Pray Always

610x“Prayer is a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God. St. Silouan identifies love for God with prayer, and the Holy Fathers say that forgetfulness of God is the greatest of all passions, for it is the only passion that will not be fought by prayer through the Name of God. If we humble ourselves and invoke God’s help, trusting in His love, we are given the strength to conquer any passion; but when we are unmindful of God, the enemy is free to slay us.”

Archimandrite Zacharias in The Hidden Man of the Heart

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“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess. 5:17

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“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men ought always to pray and not lose heart.” St. Luke 18:1

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“Watch, and pray always…” St. Luke 21:36

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I can think of nothing that more clearly illustrates the reality that prayer is communion with God than the commandment to “pray without ceasing.” Were prayer mere communication – sharing information with God – or pleading – asking God to do one thing or another – the commandment would seem excessive. Only if prayer is living communion with God does it make sense to strive for unceasing prayer. The commandment to “pray always” is tantamount to saying: “Live!”

Orthodox tradition has most often sought to obey this commandment through the unceasing use of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (or shorter versions). The quiet repetition of this prayer is not some effort at the creation of a Christian mantra – but rather remaining present to God in a state of repentance.

I had the interesting experience last Sunday in the Liturgy of having completed a sermon that was concentrated on the mercy of God. No sooner was the sermon finished than I returned to the altar to begin the Litany of Fervent Supplication whose response is a triple “Lord, have mercy.” I was struck by the fact that this was the prayer of the heart of the Church. Its repetition throughout the day is a union with God and also a union with the Church.

Indeed prayer is the sound (whether spoken or not) of God within us. For according to Scripture: “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father'” (Galatians 4:6). Thus prayer in its most perfect form is Trinitarian – the Spirit praying in the name of the Son to the Father: it is the sound of God within us.

Fr. Thomas Hopko tells the story of his leaving for seminary and his mother’s advice: “Go to Church. Say your prayers. Remember God.” Clearly a wise woman.

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24 Responses to “Pray Always”

  1. handmaid leah Says:

    Is it odd that sometimes we post on the same things without knowing we are doing it? Or is it because of the timing in the Church year?
    Of course you are able to expound on the topic while I am just a poster of quotes – for your gift I am grateful to God.
    pray for me,
    the handmaid Leah

  2. Karin Says:

    father,
    Thank you for this beautiful reminder to pray always. I wasn’t raised in the Orthodox or Eastern traditions, but pray the Jesus Prayer often in the course of a day.
    There is such richness in the eastern rites; we here in the west can learn much from them.
    Thanks again and God Bless!

  3. fatherstephen Says:

    handmaid,
    The world is smaller than you think. A reader who also is on my facebook saw it in his church bulletin (maybe the same church?) and posted it this morning on facebook. I chose to use it as a springboard for a few more things. Great minds think alike – particularly if they are exposed to the same great minds.🙂

  4. handmaid leah Says:

    Ss. Constantine & Helen/Holy Theophany in Colorado Springs – quite possibly the same source – Glory to God for all things!

  5. Karen Says:

    Dear Father, bless! Thanks (all) for this reminder. It probably speaks volumes that I have been a Christian (of sorts) for decades and still am struggling to establish a consistent daily rule of prayer. At this point in my life, there is probably not a day that goes by where I don’t pray in some way, but establishing a rule is another issue. Having become Orthodox, it helps that this is such an emphasis in Orthodoxy. To be told that establishing a fixed time for 10 minutes, morning and evening is a basic minimum for the starting beginner is a helpful thing for me. Establishing new habits requires effort–this is not works salvation, but it is nevertheless a sustained effort absolutely essential for my salvation I am convinced. That God mercifully fills in the gaps and sustains us when we choose death

  6. Karen Says:

    Sorry for the accidental post before I’d finished! To finish my thought . . .

    That God mercifully sustains us even when we choose death is no reason not to expend every effort we possibly can in His direction. As you have aptly noted in your post, “The commandment to ‘pray always’ is tantamount to saying: ‘Live!’.” Prayer is our life! It is that simple.

  7. Quotes on Prayer « Journeying Home Says:

    […] Here are some great quotes on prayer that are worth reflecting upon that I extracted from Fr Stephen’s post on prayer: Prayer is a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication […]

  8. Makarios Wollard Says:

    Father Stephen, thank you for writing this blog.

  9. Twitter Trackbacks for Pray Always « Glory to God for All Things [fatherstephen.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com Says:

    […] Pray Always « Glory to God for All Things fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/pray-always – view page – cached “Prayer is a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure… (Read more)“Prayer is a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God. St. Silouan identifies love for God with prayer, and the Holy Fathers say that forgetfulness of God is the greatest of all passions, for it is the only passion that will not be fought by prayer through the Name of God. If we humble ourselves and invoke God’s help, trusting in His love, we are given the strength to conquer any passion; but when we are unmindful of God, the enemy is free to slay us.” (Read less) — From the page […]

  10. Yudikris Says:

    Thanks Father for such beautiful quote and reflection!🙂 I love the picture very much!

  11. Victoria Says:

    Father,

    Praise the Lord!! Prayer is so important! When I became a Catholic almost 4 y

  12. Victoria Says:

    Father,

    Thank you for posting this on prayer!! Prayer is very powerful and I know the Lord listens! Pray always, even if it is just a little at a time. The Lord hears your prayers and he will answer, but you have to be willing to accept the answer even if it’s not what you want to hear. Father knows best, but sometimes the Father says no!! Prayer works!

  13. George Patsourakos Says:

    Christians should pray to God several times each day. Prayer conveys our love for God and our gratefulness for everything that God has given us.

  14. Sue Garber Says:

    Thank you father for the beautiful picture’s. I love to have communion with God and that’s why I pray!!

  15. payton Says:

    “…if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God.”

    How convicting, yet undeniable.
    Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

  16. DONALD Says:

    Thanks and God Bless……..

    It is hard for me to read and memorize bible quotation, How can i be a perfect bible quoter, i want to learn how to quote the bilbe without mistakes……

    Once more God bless you

  17. fatherstephen Says:

    Donald,
    I have no idea other than practice makes perfect.

  18. Jon Mark Says:

    During my first Holy Week service with the Orthodox Church an elderly woman who was a lifelong adherent of the faith asked if she could sit beside me. I welcomed her and, since I was new, asked her if she could teach me what to do in the service. She simply responded with a wry smile, “Just pray.” Truer words were never spoken. To learn to pray, let us begin, and just pray.

  19. Joseph Says:

    Father, does St. Silouan say anything on the concept of being perfect? I guess the reason I ask this is I am a college student, and I noticed that I stress myself out trying to be perfect in everything. Thank you or anyone else for a response.

  20. fatherstephen Says:

    Joseph,
    It’s a false goal. I do not recall St. Silouan writing about or discussing it. In a sense, “perfect” can too easily be “apart from Christ.” What we want is Christ Himself – let Him take care of what is imperfect in us – so long as we have Him. “The Holy Spirit completes that which is lacking” is a phrase used in ordination – never were truer words spoken, or needed.

  21. fatherstephen Says:

    Jon Mark,

    I like that story.

  22. deborah Says:

    Hello Father Stephen,

    I fell into your site through a Plain dress site…because I long to simplify and want to do it with a Christian & biblical intent..(not a fashion statement of Buddhism, or anything like that). I am a former Catholic but cannot go back to the church because of divorce, but I love the depth of prayer, and ritual and am saddened that others judge and misconstrue this right down to the beautiful art they call icons, or saint statues.
    I cannot find a church home, since most modern churches seem to abbreviate the depth I seek. Any advice? I feel homeless.

  23. David Says:

    You might feel homeless, but we have kept a candle burning for you and the Father waits on the porch watching down the road for your return. I would be honored to kill the fatted calf and throw a party when He sets off running to you. Come home to Orthodoxy, sinners welcome. Indeed, otherwise they would not have welcomed me!

  24. fatherstephen Says:

    Deborah,
    You should explore the Orthodox faith. There you will find a richness and depth of tradition that has simply disappeared everywhere else, to a great extent. Divorce is treated differently as well, I might add (which is a rather longish story – not having anything to do with “liberal” attitudes, but with a very different understanding of canon law).

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