Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Simple Introduction to Prayer

Often when we think about prayer, we think about complex forms, techniques, or traditions. However, this is not what prayer is. These things may be ways we pray as communities, but they in themselves are not prayer. Rather, prayer is a very simple matter, as St. Dimtri of Rostov (17th Century) wrote:

Prayer is turning the mind and thoughts towards God. To pray means to stand before God with the mind, mentally to gaze unswervingly at Him and to converse with Him in reverent fear and hope.

It has been noted that this understanding of prayer can be practiced with or without words, by one’s self or in groups or in the liturgy. It does not need to be limited to a particular time or place, and with patient application, can become a continuous state of being.

The tradition of the Church is to offer certain fixed times of prayer through the day (morning, mid-day, evening, prior to sleeping), but these are not the end of the matter. These “offices” of prayer found in the Book of Common Prayer are rather like the abutments and piers of a bridge: strong bases anchoring us to the solid foundations of Scripture, holy Tradition, and received wisdom upon which to build our life with God. Yet, a bridge only becomes a bridge when one can cross it. Between the piers must be constructed a continuous roadway. In Christian prayer, that roadway is the conscious presence of the human person in communion with God the Holy Trinity. This is what our soul craves. Let us feed it.

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