May 9, 2013

Written prayers in orthodox faith

Your church has written prayers. Isn't it better for one to compose their own prayers than to read from someone else’s prayer?

Malankara orthodox church always giving importance to written prayers and I assume that these critics don't use any written prayers. What makes these critics think that their prayer is what our Lord desires? What makes them think that it is complete? Isn't it pride to think that one is complete in all aspects of their own created prayers?

Even the apostles asked our Lord to teach them what to pray. Instead of telling them to pray according to how they like, our Lord taught them what to pray and they prayed what was taught to them (Mat 6:9-13). Some Christian communities have too much spiritual pride to the extent that they don’t even utilize the prayers used by the apostles.

In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your father knows what you need before you ask them.” (Mat. 6:7)

This is what our Lord said about prayer. Therefore it is obvious that ‘not all forms of prayers are good’

In that context, the prayers used by the Church were written by the apostles of Jesus Christ, by their disciples, by early church fathers that learned from them, and were in most instances martyred or had suffered for Jesus Christ. The church can trace its prayer’s back to the time of St. John.

Our prayers are authored for each occasion and you can compare our church’s prayers with your own or with anyone else’s and you will see that our prayers are complete and special. You will realize how meaningful these prayers are. If you are not convinced we can prove it. We encourage you to read our prayers and you can decide for yourself.

The church has not confined anyone to written prayers. We have prayers seven times a day and have special prayers for each day of the week. But if you want you can pray 24 hours a day and no one will stop you from doing that. In fact if you can do this, it is well and good.

The canonical prayers are written down in all the ancient churches, but silent prayers and extemporaneous prayers have also their place in the orthodox traditions. Prayer is communion with God alone or in communion with the church. Written prayers are an aid to prayer as they are very rich in their contents and were written down by people of greater spirituality than us. Mechanical repetition or parrot-like recitation of written prayers is not what is expected of the faithful, but slow praying with real concentration. Prayers are in the mother tongue in the major Orthodox churches. Written prayers prevent us from our natural tendency to be selfish in submitting our own needs before God without a penitential heart. We are allowed to write down our own prayers for our own discipline and spiritual growth. The written prayers are full of contrition, praise, intercession and invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. They have many allusions to the Holy Spirit. They give us a sense of the unity of the church. While we pray the written canonical prayers we are in solidarity with the saints of all time and all places who have prayed the same prayers. There are also written prayers for special occasions like visitation of the sick, house visitation, birthday celebration, wedding anniversary etc. Those who have the ability and grace to offer brief and appropriate extemporaneous prayers are not forbidden from doing so. We must cultivate the habit of both canonical and extemporaneous prayers in addition to silent meditation, which is of ultimate Importance. In all our prayers there must be adoration of the Holy Trinity, the overflowing love towards Jesus Christ our Savior, the power of the Holy Spirit, Who teaches us to pray. It is better to use written prayers when large number of people are worshipping and extemporaneous prayers in small groups in small fellowship meetings. As St. Paul says, 'all things must be done decently and in order' (I Corinthians. 14: 39).

An article by Fr.Thomas Philipose, Copied from MGOCSM page