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June 26, 2013

The Habit Of Prayer

My life prayer is something that I have always struggled with, I can remember reciting the Lords Prayer as a youngster, memorizing every word, but not really understanding the context. As an evangelical my prayer life was sporadic at best and nonexistent at worst.

Compounding the issue, was that no one could tell me ‘HOW’ to pray, in fact I still have books on the topic that have all kinds of information about prayer, but nothing on the how to portion. It always made me wonder how people did it so regularly?, what was their secret?, and why could they simply not share what they did differently? They talked a great deal about the topic, but never seemed to say here is how I do it…

And then I read Anthony Blooms book called ‘How To Pray’, and though it took a while to settle in, that little Orthodox book has had a massive impact on my life. I need to read through it again, because there’s more depth in there, but here is the walk-away and the part and has had a huge impact on my life.

In the book he suggests (I’m going to very loosely paraphrase here) that you don’t start out running, you have to learn how to crawl first, then learn to stand, then run, etc…

I took that personally to mean that I need to stop being concerned about the length or content of my prayer, and focus on building a ‘Habit’ of prayer. That was my starting point, but then I faced the issue on what to pray, that problem is easily solved with any number of prayer books. My current favorite is the Orthodox Handbook (it’s a little red one, that fits in your shirt pocket). I read the basic prayer every morning, and every evening before bed, even when I don’t feel like it. And if I miss a night or a morning, I make note, and force myself to do the next morning.

I had baggage that needed to be dealt with as well, in the both the Protestant and Catholic faith real prayer is done on your knees, in the Orthodox faith you pray standing up, while you face east. Fortunately we have little landing right off our bedroom where we built a little altar with our icons, and it faces east (or Eastish if you will, it’s pretty close to dead on). And against what my instinct told me, I build it at standing height, even though I badly wanted it for kneeling.

I made a commitment to begin bringing the Orthodox faith out of the parish and the sanctuary, and into my personal life. I started with just a quick morning and evening prayer, I made it short and sweet and didn’t worry about the content. I just kept at it, month after month, and slowly I started to branch out, sometimes I read the whole prayer, sometimes I do the shorter version.

I found some 3×5 cards and started keeping a list of things that I needed to pray about, because the list was growing, and between 8 and 5, my day job tries to erase my memory. While all this may seem very basic there is one key thing here…

IT WORKS!!

No I’m not doing two hours a day, but I am stopping each morning and each evening and doing my prayers, in fact going downstairs without praying seems to be an odd thing now. Which is what Anthony Bloom was talking about, and what I wanted when I started out on this path.

So if you find your prayer life is sporadic, or needs some work. You can pick up Blooms book on Amazon, or you can just start small, as small as you are comfortable with. And then work at making it a habit, don’t get discouraged if you miss a day or a stretch of them. This isn’t a race, it’s a foundation, your doing it one brick at a time, so take the┬átime to get it right.

And if your struggling to find a starting prayer, the Orthodox Trisagion is a good starting point:

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Glory to thee, our God, glory to thee.

O heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who art in all places and fillest all things; Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O gracious Lord.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

All-holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy God, visit and heal our infirmities for thy Name’s sake.

Lord, have mercy. (Thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.

Amen.

-Paul-

 

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