Conditions for Prayer

“When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray in secret; and God, Who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:6).

A yearning desire to be pleasing to God and a willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of God are necessary elements for the attainment of noetic prayer.  

Babushka PrayingThe Christian is exhorted to remain constant mindfulness and in loving awe of God.  One is always before the eyes of God, as God is invisibly with us always and everywhere.  One’s Guardian Angel is also always by our side.  A habit of absentminded, inattentive, and careless prayer breeds a weakening of faith and spiritual numbness.  

For the beginner, the effort of prayer consists mainly in attentively reading or listening to prayer, in standing, bowing and making the Sign of the Cross.  This requires a great deal of perseverence and patience, because one’s attention may easily becomes distracted in this process and one’s heart may not feel the words of the prayer.  Through diligent exercise, the Christian, with the help of God, gradually trains one’s mind to collect itself, to understand and penetrate into the words of the prayer, and to pronounce each word without distraction by outside thoughts.In our daily devotions, we adhere to a structured home rule of prayer.  

Prayer Book & CrossThe Church provides us with a moderate rule of morning and evening prayers.  During prayer, we are commended to not think of simply reciting all of the prescribed prayers, but rather to arouse in our soul a genuinely prayerful feeling and devotional attitude.  The extent of our home rule of prayer is determined for each of us in accordance with our manner of life and the state of our spiritual and physical strength.  It is certainly better that we offer only a few prayers with attentive devotion, than many prayers in haste.  An unhurried and devout recitation of the words will greatly help in keeping attention on the prayers.  

If one only has a little time for prayer, it is better to say fewer prayers with careful thought and attention than to rush through many prayers without proper attention, lest there be a failure to grasp the truth of the text and to receive it into the heart.  We are cautioned, however, by our holy forbearers in the Faith to resist the temptation to excuse ourselves from prayers on the grounds of lack of time, as vigilant prayers offered when fatigued after a day of hard work are especially pleasing to God.

At John ChrysostomNoetic prayer is a gift of God, and this gift is bestowed to us only with our earnest cooperation. Therefore it is necessary for us to ardently pray for the grace of such prayer, being mindful that the Holy Spirit abides in a humble and contrite heart.  As we purify our minds and hearts, the intensity of our prayer will gradually increase. Prayer, however, develops not in isolation, but accompanied by the practice of virtues; for as we grow in virtue, so our prayer is concurrently enhanced.  All of life’s deeds require toil and patience; this is nowhere more true than in our striving for authentic prayer of the heart.

According to St. John Chrysostom, our prayers will rise speedily to God if said with charity, for charity is the wing of prayer.  The Holy Mothers and Fathers teach us to begin our prayers with glorification of the Creator of all,  to sincerely ask forgiveness for our sins, to offer thanksgiving for all of God’s gracious mercies, to express gratitude for all the trials and sorrows sent down for our benefit, and to pray for God’s blessings of our neighbors.  At the same time, we must ensure that our supplications are in accordance with the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy (and not my) will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”