Pray Without Ceasing

In our life, prayer should be a principle. It is a gift from God that we can speak to him at any time. Talking to God is unrelated to time, space, or circumstances. We can talk to God at any time. When you realize this gift, and understand that God always hears you, you become aware of the greatness of this gift. 

A saint once attempted to explain in detail the meaning of prayer and its stages. 

The first phase is the physical prayer which consists of rules, readings, standing in complete reverence and bowing etc. Praying with psalms has a system, liturgical prayer has a system, and vespers prayers have a system. We use our bodies, we raise our hands, we sit, we prostrate and we stand up.

The second phase is when prayer consists of a great deal of inner alertness. In the first stage the bodies takes part, but often our minds are distracted. Distraction is a problem when we pray. People sometimes forget if they said a specific part during prayer or not. In the second phase there is more concentration and inner alertness as the mind focusses in the prayer’s words. You say the prayers’ words being fully aware of what you are saying; and not praying repeating the words out of habit. A person may think of each word and concentrate in their meaning to understand them. Often it is recommended to say the psalm twice as a prayer exercise. Perhaps the first time you miss some of the words, so you concentrate the second time.

As to the third phase, this is described by our church fathers as the heart’s prayer, not the mind nor the tongue, but the hearts’ prayer. This is a vast subject in our spiritual life. Often, one’s heart is an expression of the human entity. The heart’s prayer is a prayer where your mind’s ideas are unified with your heart’s feelings. At that time only would a person feel a divine presence as if that person is not among others. 

In our spiritual life, there is also what is called “a perpetual prayer.” Or to pray without ceasing. Our fathers compare this prayer to breathing. Perpetual prayer is like constant breathing. It is composed of a single phrase made of a few words, which is memorized by heart. These are “arrow-like” words, that are centered around the name of Jesus. 

“Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”

By reciting “The Jesus Prayer” 

  1. You will be filled with joy, and a spirit of exhilaration.
  2. The importance of unnecessary preoccupation that takes up your time will decline.
  3. Your yearning for other spiritual practices increases. 

The Jesus Prayer, says Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, “more than any other,” helps us to be able to “stand in God’s presence.” This means that the Jesus Prayer helps us to focus our mind exclusively on God with “no other thought” occupying our mind but the thought of God. At this moment when our mind is totally concentrated on God, we discover a very personal and direct relationship with Him.

More about the arrow-prayer can be found HERE and HERE.

– Summary and Excerpts from a sermon by Pope Tawadros II, his prayers be with us.

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