The Arena
The Arena

Episode · 10 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 nectar publications present the arena Sunday homilies and theological reflections with Father Josiah Trenne. The lecture you're about to hear is the introductory lecture in a six part lecture series entitled the Prayer Rule. These lectures explore the discipline of classical Orthodox Christian personal prayer, examining the content and order of the prayer rule, giving special emphasis to the prayers of repentance, the rule of prostrations, the giving of thanks and the use of the Jesus prayer. patristic nectar publications invites all who are spiritually 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 nectar dot org. And now here's father Josiah, I welcome you to this first class in our series entitled the prayer rule. The prayer rule. I'm hoping that you 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 meaning of prayer and little bit about the contours of the prayer rule and why the church 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 this class is not the corporate prayer of the Church. It's not the Holy Liturgy or the divine services. What we do together, which is primary and fundamental for 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 individual existence is sustained by our existence in the church. It's very important to remember that relationship between the corporate and the individual, and most of our prayers that we do privately, in fact, are from the prayers of the church. The two are exceedingly connected, that is, private prayer and corporate prayer. They cross fertilize each other. Those who are active in the corporate prayer of the Church will be inspired in their private prayers, and those who are faithful in their private prayers will be able to bring to the church a solid prayer contribution. You'll be able to open your mouth to make the sacrifice of praise and Thanksgiving, and the whole community of the church will thrive because of the faithfulness of private prayer of each of her member. So the two are very interconnected. The corporate prayer of the Church that you see, that like we saw 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 the chanters and the clergy of the Church study this typicon every year, every day we read it in order to arrange the services of the church. Just as there is an order or a rule for the corporate pair, so there should be an order or a rule for a person's private prayers. Now what is prayer? And let me define that. Sat theofan the recluse, says to pray is to stand before God with the mind in the heart and to go on standing before him day and night until the end of life. This is prayer, standing before God with our mind in our heart, the whole person before the Lord God, and this is an absolutely natural way of life for us. 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 lived in an unceasing communion with God that was broken by sin. So what we're striving for in our rules, what we're striving for in our prayers, is not something superhuman. It's not something just for some people like monks or people who wear black clothing. It's in fact for every human person to be close to God and to speak to their creator. This is what it means to be human and to pray without ceasing as ultimately human, which is what we're striving for. It's as though it's essential to our life as breathing. There are 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 of the sayings of the desert fathers. He one time was asked by a very accomplished 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 he lifted his hands in prayer and flames erupted from all his fingers and he turned to the aspiring monk and he said, you should become all prayer, become all 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 were truly ourselves and we live a natural life. It's when we have a vacuous existence, it's when we don't really know what's going on and we're just there without any intention or purpose, that the evil thoughts sneaks in or the temptation and arrises and we find ourselves weak and falling into sin. If we would pray, we would be safe. This is especially true with sins of the mouth. Now to the prayer rule itself. The prayer rule is a personal reality. This is where I want to start. The prayer rule is a personal reality. This is a quote. The prayer is the turning towards a person, writes elder Emilia knows of Simino Petron Monastery, the great elder who still alive. Prayer is a turning towards a person, and thus for prayer to exist, this person must also exist. And for me to say I 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's presence and existence. This is the heart of our prayer rule, is communion of persons. What we're doing is a personal act, US drawing near to a divine person that we believe is real, more real than we are, and is waiting to receive our prayer. And as such, every person's prayer rule 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 and counsel and therefore is subject to change and adaptation as the person is listen to the words of Saint ignatious Brian Janinov in his famous text the arena, where he talks so much about prayer. He says the general rule for the rule of 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 have put the word lay person strength in there. This is where it starts. It should on no account exceed the ascetics strength. Abandoning the rule of prayer is 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 property for the whole of his life, goes on developing and growing naturally till the end of his life and gains character both in outward form and inner value according to his progress. So here's this affirmation. The rule is absolutely personal. Note two persons have the same rule. It's unique to that person's own experience and strength and it will develop with the person who is developing. This is point number one on the prayer rule. Number two. The prayer rule is taught to us by the Lord, God himself. The Lord is in fact the teacher of prayer. Now you remember in the Gospel Account that as our savior began to call his disciples to follow him, they had. Many of his disciples had previously been disciples of John The baptist, and they af the Lord. Lord teach us to pray. Jeff of John taught his disciples to pray. This is at the heart of the relationship of the disciple to the master. 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 you pray, pray this way. Prayer, together with almsgiving and fasting, are the 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 within us. Not only does the Lord give us the words to pray, but he sends forth his Holy Spirit to live in us, and he and Saint Paul'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 by ourselves, but in cooperation with the third person of the Trinity. We are laboring to speak to the father in the name of his son by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we're doing with this with the help of the spirit of God inside of us. If Agrieus, that Great Monastic teacher of the early church, says, if you wish to pray, you have need of God who gives prayer to him who prays. This is from the PHILOCLIA here. If Agrius is saying, if you want to pray, start praying and ask God to help yourself pray, and by the way, this applies to any virtue. If you want to become more deeply repentant, then ask the Lord God to make you more deeply repentant. He helps us in every thing. Ask and you receive. This is Saint John of Sinai from the latter. 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 has its 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 Agrieus and reminding us that the person who prays is the one who has God grant him 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 that prayer means, because we will following God's...

...instruction, his pedagogy. We will become more and more learned in the art of prayer. This is our life's quest. In fact, prayer is the personal reality. The prayer rule is taught to us by the Lord himself. Number three, the prayer rule shows us where we stand in our love for God. The prayer rule reveals or manifests our inner condition of love for God. It is a way that we can answer the question do we love God? It's really not that complicated. Imagine that you are married. If you love your spouse, do you talk to your spouse? Usually, not talking is a pretty clear sign of something and is not a sign of love. The prayer rule shows where we stand in our love for God. This is from Saint John of Sinai. In the latter again, he says war reveals the love of a soldier for his king 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 it so that if we don't pray, we can make the right judgment about the cause. When we don't pray, it's not that we're easily distracted. It's not 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 that moment, our hearts cold, because we wouldn't let anything keep us from the beloved if we were hot in the heart. This is elder Zacharias, Father Zachariask, who has spoken to you from this very place. I wish he would 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 that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God. UN quotes. That's simple. It's that simple. Prayer reveals where we are and therefore, since the keeping of a prayer rule is a matter of love supremely, it has to be embraced by the Faithful Christian as an unshakable personal commitment. It's not a prayer hope, it's not a prayer ambition. It's not what you'd like to be able to accomplish on the best of all possible days. The prayer rule is a Canona Allaw at personal resolve that you make. No matter what. Therefore, it should never be willingly abandoned or set aside or neglected. Taking a shower, getting dressed, getting to work on time, eating breakfast, none of these things are any reason whatsoever for missing your prayer rule. If you have time to take a shower, you certainly have time to pray. Much better to go unwashed physically than unwashed spiritually. If you have time to eat breakfast, you certainly have time to pray. Much better to feed your soul than to feed your body when you know you can wait till lunch time to eat. The violation of the rule is a sin for confession, something that we should bring to confession. There's no necessity, of course, for this kind of sin. person who has a reasonable prayer rule should be able to keep that every day until their last breath. That's what I wish for you, that the only reason you would ever miss your Canona is because either you can't get out of bed you're burning with a fever. It would essentially be the same reason you couldn't go to church. The only reason someone wouldn't make it to liturgy is because they really couldn't get up or on their...

...way to liturgy. The providence of God revealed something else he had in mind for them, like someone in danger or in great need on the freeway. This would be the call of God at that moment that supersedes the call to the liturgy. But besides that, what other reason would there be? Number four, the prayer rule is the fulfillment of the highest commandment. The prayer rule is the fulfillment of the highest commandment, and I want you to see your own prayer as the very heart of what it means to keep the commandments of God. The Lord says that the 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 comprises the complete fulfillment of the commandments, for there is nothing higher than love for God. undistracted prayer is a sign of love for God, and careless and distracted prayer is a sign of love, of pleasure and Metropolitan Philarette, that great metropolitan of Moscow in the nineteen century, in his longer catechism of the Orthodox Church. He says, as regards prayer, it is certainly our bound and duty to use it every day, morning and evening, before and after dinner and supper, as far as possible, at the beginning and ending of every work. This is our our goal, is to hone surround the whole day with prayer, to arise and pray and to pray before we are lay ourselves down, to pray before and after the meals that we receive from God and to ask his help in the challenges of the day. This is what the Christians called to and it's the heart of what it means to be a keeper 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's agreed upon between the spiritual father or confessor and the believer and it's designed to be reasonable. There's no use in having a beautiful rule that you actually can't perform on. Sometimes we have a hard time accepting our strength, the measure of our strength. We want, in fact, to do the whole book, to do this prayer or that prayer, and then we find out by the fact 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 and fashion 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 rules that are irregularly kept have no progress, no line of advance. Listen to St Fia Fan, the recluse, on this very subject. This is in his book the spiritual life how to be attuned to it. He says one does not have to do many prayers. It's better to perform a small number of prayers properly then to hurry through a large number of prayers. I would consider the morning and evening prayers as set in the prayer books to be entirely sufficient. Just try each time to carry them out with full attention and corresponding feelings. To be more successful at this, spend a little of your free time at reading over all the prayers separately, think them over and feel them so that when you recite them at your prayer rule, you will know the holy thoughts and the feelings that are contained in them. Prayer does not mean that we just recite prayers, but that...

...we assimilate their content within ourselves and pronounce them as if they came from our minds and our hearts. This is the glory of using the prayers of the saints and of the Scriptures, is that we inherit prayers that are inspired, that we never could invent ourselves, and then, through attentiveness, through reading the prayers, he says, even outside of prayer, we have the chance of actually understanding them so that when we 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 my spiritual 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's a great story. I love to think on it. This woman had just 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 this advanced breast cancer. Will you pray for me? And so he said to me, go get the holy oil. I went and got the holy oil and he said hold it, stand right behind me and hold it and I'm going 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 had never heard the prayer of the mother of God like that before. I didn't know where they were from. And so, anyway, he asked for the holy oil. I dutifully gave it. He anointed her center on her way and went back into the altar. I put the holy oil away and I asked him, I said, where did you get that? I want to buy a copy of that prayer book, and he just looked at me and he smiled and he went shook his head and goes it was the fruit of praying 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 store up many prayers, but trying to pray each prayer meaningfully. That is what we want to be able to do. Those are the prayers that have power. Six, the component parts of the prayer rule are many. Each prayer rule involves very practical matters concerning prayer and all the spiritual disciplines, including such questions like this. When exactly will I pray privately during the day? What will I pray when I start? Where will it be done? In the house? Under a tree, in front of what icon? Usually it's done, of course, in the main prayer corner of the home, but there may be several places available and the issue of privacy may be important. If you live in a family, the issue of having a space to kneel or to make a prostration may also be important, but it's in it's necessary for us to 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, as I said in number point number one, is a personal thing. It's not done with anyone else. There is family rule family prayer and sometimes they overlap and they can do that, especially in the evening, but a personal prayer rule is apart from anyone else's participation. No, but often families will choose to do something that, like the little complin or the evening prayers that are are capable of being done together, whereas in the morning prayer there are often component parts that can't be done with others like a like a personal rules of bowels, or maybe you have special things...

...you're going to give thanks for or you have intercessions that you're going to make. My point is simply that you don't want your family rule to replace your personal prayer rule. You want to keep your prayer, your personal prayers, and then have also some family prayer that you do together and be flexible about the interlap between the two. The prayer 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 in the prayer rule, usually right after the our father in the opening three SAGGY and prayers. And the reason that the rule of bows or prostrations are done early is because the the making of the Cross and bowing or prostrating before the Lord God is an expression of the deepest humility and repentance. It's the bodily prayer of contrition. And what that does if you do five or ten of them, whatever you ma whatever your rule is, some do many, some do a few, depending on your strength. It creates in side of you a spirit of contrition and the spirit of contrition water, if the reft of the prayers. It's also placed at the beginning of the rule, because the rule of Bowser prostrations wakes you up in the morning. It gets the blood flowing and allows you to be not in a fog for the rest of your prayers. So you do the opening prayers from the prayer book, a rule of prostrations, then you would say the prayers of Thanksgiving, and this is a very important subject. In fact, our next lecture will be almost exclusively devoted to this aspect of the prayer rule. The prayer of Thanksgiving is at the heart of the morning prayers. It also appears in the evening prayers. But in order to start the day in a spiritual way, in order to start the day close to God, it takes making the personal decision to acknowledge benefactions received. If you acknowledge benefactions received, if you don't take for granted the peaceful 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 use for God's glory and for your salvation, if you mark that time out and you allow the prayer books to guide you with with guards of Thanksgiving, and if you enumerate in your prayers of Thanksgiving many particular prayers, many particular areas of thanks you will find yourself greatly enlivened, full of joy. And it says though you have a scale in your life of good and bad and you've just weighed down the good and you're starting the day now with the scale completely like this, and then you can go into your day and it really doesn't bother you too much to meet the first bad problem at ten thirty, about the person across the desk from you who is being quite rude. Oh well, boom, and maybe at lunch something happens. Boom. I mean usually no 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 or three four, big deal. You're still you're still like this, whereas if you don't start with Thanksgiving, you start like that's the first bad thing you got a bad day. This is why it's so important to start, as the prayers guide us to, with Thanksgiving. These are followed by intercessions for those that we love, living and departed, and then the prayer rule usually ends with some measure, some amount of the Jesus prayer. Now let me tell you why we put the Jesus prayer at the end. We put the Jesus prayer at the end because our hope is that that's the prayer that will stay with us, that the flavor of that last prayer. Maybe we will do 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 going to take a rope off your rear view mirror. I suggest this highly to guard us from all the temptations of California...

...freeways. But the idea is is that you leave the prayer rule with the Jesus prayer going and you have the hope to keep it alive during the day. This is the prayer that we want to use when we are doing our work. This is why we end with it the last thing, so that it never really stops. And in that sense, your prayer rule is not done in that way. You say little Jesus prayer, you go your way and you try to keep it alive and if you forget it, you restart it. That's right after the prayer through the prayers of our holy pots. In the coming weeks, what I'm hoping to do is to take each of those component parts. Will talk about the the rule of vowels and prostrations and developing contrition and Penitence. Will talk about the prayers of Thanksgiving, we'll talk about the intercessions and we'll talk about the Jesus prayer. Somewhere in the rule also is spiritual reading. This is something that you have to agree upon and often it does not take place in the 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 fashion is a component part of the prayer rule. Will unpack each one of these 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 Holy Fathers, is the highest of all human endeavors. It is in fact to be creative, to be a cold creator with God of reality, and is the highest of all virtues, what the Fathers Call the defying virtue, the Dart, that virtue which directly links us to God. All right, can you 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 all tonight and forever. Amend the lecture you have just heard is the introductory lecture in 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's www dot patristic nectar dot org. Until next time,.

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