The basis of the Orthodox Christian’s life
is fasting and prayer. Prayer, said Saint Philaret of Moscow,
"is the conversation of the soul with God." And as in a conversation
it is impossible to hear one side all the time, so in prayer it is good to
sometimes stop and listen to the Lord’s answer to our prayer.
The Church, daily praying "for all and for
all," determined for every one a personal, individual prayer rule. The
content of this rule depends on the spiritual growth, the living conditions, the person’s opportunities. The prayer book offers us
morning and evening prayers, accessible to anyone. They are directed to the
Lord, to the Mother of God, to our Angel Protector. With the blessing of the
confessor, the private rule can include prayers to particular saints. If there
is no opportunity to read the morning prayers before icons in a peaceful
setting, then it is better to read them along the way than to omit them
entirely. In any case, one should not breakfast before reading the prayer
If a person is ill or very tired, then the
evening rule can be read not right before sleep, but a short time before that.
But just before lying down to sleep, one should read the prayer of St. John of
Damascus: "Lord and Lover of Mankind, is it
possible that this bed will be a coffin…" and everything following it.
It is very important to include in the morning
prayers the reading of remembrances. It is absolutely necessary to pray for the
peace and health of the Most Holy Patriarch, the ruling archbishop, the
spiritual father, the parents, relatives, godparents and godchildren, and for
all people, with whom one way or another we are connected. If one cannot be
reconciled with another person, even if not through one’s own fault, he is
required to remember the " one who hates"
and truly desire him good.
In the personal (cell) rule of many Orthodox are
included the reading of the Gospel and the Psaltery. Thus, the Optina monks
blessed many to read, during the day, one chapter of the Gospel, in order, and
two chapters of the Apostolic letters. In addition,
the last seven chapters of the Apocalypse were read, one each day. In this way,
the reading of the Gospel and the Apostle (that is, the book with the Apostolic letters) were finished concurrently and a new
cycle would be begun.
The prayer rule is determined by the one praying,
and is confirmed (the rule, as well as any changes) — by the confessor. Once
determined, the rule becomes in its way a commandment, and any deviation
from it must be looked upon as a deviation, which must be told the confessor.
The main purpose of the prayer rule — is to
dispose the soul of the Christian to active association with God, to awaken in
him repentant thoughts, to purify the heart of sinful corruption. For this
reason, by thoroughly fulfilling what is required, we learn, by the words of
the Apostle, "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the
Spirit…with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Eph. 6:18).
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