The topic for today’s conversation is prayer. What does prayer mean for man?
To speak briefly about prayer, it is man’s conversation with God. It is the offering of the mind and heart to God; it is food for our souls. We all support our lives physically (our body, our earthly existence, the continuation of our lives) by bread and the like, but prayer supports the life of the soul. The Apostles asked the Lord to teach them to pray, and the Lord gave us a very simple but very substantive and short prayer: the “Our Father.” Here are the main points of our relationship to God; here are doxology, thanksgiving, and petition.
And why is this prayer called a model of prayer?
All of our usual prayers, the daily (morning and evening) and our oft-repeated prayers are largely based on the model of the “Our Father” prayer. And our daily liturgical prayers, offered to us by the Church’s Typicon, do not fundamentally go beyond the scope of the “Our Father” prayer.
Therefore, prayer is above all our food. Man is born, he is baptized, and he needs to be taken care of by his parents, so that he can grow up physically. But at the same time, an Orthodox person, a Christian, needs to grow for eternal life. And prayer is the main food – it is that which creates our future spiritual treasure.
Batiushka, what can we ask for in prayer?
What can we ask for in prayer? The forgiveness of sins, petitions for our needs (our daily bread), our union with God, our thanksgiving to the Lord, and doxology. It is in prayer, above all, that man receives God’s grace, receives strengthening in faith, and the forgiveness of sins. It is also necessary on the everyday level as well: we ask for our daily bread. For everything that is necessary, including everyday things, which makes up our wellbeing. The Lord Himself said: peace be unto you. This peace, as they say, passes all understanding. The main thing is that it be for our soul. Peace, patience, love for God. This is the strengthening of our faith, hope, and love. This, of course, is through prayer.
Just as a child is brought up by his parents, fed on bread and everything that is necessary on the physical level, so too should man grow spiritual, above all through his relationship with God. When parents are pious and believing, they bring their child to God’s church, bring him to Communion, and raise him under the protection of the Holy Orthodox Church. As he grows in consciousness as he gets older, he absorbs everything necessary for the spiritual life.
What is required of one to begin praying? In the “Our Father” one asks of God forgiveness of his sins, which means that one must also forgive one’s neighbors. What is required so that prayer be pure, that it be heard?
One must have a clean conscience. Therefore we say: “and forgive us our debts,” that is, our sins, all our infirmities. We promise to forgive our neighbors who have done something to us, with which we are unhappy. This is on the basis of humility, longsuffering, and the forgiveness of those who mistreat us. It is said that the Lord humbled Himself to death on the cross. Thus, too, should man be humble in imitation of the Savior, of the Lord. Prayer is heard when it is in our humility, in our love for the Lord, in our trust and hope.
Batiushka, does the place where we pray influence its results? Where is it best to pray?
The Lord says about this: when you want to pray, go into your closet and pray in secret. And the Lord sees what is in secret and will reward you openly. But the Lord goes on to say: where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I with them. We cannot hide anywhere from the glory of God, from His wisdom, from the Lord’s all-seeing eye. The Lord is both in the desert and in the multitude.
Of course, in church, where everyone is gathered with a single intention, and the single intention of praying, of offering prayer to God, there is the special presence of God’s grace and God’s mercy.
I would like to hear your wishes regarding prayer, inasmuch as people sometimes place all their hope on themselves, and perhaps overestimate their strength.
It is said: this world lies in evil. There are many temptations, allurements, and anxieties. And everyone understands that man undergoes quite a lot in life. It is clear that man is too weak and infirm to avoid everything that might happen to him that is unexpected, random, and dangerous. Therefore we, as Orthodox faithful, know that just as there is the Lord, Who protects us, so too are there the holy Guardian Angels and the Protection of the Queen of Heaven, who has covered and guarded our Fatherland from many of our sins. And there are the Holy God-Pleasers, and the Holy Archangels, Angels, Holy Hierarchs, St. Nicholas, and the Holy Apostles. They help us if we pray and if we believe, and they are always ready to come to our aid and to help us. Therefore we should constantly be at prayer, in supplication, and in thanksgiving to the Lord. And the Lord is always ready to help us. But the Lord sees our desires, our volition, and our appeals to Him. Therefore our entire lives should always be closely connected with prayer. The Lord wants, above all, the salvation of our soul. Prayer saves our soul and always helps us in everything in our life.
Translated from the Russian.