Mechanics of Prayer

“Consider prayer to be the first and foremost duty in your life; and, as such, keep it in your heart.  Go about your prayers as to the fulfillment of your primary duty, and not as to something to be done between tasks” – Bishop Theophan the Recluse.

The Orthodox-Catholic Church teaches us prayers composed by righteous and holy men and women. The Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers and Ascetics of the Church, enlightened by the grace of God, have composed many beautiful prayers, evoking in us holy thoughts and inspiration.  These prayers are proclaimed during the Divine Services and recited privately from the Prayerbook at home.

prostrationWhen we begin to pray, we do not immediately break off from our daily tasks and just start praying, rather it is necessary to prepare ourselves.  As the Prayerbook says: “Stand in silence for a few moments until all your senses are calmed.”  Furthermore, as Holy Scripture tells us: “Before offering a prayer, prepare yourself; and do not be like a person who tempts the Lord” (Sirach 18:23). We prepare ourselves for prayer with contrition and humility of soul by purging all vengeful thoughts from our heart (Mark 11:25-26).  As written in the Psalms: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, You, God, will not despise” (Ps. 50:17).  Likewise, before entering into prayer, we are instructed to prepare ourselves not only inwardly, but also outwardly.  

During prayer we stand (as able) before the holy icons with our physical eyes lowered to the ground while our spiritual eyes are lifted to God.  This outward attitude of piety in prayer is beneficial to us, for the disposition of the soul is in conformity with the disposition of the body. The Holy Fathers and Mothers recommend that we accompany our prayers with bows, prostrations, and the Sign of the Cross as an expression of heartfelt feelings of penitence, humility, piety, reverence and devotion to God, for when one’s body is prostrate, the soul ascends heavenwards to God!