will.

To conclude, here are quotes by two fathers who explain prayer clearly. First, from Gregory of Nyssa who says that “prayer is a heart to heart talk forever active on God’s part, forever slow on ours. Both parties call and both respond; however, the initiative is always God’s.” Second, from St. Macarius the Great who declares that “we ought to pray neither according to any bodily habit nor with a habit of loud noise nor out of a custom of silence or on bended knees but we ought to soberly to have an attentive mind, waiting expectantly on God until he comes and visits the soul by means of all of its openings and its paths and senses.”

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