Ten Steps to a Better Prayer Life
“The significance of a daily prayer life is the time we invest in our own walk of salvation, in and through, Christ.” VEO
“So there is a need for some sort of prayer which is not spontaneous but which is truly rooted in conviction. To find this you can draw from a great many of the existing prayers. We already have a rich panoply of prayers which were wrought in the throes of faith, by the Holy Spirit. For example, we have the Psalms, we have so many short and long prayers in the liturgical wealth of all the churches from which we can draw. What matters is that you should learn and know enough of such prayers so that at the right moment you are able to find the right prayers. It is a question of learning by heart enough meaningful passages, from the Psalms or from the prayers of the saints. Each of us is sensitive to certain passages. Mark these passages that go deep into your heart, that move you deeply, that make sense, that express something which is already within your experience, either of sin, or of bliss in God, or of struggle. Learn those passages, because one day when you are so completely low, so profoundly desperate that you cannot call out of your soul any spontaneous expression, any spontaneous wording, you will discover that these words come up and offer themselves to you as a gift of God, as a gift of the Church, as a gift of holiness, helping our simple lack of strength. And then you really need the prayers you have learnt and made a part of yourself.”
Anthony Bloom Beginning To Pray, pp. 58-59
Ten Steps To A Better Prayer Life
- Designate A Prayer Space: Whether it is in the corner of your desk or a little stand in your room, it is important to have a place where you can put your Bible, Icons, etc. Dedicate the use of that space for God alone.
- Acquire A Time: Incorporate prayer in your routine and set time aside to center your thoughts to God.
- Acquire A Library: Start with a Bible (I recommend the Orthodox Study Bible), then get a small Orthodox Prayer Book, after that start collecting books. Here are some suggestions: 'Living the Liturgy' (Fr. Stanley Harakas), 'The Way of a Pilgrim' (Monk of the Eastern Church), 'For the Life of the World' (Fr. Alexander Schmemann), 'Beginning to Pray' (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom), 'Bread for Life' (Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos), 'The Orthodox Way' (Bishop Kallistos Ware), 'Way of the Aesetic (Tito Collander).
- Assemble An Altar: In your prayer center gather icons (Christ, Theotokos, Guardian Angel and patron saint), service books, incense, votive light, a cross, a prayer rope, etc. Incorporate your five senses in prayer.
- Pray: Speak from your heart. Learn prayers of the Church. Try the Jesus Prayer or the Lord's Prayer. Also incorporate your own prayers and thoughts.
- Acquire A Spiritual Guide: This is a very important step. One should build a relationship with either a member of the clergy (parish priest) who will become your spiritual father. He will help guide and pace you to a balanced prayer life. The Sacrament of Confession can be arranged through your priest.
- Fasting and Almsgiving: Fasting adds a dimension to your prayer life. Your fasting practice should be regulated to avoid physical and spiritual harm. As for alms, give where you see a need and trust that the Lord will provide.
- Build On What You Already Have: If you already have a routine, build on it. If, for example, you pray before you go to sleep, it will be easier to read a chapter from the Bible before your bedtime prayers, than to set up some time during the day to read.
- Sanctify All That You Do. You may have set aside a time and space for a prayer routine, but that doesn't mean you should separate your life into sacred and secular. Privately thank God for what you have at all times, and make Him aware of your every concern. Dedicate everything you do to Him.
- Remember the power of the Life-giving Cross, The sign of the Cross is a reminder of Christ in our lives. Blessing oneself with the cross by holding the first two fingers of the right hand and thumb together represents the Holy Trinity. The last two fingers held to the palm represent the two natures of Christ - God and man. Orthodox Christians cross themselves from the head to the breast and from shoulder to shoulder, right to left. This unique and all embracing symbol shows that the cross is the inspiration, power and indeed the very content of our lives.
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