“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

There are numerous scriptural texts that address the theme of prayer in the spiritual life. But there is much about this text that reminds me of the popular saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” The above quote from Matthew speaks to two issues in prayer; 1) perseverance and determination in prayer, and 2) trusting in our Father in heaven; believing and knowing that the Lord desires to give us those things that are for our salvation and well being. This is why we are to persevere in prayer. I would like to further discuss these two thoughts in this month’s newsletter.

 Seven times a day I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments. (Psalm 119:164)
 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

A public or private prayer rule is a commitment to pray at specific times, and to pray for specific things on a regular basis. This definition might to be too simplistic and can be misleading about prayer if not understood properly. The psalm verse cited above is the basis of our daily cycle of services in the Orthodox Church. The seven times a day that one praises God gets liturgically fleshed out in the Church in the services of: Midnight Office, Matins, the Hours 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 9th, Vespers, and Compline. This is the public prayer rule of the Church that is regularly observed in most monasteries. In parish life, fragments of this daily cycle are celebrated with various degrees of frequency, consistency, and content. Some parishes do more, some do less. In addition to this, if we personally are serious about living the Christian life, it is necessary that we keep a private prayer rule of our own. In most cases this takes the shape of saying prayers in the morning when you arise, and then at the evening as you prepare for sleep.

By St Gregory Palamas
Let no one think, my brother Christians that it is the duty only of priests and monks to pray without ceasing, and not of laymen. No, no; it is the duty of all of us Christians to remain always in prayer. For look what the most holy Patriarch of Constantinople, Philotheus, writes in his life of St. Gregory of Thessalonica. This saint had a beloved friend by the name of Job, a very simple but most virtuous man. Once, while conversing with him, His Eminence said of prayer that every Christian in general should strive to pray always, and to pray without ceasing, as Apostle Paul commands all Christians, "Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17), and as the prophet David says of himself, although he was a king and had to concern himself with his whole kingdom: "I foresaw the Lord always before my face" (Psalms 15:8), that is, in my prayer I always mentally see the Lord before me. Gregory the Theologian also teaches all Christians to say God’s name in prayer more often than to breathe.