For All Praise, Thanksgiving and Worship are Due to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!
“Does the Lord’s command about ceaseless prayer that men ought always to pray (Luke 18:1), apply only to monks or to all Christians in general?
If it applied only to monks, the Apostle Paul would not have written to the Christians in Thessalonica to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The Apostle repeats the Lord’s command, word for word, and issues it to all Christians without distinction, whether monks or laymen.
Not only without ceasing in church, but also without ceasing in every place and at all times, and especially in your heart. For if God does not for a moment tire of giving us good things, how can we tire of thanking Him for these good things? When He thinks of us without ceasing, why do we not think of Him without ceasing?”
~St Nikolai Velimirovich
Dearest Spiritual Ohana,
Prayer is an essential part of the Christian’s life, whether we be monks or laypeople. St. Nikolai said this so well that I felt it necessary to share his compelling words with all of you. Ultimately, the True Christian is the one who prays.
The trap we can easily fall into is to think that the work of prayer belongs only to the cleric and the monastic (the Bishop, Priest, Deacon, Monk or Nun). Yes, they are suppose to be people and conduits of prayer! But each and every one of us are called to be instruments of prayer in equal manner! To give an example, no Divine Liturgy can be served by the priest alone, but requires the presence of at least one other person of the Faith (wherever two or three are gathered). For “Liturgy” means the “work of the people.” Without at least one other person besides the priest, the Bread and Wine cannot be consecrated into the “Body and Blood of Christ” as Holy Communion.
Prayer also is not to be confined to the Sunday Services only, but is to be incorporated into every aspect of our everyday lives. This is what is meant by “living the liturgy after the Liturgy.”
When I was a seminarian, a student at Holy Cross/Hellenic College in Brookline, Massachusetts, my professors would remind us that a true Theologian was not the one with all the knowledge of doctrine, dogma, patristics, history, canon law, liturgics, ethics, byzantine music, etc., but the one who incorporates and practices these in his/her life prayerfully and is, foremost, a person of prayer.
In our prayer lives, let us be active in our private and corporate prayer, for the two go “hand-in-hand.” We cannot choose one, and deny the other! By private prayer, I am speaking about our daily prayers, including but not limited to: Morning Prayers, Prayers Before (and even After) Meals, Evening Prayers, and the “Jesus” Prayer. In our corporate prayers, let us not forget to pray and worship at the services in the Church, including the Divine Liturgy (from It’s beginning, when “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” is proclaimed), the Major Feast Days, Great Vespers whenever celebrated, Orthros which is overflowing with the rich teachings and most enriching hymns of our Orthodox Christian Faith, and other services offered throughout the year.
When it comes to coming to corporate worship/prayer, St. John Chrysostom offers us these words of wisdom: “The Martyrs gave their blood for the truth, and you are not able to come to church? They gave their lives for Christ, and you can't make a small journey for Him? But you say ‘I am a sinner, I cannot come.’ Then come and cease to be one.”
For our private daily prayers, here are a few practical tips for how to prepare ourselves in beginning our prayer: “You begin praying by focusing your consciousness in your heart and forcibly gathering there all the powers of your soul and body. Before you start your prayers, take time to quiet yourself and to concentrate your energies in your heart. Christ says, ‘Enter into thy closet and ... shut thy door’ (Mt 6:6). Remove all activities that could disrupt your inner descent. Set aside, to the best of your ability, all of your problems of the day and your worries for tomorrow. This is not a time for thinking or worrying. When you are preparing to pray, stand, sit or walk a few minutes and steady your mind to concentrate on God. Reflect on who it is that you will be addressing. Remember, it is God Himself, the Creator of All, with whom you are about to talk. Try to hold in your heart a feeling of humility and reverent awe. If you are able, make some prostrations before you begin.” (from Deacon Charles’ Ten Point Program for Orthodox Life, Greenville, South Carolina)
I wish all of you a most “Happy Thanksgiving!” As we begin the Holiday Season, let us always remember and never forget to take the many precious moments to give praise and thanksgiving to God in all things, prayerfully!
With Love in Christ,
Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna; Proterios, Archbishop of Alexandria; Gorgonia the Righteous, sister of Gregory the Theologian; Damian the New Martyr of Mount Athos; Boswell, Abbot of Melrose Abbey