Prayer Rules

On Prayer VII: Prayer Rules

Having time each day to Pray is most important to us Orthodox Christians.  Praying daily, we follow the example of Jesus Christ and our Church Fathers.

A prayer rule supports us in a spiritually developed state, which should not depend on some passing mood. If people abandon their prayer rule, they grow feeble very quickly.

Apart from this, we should also remember that when people turn to God in communion, the enemy of our salvation always does his best to come between them. And not to let our enemy do this is not an infringement of our freedom.


I recommend the Jordanville Prayer book for your Morning and Evening prayers: For ROCA parishioners, this is the best one to use, because of the translation. The book can be obtained in Russian or English through the Holy Trinity Bookstore.  Includes Canons, Akathists, Troparia, Daily Prayers, the Divine Liturgy and more.  Follows the Russian usage. Traditional English.  This book is frequently referred to as “The Jordanville Prayer Book” because Holy Trinity Monastery and the Printshop of St Job of Pochaev are located in the town of Jordanville.

 

I suggest you talk to your Spiritual Father or your Pastor who will advise you as to which Prayer Rule you be praying daily.  It is that important.  If you do not have a Prayer Rule, you need to seek his advice today!

Below are a couple of good articles as to why you should have a Prayer Rule.

A prayer rule for one who is on the path of a God-pleasing life.

You ask about a prayer rule. Yes, it is good to have a prayer rule on account of our weakness so that on the one hand we do not give in to laziness, and on the other hand we restrain our enthusiasm to its proper measure. The greatest practitioners of prayer kept a prayer rule. They would always begin with established prayers, and if during the course of these a prayer started on its own, they would put aside the others and pray that prayer. If this is what the great practitioners of prayer did, all the more reason for us to do so. Without established prayers, we would not know how to pray at all. Without them, we would be left entirely without prayer.

However, one does not have to do many prayers. It is better to perform a small number of prayers properly than to hurry through a large number of prayers, because it is difficult to maintain the heat of prayerful zeal when they are performed to excess.

I would consider the morning and evening prayers as set out in the prayer books to be entirely sufficient for you. 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 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 hearts.

After you have considered and felt the prayers, work at memorizing them. Then you will not have to fumble about for your prayer book and light when it is time to pray; neither will you be distracted by anything you see while you are performing your prayers, but can more easily maintain thoughtful petition toward God. You will see for yourself what a great help this is. The fact that you will have your prayer book with you at all times and in all places is of great significance. Being thus prepared, when you stand at prayer be careful to keep your mind from drifting and your feeling from coldness and indifference, exerting yourself in every way to keep your attention and to spark warmth of feeling. After you have recited each prayer, make prostrations, as many as you like, accompanied by a prayer for any necessity that you feel, or by the usual short prayer. This will lengthen your prayer time a little, but its power will be increased. You should pray a little longer on your own especially at the end of your prayers, asking forgiveness for unintentional straying of the mind, and placing yourself in God’s hands for the entire day.

You must also maintain prayerful attention toward God throughout the day. For this, as we have already mentioned more than once, there is remembrance of God; and for remembrance of God, there are short prayers.

On Prayer VII: Prayer Rules

What is a prayer rule? These are prayers that one reads regularly, daily. Everyone has a different prayer rule. For one person, the morning or evening prayers take up several hours, while for another they take a few minutes. Everything depends on one’s spiritual disposition, on the degree of one’s rootedness in prayer, and on how much time one has.

It is very important that one keep a prayer rule, even a very short one, so that one would be regular and constant in prayer. But the rule should not turn into a formality. The experience of many believers shows that, by constantly reading through the same prayers, their words can become colorless: they loose their freshness and one who has gotten used to them can no longer focus on them. This danger needs to be avoided at all costs.

I remember that when I received the monastic tonsure (I was then twenty years old), I turned for advice to an experienced spiritual father, asking him what sort of prayer rule I should have. He said: “You should daily read through the morning and evening prayers, three canons, and one akathist. Whatever happens, even if you are very tired, you are obliged to read them. And even if you read through them quickly and inattentively, that is not important. The main thing is that the rule be read through.” I tried. It did not take. The daily reading of the same prayers led to these texts quickly becoming boring. Besides, I spent many hours daily in church at services that spiritual nourished, fed, and inspired me. But reading through these three canons and an akathist turned into some unnecessary kind of “appendage.” I began to seek out different advice, more suitable to me. And I found it in the works of St. Theophan the Recluse, that remarkable nineteenth-century ascetic struggler. He advised calculating one’s prayer rule not from the number of prayers, but from the time that we are prepared to dedicate to God. For example, we can take as a rule to pray in the morning and evening for half an hour, but these half hours should be wholly given over to God. And it is less important whether we read all the prayers or only one during these minutes, or if we dedicate an evening entirely to reading the Psalter, the Gospel, or to praying in our own words. The most important thing is to be focused on God, that our attention not run away, and that every word reach our heart. This advice worked for me. However, I do not exclude that for others the advice I obtained from my spiritual father might be more appropriate. Here a great deal depends on one’s personality.

It seems to me that, for someone living in the world, not only fifteen but even five minutes of morning and evening prayer can be enough to be a true Christian – as long, of course, as they are said with attention and feeling. It is important only that one’s thoughts always correspond to the words, that one’s heart respond to the words of the prayers, and that one’s whole life correspond to prayer.

Following the advice of St. Theophan the Recluse, try to set aside some time for prayer in the course of the day and for the fulfillment of a daily prayer rule. And you will see that this will quickly bear fruit.


More information can also be found reading this article.

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About padrerichard

I am a Priest with ROCOR and serve as Rector at St. Joseph of Optina Parish in Virginia Beach, VA
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