Monday, 4 March 2013

Prayer is boring...Or is it?!

|Fr. Mina the Hermit (Pope Kyrillos VI)

St. Seraphim of Sarov
I promised in the very first blog posts that I would post from the teachings of our holy father, Pope Kyrillos VI from one of the  first spiritual books I read which helped me greatly. Although the letters were addressed to his disciples the monks, there is much to learn from them and they also tell us of the holy life that H.H. lived. As most of us know, H.H. lived as a hermit; he was a great ascetic and loved to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. His reverence for the Holy Mysteries is something that I always remember him for. In the individualistic secular world that we live in, we too often forget our communication with God. Prayer has been pushed to the periphery of our lives and most of the time we only embrace it in times of tragedy and need. Of course there is nothing wrong with falling on one’s knees before God in these occasions, but it might be a problem when that becomes the only time we meet with the Divine.

In the Orthodox Church, we focus a lot on the mystical union the believer has with Christ, it really is the goal of our lives- that is union with Christ. A lot of converts will notice a difference when they are received into the Church; they see that their spiritual lives survive on their constant union with the Beloved. Well not only converts but anyone who has lived most of his life away from the Church where prayer is a rare thing, and is not talked about. It is not a surprise that when one reads a spiritual book, by one of our holy fathers and mothers, to see that they talk a lot about prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer deeply rooted in the Scriptures is taught by all of the Orthodox Saints from all over the world. It might be given a different name as with the Coptic Orthodox Christians who usually refer to it as the “Arrow Prayers”, in essence it is the calling of the Name of Jesus by which we are healed and saved.

The Church emphasizes unceasing prayer and the constant awareness of God through the practice of the Jesus Prayer. We cannot put on Christ if we don’t know Him, and to know Him would require an intimate relationship with Him which we develop through prayer. But what is prayer? Is it a time dedicated in the day where we recite words? Is it when I go to church and pray the liturgy? Is it just the Jesus Prayer? These are all correct answers but we must look deeper into this and the only teaching I remember that I could not forget  to this day is by St. Theophan the Recluse, here is what he says:

“The essential part is to dwell in God, and this walking before God means that you live with the conviction ever before your consciousness that God is in you, as He is in everything: you live in the firm assurance that He sees all that is within you, knowing you better than you know yourself.”

I believe that this is real prayer that we continue to live being aware that God sees all our actions, our thoughts, our desires and everything within us, the awareness that He is in us and not outside of us…He is not the old man in the sky. Our audible prayers are a great aid and are very essential, they must be carried out, our prayers and chanting aid us in keeping this awareness of God in our hearts, the Jesus Prayer “Oh my Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner” accustoms the person in remembering that he is under the mercies of God who became man to save him, the sinner.

I am not teaching anyone about prayer, I am simply offering my reflections on what I have read and what I am struggling to follow. I want to share what I am learning, to share the beauty of our faith. I’ll talk more about Pope Kyrillos VI in the next post. Leave a comment! :)

St. Theophan the Recluse

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