The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 9 years ago

Prayer Rule

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This is part one of a six-part lecture series exploring the discipline of classical Orthodox Christian personal prayer. These edifying presentations examine the content and order of the prayer rule, giving special emphasis to the prayers of repentance, the rule of prostrations, the giving of thanks, the use of the Jesus Prayer, and spiritual reading. If you desire to understand more deeply the inspired guidance of the Church concerning personal prayer, and want to strengthen your own prayer discipline by learning to more faithfully keep a prayer rule, or kanona, these lectures will delight you. For more information and to download the remaining lectures, please visit our website at patristicnectar.org.

Ancient faith. Radio and patristic nectarpublications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah Trenne. Thelecture you're about to hear is the introductory lecture in a six part lecture seriesentitled the Prayer Rule. These lectures explore the discipline of classical Orthodox Christian personalprayer, examining the content and order of the prayer rule, giving special emphasisto the prayers of repentance, the rule of prostrations, the giving of thanksand the use of the Jesus prayer. patristic nectar publications invites all who arespiritually thirsty to come and be nourished by the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. For the remaining lectures, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectardot org. And now here's father Josiah, I welcome you to this first classin our series entitled the prayer rule. The prayer rule. I'm hoping thatyou are interested in the subject. I'd like to in this lecture,in this leading lecture of the series, talk to you of our the meaningof prayer and little bit about the contours of the prayer rule and why thechurch has a rule, why we prescribe a rule to our people. First, allow me to make a few introductory comments. What we're discussing in thisclass is not the corporate prayer of the Church. It's not the Holy Liturgyor the divine services. What we do together, which is primary and fundamentalfor us. Our personal prayers flow from the corporate prayer of the Church.We are alive because we're a member of the body of Christ and our individualexistence is sustained by our existence in the church. It's very important to rememberthat relationship between the corporate and the individual, and most of our prayers that wedo privately, in fact, are from the prayers of the church.The two are exceedingly connected, that is, private prayer and corporate prayer. Theycross fertilize each other. Those who are active in the corporate prayer ofthe Church will be inspired in their private prayers, and those who are faithfulin their private prayers will be able to bring to the church a solid prayercontribution. You'll be able to open your mouth to make the sacrifice of praiseand Thanksgiving, and the whole community of the church will thrive because of thefaithfulness of private prayer of each of her member. So the two are veryinterconnected. The corporate prayer of the Church that you see, that like wesaw tonight, has a rule itself, that prayer rule of the corporate churches, called the TIPICON. The typicon prescribes what is to be prayed every day, what hymns are to be Sung in what order, etc. And thechanters and the clergy of the Church study this typicon every year, every daywe read it in order to arrange the services of the church. Just asthere is an order or a rule for the corporate pair, so there shouldbe an order or a rule for a person's private prayers. Now what isprayer? And let me define that. Sat theofan the recluse, says topray is to stand before God with the mind in the heart and to goon standing before him day and night until the end of life. This isprayer, standing before God with our mind in our heart, the whole personbefore the Lord God, and this is an absolutely natural way of life forus. It is to be human to pray. If to be human.Adam and Eve work fashioned by the hand...

...of God in paradise and they livedin an unceasing communion with God that was broken by sin. So what we'restriving for in our rules, what we're striving for in our prayers, isnot something superhuman. It's not something just for some people like monks or peoplewho wear black clothing. It's in fact for every human person to be closeto God and to speak to their creator. This is what it means to behuman and to pray without ceasing as ultimately human, which is what we'restriving for. It's as though it's essential to our life as breathing. Thereare many types of prayer that express themselves in each of our prayer rules.Prayer it's not just asking God for things. In fact, of a Joseph,whose life and teachings are recorded in the desert fathers, the collections ofthe sayings of the desert fathers. He one time was asked by a veryaccomplished monk who had made a lot of progress in the spiritual life, what, what do I have still to learn? And he took him outside and helifted his hands in prayer and flames erupted from all his fingers and heturned to the aspiring monk and he said, you should become all prayer, becomeall prayer on fire, top to bottom, in prayer to God.Prayer is our ultimate safeguard. It's only when we're not praying that we sin. When we praying with a humble heart, when our minds in our heart weretruly ourselves and we live a natural life. It's when we have avacuous existence, it's when we don't really know what's going on and we're justthere without any intention or purpose, that the evil thoughts sneaks in or thetemptation and arrises and we find ourselves weak and falling into sin. If wewould pray, we would be safe. This is especially true with sins ofthe mouth. Now to the prayer rule itself. The prayer rule is apersonal reality. This is where I want to start. The prayer rule isa personal reality. This is a quote. The prayer is the turning towards aperson, writes elder Emilia knows of Simino Petron Monastery, the great elderwho still alive. Prayer is a turning towards a person, and thus forprayer to exist, this person must also exist. And for me to sayI pray means that the active presence of that person is a reality for me, I must be able to realize a certain degree of intimacy with that person'spresence and existence. This is the heart of our prayer rule, is communionof persons. What we're doing is a personal act, US drawing near toa divine person that we believe is real, more real than we are, andis waiting to receive our prayer. And as such, every person's prayerrule is unique. There are no two prayer rules that are the same.Every prayer rule is unique. In every prayer rule is forged in experience andcounsel and therefore is subject to change and adaptation as the person is listen tothe words of Saint ignatious Brian Janinov in his famous text the arena, wherehe talks so much about prayer. He says the general rule for the ruleof prayer consists in this that it should on no account exceed the ascetics strength. Remember, he's writing this book for monks, but we could easily haveput the word lay person strength in there. This is where it starts. Itshould on no account exceed the ascetics strength. Abandoning the rule of prayeris generally the result of a rule adopted...

...or imposed which is beyond one strength. On the other hand, a moderate and prudent rule remains a month's propertyfor the whole of his life, goes on developing and growing naturally till theend of his life and gains character both in outward form and inner value accordingto his progress. So here's this affirmation. The rule is absolutely personal. Notetwo persons have the same rule. It's unique to that person's own experienceand strength and it will develop with the person who is developing. This ispoint number one on the prayer rule. Number two. The prayer rule istaught to us by the Lord, God himself. The Lord is in factthe teacher of prayer. Now you remember in the Gospel Account that as oursavior began to call his disciples to follow him, they had. Many ofhis disciples had previously been disciples of John The baptist, and they af theLord. Lord teach us to pray. Jeff of John taught his disciples topray. This is at the heart of the relationship of the disciple to themaster. The Lord is our teacher of prayer and he expects us to pray. In the sermon on the Mount in Chapter six, he says when youpray, pray this way. Prayer, together with almsgiving and fasting, arethe spiritual disciplines that our lord assumes anyone daring to claim discipleship is performing.He is our teacher, Saint Paul goes on to explain that in fact,the Holy Spirit within those who are baptized and incorporated into Christ actually prays withinus. Not only does the Lord give us the words to pray, buthe sends forth his Holy Spirit to live in us, and he and SaintPaul's words foster's prayer with groans that are too deep for us to articulate.So our prayer rule is something not that we are not just working on byourselves, but in cooperation with the third person of the Trinity. We arelaboring to speak to the father in the name of his son by the powerof the Holy Spirit, and we're doing with this with the help of thespirit of God inside of us. If Agrieus, that Great Monastic teacher ofthe early church, says, if you wish to pray, you have needof God who gives prayer to him who prays. This is from the PHILOCLIAhere. If Agrius is saying, if you want to pray, start prayingand ask God to help yourself pray, and by the way, this appliesto any virtue. If you want to become more deeply repentant, then askthe Lord God to make you more deeply repentant. He helps us in everything. Ask and you receive. This is Saint John of Sinai from thelatter. He says always be brave and God will teach you your prayer.You cannot discover from the teaching of others the beauty of prayer. Prayer hasits own special teacher in God. He grants the prayer of him who prays. So here's Saint John, two centuries after if Agrieus, repeating of Agrieusand reminding us that the person who prays is the one who has God granthim the gift of prayer. And because God is constantly teaching us to pray, if we're learning, we will always be learning how to pray deeper,more sincerely, more authentically, in a Christian way. We ought never think, well, I know how to do that prayer or I know what thatprayer means, because we will following God's...

...instruction, his pedagogy. We willbecome more and more learned in the art of prayer. This is our life'squest. In fact, prayer is the personal reality. The prayer rule istaught to us by the Lord himself. Number three, the prayer rule showsus where we stand in our love for God. The prayer rule reveals ormanifests our inner condition of love for God. It is a way that we cananswer the question do we love God? It's really not that complicated. Imaginethat you are married. If you love your spouse, do you talkto your spouse? Usually, not talking is a pretty clear sign of somethingand is not a sign of love. The prayer rule shows where we standin our love for God. This is from Saint John of Sinai. Inthe latter again, he says war reveals the love of a soldier for hisking or country, and the time and practice of prayer shows love for God. So your prayer shows where you stand. I know that's a heart saying.It's a heart saying, but it's very important for us to believe itso that if we don't pray, we can make the right judgment about thecause. When we don't pray, it's not that we're easily distracted. It'snot that we have a busy life. Those things all may be true,but if we don't pray, the issue is we don't love. At thatmoment, our hearts cold, because we wouldn't let anything keep us from thebeloved if we were hot in the heart. This is elder Zacharias, Father Zachariask, who has spoken to you from this very place. I wish hewould come again very desperately. He says prayer is a matter of love.Man Expresses Love through prayer and if we pray, it is an indication thatwe love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we donot love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of ourlove for God. UN quotes. That's simple. It's that simple. Prayerreveals where we are and therefore, since the keeping of a prayer rule isa matter of love supremely, it has to be embraced by the Faithful Christianas an unshakable personal commitment. It's not a prayer hope, it's not aprayer ambition. It's not what you'd like to be able to accomplish on thebest of all possible days. The prayer rule is a Canona Allaw at personalresolve that you make. No matter what. Therefore, it should never be willinglyabandoned or set aside or neglected. Taking a shower, getting dressed,getting to work on time, eating breakfast, none of these things are any reasonwhatsoever for missing your prayer rule. If you have time to take ashower, you certainly have time to pray. Much better to go unwashed physically thanunwashed spiritually. If you have time to eat breakfast, you certainly havetime to pray. Much better to feed your soul than to feed your bodywhen you know you can wait till lunch time to eat. The violation ofthe rule is a sin for confession, something that we should bring to confession. There's no necessity, of course, for this kind of sin. personwho has a reasonable prayer rule should be able to keep that every day untiltheir last breath. That's what I wish for you, that the only reasonyou would ever miss your Canona is because either you can't get out of bedyou're burning with a fever. It would essentially be the same reason you couldn'tgo to church. The only reason someone wouldn't make it to liturgy is becausethey really couldn't get up or on their...

...way to liturgy. The providence ofGod revealed something else he had in mind for them, like someone in dangeror in great need on the freeway. This would be the call of Godat that moment that supersedes the call to the liturgy. But besides that,what other reason would there be? Number four, the prayer rule is thefulfillment of the highest commandment. The prayer rule is the fulfillment of the highestcommandment, and I want you to see your own prayer as the very heartof what it means to keep the commandments of God. The Lord says thatthe Supreme Commandment is to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Set mark the ascetic in his text. There is no righteousness by deeds by works. He says. Prayer comprisesthe complete fulfillment of the commandments, for there is nothing higher than love forGod. undistracted prayer is a sign of love for God, and careless anddistracted prayer is a sign of love, of pleasure and Metropolitan Philarette, thatgreat metropolitan of Moscow in the nineteen century, in his longer catechism of the OrthodoxChurch. He says, as regards prayer, it is certainly our boundand duty to use it every day, morning and evening, before and afterdinner and supper, as far as possible, at the beginning and ending of everywork. This is our our goal, is to hone surround the whole daywith prayer, to arise and pray and to pray before we are layourselves down, to pray before and after the meals that we receive from Godand to ask his help in the challenges of the day. This is whatthe Christians called to and it's the heart of what it means to be akeeper of the commandments of the Lord, is to keep our prayer five.The prayer rule should be accomplishable, it should be doable. It's something that'sagreed upon between the spiritual father or confessor and the believer and it's designed tobe reasonable. There's no use in having a beautiful rule that you actually can'tperform on. Sometimes we have a hard time accepting our strength, the measureof our strength. We want, in fact, to do the whole book, to do this prayer or that prayer, and then we find out by thefact we've only done it one in seven days that we really aren't capable. Prayer rules are designed to be kept. It's better to accept our weakness andfashion a small rule appropriate to our strength and to do that rule faithfully. Faithfully prayed rules can then be expanded and developed over time, but rulesthat are irregularly kept have no progress, no line of advance. Listen toSt Fia Fan, the recluse, on this very subject. This is inhis book the spiritual life how to be attuned to it. He says onedoes not have to do many prayers. It's better to perform a small numberof prayers properly then to hurry through a large number of prayers. I wouldconsider the morning and evening prayers as set in the prayer books to be entirelysufficient. Just try each time to carry them out with full attention and correspondingfeelings. To be more successful at this, spend a little of your free timeat reading over all the prayers separately, think them over and feel them sothat when you recite them at your prayer rule, you will know theholy thoughts and the feelings that are contained in them. Prayer does not meanthat we just recite prayers, but that...

...we assimilate their content within ourselves andpronounce them as if they came from our minds and our hearts. This isthe glory of using the prayers of the saints and of the Scriptures, isthat we inherit prayers that are inspired, that we never could invent ourselves,and then, through attentiveness, through reading the prayers, he says, evenoutside of prayer, we have the chance of actually understanding them so that whenwe speak them, there ares, they're actually through time, can become ours. I think I've told you that beautiful story when one time I heard myspiritual father praying for the sick woman. This woman, she had cancer.Remember the story. I remember the story. Hope I'm not boring you. It'sa great story. I love to think on it. This woman hadjust been diagnosed with breast cancer. She came up to him and said,I mean really, I'm in trouble. I'm in trouble. I have thisadvanced breast cancer. Will you pray for me? And so he said tome, go get the holy oil. I went and got the holy oiland he said hold it, stand right behind me and hold it and I'mgoing to pray for he brought her before the icon of the mother of God, he put his arm around her and he started to pray. Wow,one prayer after the other coming out. I was so jealous because I hadnever heard the prayer of the mother of God like that before. I didn'tknow where they were from. And so, anyway, he asked for the holyoil. I dutifully gave it. He anointed her center on her wayand went back into the altar. I put the holy oil away and Iasked him, I said, where did you get that? I want tobuy a copy of that prayer book, and he just looked at me andhe smiled and he went shook his head and goes it was the fruit ofpraying the prayers of the church with that kind of watchfulness, you know,with attention to what was being said, not trying to not trying to storeup many prayers, but trying to pray each prayer meaningfully. That is whatwe want to be able to do. Those are the prayers that have power. Six, the component parts of the prayer rule are many. Each prayerrule involves very practical matters concerning prayer and all the spiritual disciplines, including suchquestions like this. When exactly will I pray privately during the day? Whatwill I pray when I start? Where will it be done? In thehouse? Under a tree, in front of what icon? Usually it's done, of course, in the main prayer corner of the home, but theremay be several places available and the issue of privacy may be important. Ifyou live in a family, the issue of having a space to kneel orto make a prostration may also be important, but it's in it's necessary for usto lay out all of these questions and answer them. We also,we who live with families, should ask when will I pray with my family? A prayer rule is not a family rule. A prayer rule, asI said in number point number one, is a personal thing. It's notdone with anyone else. There is family rule family prayer and sometimes they overlapand they can do that, especially in the evening, but a personal prayerrule is apart from anyone else's participation. No, but often families will chooseto do something that, like the little complin or the evening prayers that areare capable of being done together, whereas in the morning prayer there are oftencomponent parts that can't be done with others like a like a personal rules ofbowels, or maybe you have special things...

...you're going to give thanks for oryou have intercessions that you're going to make. My point is simply that you don'twant your family rule to replace your personal prayer rule. You want tokeep your prayer, your personal prayers, and then have also some family prayerthat you do together and be flexible about the interlap between the two. Theprayer rule itself consists of opening prayers from the prayer book from morning or evening, a rule of prostrations or bows. These are done usually very early inthe prayer rule, usually right after the our father in the opening three SAGGYand prayers. And the reason that the rule of bows or prostrations are doneearly is because the the making of the Cross and bowing or prostrating before theLord God is an expression of the deepest humility and repentance. It's the bodilyprayer of contrition. And what that does if you do five or ten ofthem, whatever you ma whatever your rule is, some do many, somedo a few, depending on your strength. It creates in side of you aspirit of contrition and the spirit of contrition water, if the reft ofthe prayers. It's also placed at the beginning of the rule, because therule of Bowser prostrations wakes you up in the morning. It gets the bloodflowing and allows you to be not in a fog for the rest of yourprayers. So you do the opening prayers from the prayer book, a ruleof prostrations, then you would say the prayers of Thanksgiving, and this isa very important subject. In fact, our next lecture will be almost exclusivelydevoted to this aspect of the prayer rule. The prayer of Thanksgiving is at theheart of the morning prayers. It also appears in the evening prayers.But in order to start the day in a spiritual way, in order tostart the day close to God, it takes making the personal decision to acknowledgebenefactions received. If you acknowledge benefactions received, if you don't take for granted thepeaceful night you just had, the fact that you've been given rest,that you're still alive, that you have that moment to redeem and to usefor God's glory and for your salvation, if you mark that time out andyou allow the prayer books to guide you with with guards of Thanksgiving, andif you enumerate in your prayers of Thanksgiving many particular prayers, many particular areasof thanks you will find yourself greatly enlivened, full of joy. And it saysthough you have a scale in your life of good and bad and you'vejust weighed down the good and you're starting the day now with the scale completelylike this, and then you can go into your day and it really doesn'tbother you too much to meet the first bad problem at ten thirty, aboutthe person across the desk from you who is being quite rude. Oh well, boom, and maybe at lunch something happens. Boom. I mean usuallyno more than two, three, four bad things a day. Huh,if it's sometimes it's worse, sometimes it's worse, but even with two orthree four, big deal. You're still you're still like this, whereas ifyou don't start with Thanksgiving, you start like that's the first bad thing yougot a bad day. This is why it's so important to start, asthe prayers guide us to, with Thanksgiving. These are followed by intercessions for thosethat we love, living and departed, and then the prayer rule usually endswith some measure, some amount of the Jesus prayer. Now let metell you why we put the Jesus prayer at the end. We put theJesus prayer at the end because our hope is that that's the prayer that willstay with us, that the flavor of that last prayer. Maybe we willdo thirty three knots, maybe we'll do a hundred knots, it depends.Maybe you're going to say that portion as you're driving to work and you're goingto take a rope off your rear view mirror. I suggest this highly toguard us from all the temptations of California...

...freeways. But the idea is isthat you leave the prayer rule with the Jesus prayer going and you have thehope to keep it alive during the day. This is the prayer that we wantto use when we are doing our work. This is why we endwith it the last thing, so that it never really stops. And inthat sense, your prayer rule is not done in that way. You saylittle Jesus prayer, you go your way and you try to keep it aliveand if you forget it, you restart it. That's right after the prayerthrough the prayers of our holy pots. In the coming weeks, what I'mhoping to do is to take each of those component parts. Will talk aboutthe the rule of vowels and prostrations and developing contrition and Penitence. Will talkabout the prayers of Thanksgiving, we'll talk about the intercessions and we'll talk aboutthe Jesus prayer. Somewhere in the rule also is spiritual reading. This issomething that you have to agree upon and often it does not take place inthe morning. Often it takes place at some other time in the day,although it can take place in the morning, and spiritual reading in some discipline fashionis a component part of the prayer rule. Will unpack each one ofthese in the coming days and I'll end twenty eight minutes thirty eight seconds.I will end by just making this note that prayer, according to the HolyFathers, is the highest of all human endeavors. It is in fact tobe creative, to be a cold creator with God of reality, and isthe highest of all virtues, what the Fathers Call the defying virtue, theDart, that virtue which directly links us to God. All right, canyou stand? I'll give you a blessing. The blessings of the Holy Trinity,the father and the son and the Holy Spirit, be with you alltonight and forever. Amend the lecture you have just heard is the introductory lecturein a sixpart lecture series entitled the Prayer Room. For the remaining lectures,please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that'swww dot patristic nectar dot org. Until next time,.

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