Beginning to Pray – Going Inwards

imagesMet. ANTHONY Bloom moves from writing about prayer as a knocking at the door of our hearts (as entrance to the Kingdom) to discussing the three types of prayer that take us inward to God. Chapter 3 of his classic work, “Beginning to Pray” includes 3 types of prayer: spontaneous, written prayers and unceasing prayer.

  1. Spontaneous prayer is the kind of prayer that gushes out of our own souls. It is most likely to occur in two very different situations. Our hearts pour out in prayer either when we are on the mountaintop of spiritual joy or when we are at the bottom of the ocean of despair. Met. ANTHONY says it is childish delusion to imagine that we can sustain spontaneous prayer throughout our life. And given the two instances when it is most often operative, who would want it to?
  2. Written prayer (also unfortunately called “ready made prayers”) are prayers prayed from a text. The best examples are the Psalter and the Lord’s Prayer. Of course we also have all of Scripture and many liturgical prayers that, when memorized, may spring up as a gift from God. In the Orthodox Church we also have morning and evening prayers that take about ½ hour each. Remembering that prayers prayed only make sense if they are lived Met. ANTHONY suggests we find a phrase to pray and live it throughout the day. This kind of prayer serves as a theme that we take through the day and apply to different situations. It is also helpful to have our extemporaneous prayers match the life of Christ, his disciples and the Old and New Testament saints. So, for example, we would pray a “as you did it there do it here” kind of prayer. “As your traveled on the road to Emmaus travel also with our friends on their journey.”
  3. The third way is the continuous use of a short prayer that serves as a walking stick throughout one’s day and throughout one’s life. Most Orthodox Christians are familiar with the Jesus Prayer. This is also called the prayer of the heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” As we call on the Name of the Lord throughout the day the claim is that the prayer will become automatic. So instead of mindlessly repeating, “It’s a small world after all” we can mindfully turn our hearts to the Lord. There are those who experience this prayer effortlessly. I will save a more detailed presentation on the Jesus Prayer for a future post. For now may I direct you to a good teaching by Dr. Rossi on The Jesus Prayer?

Thursday’s blog will be on Chapter 4 of Met. ANTHONY’s “Beginning to Pray” titled Time Management. It is my favorite chapter and probably the best in the book.

Today’s readings in the Orthodox Church: Acts 23:1-11; John 16:15-23


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