edited December 1969 in Personal Issues
How do you know what to say during prayer....Every time i come to pray i usually say the same things over and over again. Could this be mainly because i keep falling into the same sin over and over again? Basically i ask for His help to conquer this sin, and to just forget about my past, and to look forward, etc.... but I always get tired and run out of words.....How do i find words? How can i pray so i can feel a difference that night? How do i pray so i can better myself?


  • Pray the Agpeya slowly and with great attention so that every word becomes your own. The prayers of the Church teach us how to pray when we have interiorised them.

    Also pray the Jesus Prayer with attention for a set period. Often we need to say less and pray more.

    God bless you

    Father Peter
  • Yep, the Agpeya is your best bet. King David and the church fathers had the words down - they did all the work of writing beautiful prayers for us.
  • Excuse me if i am being rude, but i used to read the agpeya soooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo much.....and now they just became words to me. Over time i have become desensitized to everything. How can i go back and re sensitize myself to this kind of stuff and actually feel all of this. I am defiantly going to read the agpeya tonight and try to read them as a prayer instead of words.
  • [quote author=deaconmark123 link=topic=9965.msg121846#msg121846 date=1289173364]
    Excuse me if i am being rude, but i used to read the agpeya soooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo much.....and now they just became words to me. Over time i have become desensitized to everything. How can i go back and re sensitize myself to this kind of stuff and actually feel all of this. I am defiantly going to read the agpeya tonight and try to read them as a prayer instead of words.

    If you cant read the Agpeya,  Pray the Lords prayer and make sure at the end you do Matanyat (Bowing Down) ... or even go on your knees and pray it.. and after if you have nothing to say just stay quite and think about God... Tell Him I lost touch with you and I am ashamed to talk to you because I am a sinner.. Ask for help, life of repentance, strength etc.

    Prayer is Receiving from God dont ever think when you pray you give God something, we dont.  We are always taking from God...  If you take forgiveness, reconciliation, love , patience, mercy, blessing or anything then your prayer is successful. 
  • [quote author=deaconmark123 link=topic=9965.msg121846#msg121846 date=1289173364]
    Excuse me if i am being rude, but i used to read the agpeya soooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo much.....and now they just became words to me. Over time i have become desensitized to everything. How can i go back and re sensitize myself to this kind of stuff and actually feel all of this. I am defiantly going to read the agpeya tonight and try to read them as a prayer instead of words.

    Haha I feel that way sometimes too. One thing that revives me for a while is just picking up another translation of the agpeya - the difference in word choice and arrangement of sentences can often take away the feeling of mere recitation of words and renew focus on the meaning - I dunno just a suggestion.
  • One once said that Praying teachers you to pray.

    So, if you don't know how to pray, what to say, what to think etc, then you pray and it should pick up and you will learn how to pray.
  • I believe the key word that Fr. Peter said was:  'slowly' (in terms of reading the Agpeya).

    Before that, one must establish a mood and atmosphere prior to starting to pray.

    Listen to Fr. Peter.

    As a note, you may want to try this book:  'Beginning to Pray' by Fr. Anthony Bloom (an Eastern Orthodox Priest).  I enjoyed the book immensely.

    It is late for me.  I am going to say my prayers for the evening.  Good night.  Enjoy God's Peace.
  • There is some value in praying the prayers of our rule even if we feel very dark and distant from God. This is because:

    i. It helps to create a stable routine in our spiritual life, which is like the scaffolding constructed around a building. It is not the building but it is necessary for the building to be constructed.

    ii. We can still offer God a sacrifice of prayer and worship even if we feel bad, and there is great value in offering such worship when it hurts and is a real sacrifice of time and attention. Indeed we can pray, 'Lord you know how distant I feel from you, and that there is no light and joy in my life, nevertheless I offer this praise to you as is due to you, asking for nothing but that you would receive this prayer upon your heavenly altar to your glory'.

    Now it seems to me that this is different to praying with little or no attention. In such a case it seems to me that we are dealing with a different spiritual problem. Do we lack attention because we are busy with other responsibilities - sometimes these are inescapable. In such a case we should perhaps pray less from the Agpeya, even just the Lord's Prayer and the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Psalm 50. Indeed these can be memorised so that we are able to participate in the prayer of each Hour as we are able, even while busy with some other activity.

    The quality of our prayer is more important than the quantity - to some extent, I am not suggesting that one sentence of prayer each day is ever enough. If we are busy with the duties and responsibilities which God has laid on us then in a sense the careful and worshipful fulfilment of those duties is also a prayer.

    So if we cannot give our whole attention to all of the prayer from the Agpeya for a legitimate reason then we should pray even a little with attention rather than pray nothing at all, or pray with only a portion of our attention.

    But of course sometimes we pray without attention simply because we are not praying with attention. There is something on TV, we have music playing, we are planning to go out shopping or with friends, or we are bored and yet feel guilty about not praying. In such a case our words do not seem to me to have much value. Prayer is above all a communion of our spirit with the Holy Spirit who leads us into the presence of the Father in the name of the Son and Word of God with whom we have been united. If our prayer is only words - not the cry of a despairing and broken heart, not the moment of deep attention in the middle of responsibilities, but simply words to make us feel we have done our duty - then they will not go beyond the four walls of our room.

    True prayer is the contact of a human person with the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity. It is not expressed in emotion, which can be generated by all manner of human weakness and passion, but it is expressed in a spiritual sense or knowledge of God's presence. In the midst of the most difficult circumstances the one who prays hears the words, 'Do not be afraid, I am with you'. This is not emotion, it is a movement of our spirit.

    What should we do if we know that our prayers are only words?

    It seems to me that we should give thanks to God that He has given us the grace to be aware of our spiritual deficiency. If we were beyond help then we would not even be aware that our prayers were empty and devoid of power. The question then becomes, Why am I distant from God? What is separating me from the presence of God?

    The one who truly loves God loves Him more and more each day. The loss of God's presence becomes painful. To be close to God becomes the centre of every moment and activity. Even the smallest sins become causes of the loss of the Holy Spirit and are avoided as much as possible for the sake of the presence of God by the Holy Spirit.

    So why are we distant from God? Is it a time of trial which we must endure with faith? In that case it seems to me that we pray even in our confusion, 'Lord have mercy on me'. Is it because we have sinned and continue to sin? This is the more likely cause of such fruitlessness in prayer. If this is the case then we must address what prevents us having communion with the Holy Spirit.

    The parable of the Sower provides us with four types of soil/heart into which the life-giving Word of God is cast. There are times when each of us might experience different types of spiritual soil within us, and we should not think that if we are one type of soil we will always be so. This requires constant vigilance and self awareness.

    i. The path. This type of heart is hardened. There is no prospect of the seed taking root. There is no moisture -which the Fathers associate with the tears of repentance. Just a thick crust which prevents anything penetrating the heart. The word of God is not heard by such a soul, at least it is not heard in that spiritual sense of being received. We could think of St Anthony who heard the Gospel being read, 'Go sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and come follow me'. He REALLY heard the Gospel because it changed his whole life. The person whose heart is like the path could well appear be a Christian, he could even be among the clergy. It is quite easy to live a particular life, following outward morality, but there is nothing spiritual inside that person. They have not been brought alive by the Holy Spirit.

    If this is the case for us then we must surely seek to be renewed by the Spirit before anything else. We need to find help to properly become a Christian, and begin the journey of life in Christ. We could pray every pray for every Hour in the Agpeya, but if we have not become truly a Christian then it is just words, and words cannot save us, only the grace of God can save us.

    ii. The rocky soil. At least the seed takes root in this heart! There is some life. But there is no depth. All of the resources available to the seed are in the top few centimeters. Once beyond that thin layer of soil there are just rocks. This seems to me to speak of the heart which is Christian but which is trying to live the Christian life in its own strength. There is no real spirituality because all spiritual life is a gift from God. This type of soul can become very excited and committed to some activity in the Church, and to some spiritual practice, but after the call from God has been heard, the soul acts only in its own human power. So we see such souls being very emotional, acting passionately, insisting on their own way. And when trials and troubles come there is no depth to sustain the Word of God, there are no inner spiritual resources, and the seedling withers away.

    The rocky soil also speaks to me of the heart in which sin is tolerated. Each one can be imagined as a hard, solid, lump in the soild of the heart in which there is no possibility of fruitfulness. This is why farmers walk the fields removing all the rocks to the edge of the field. They are an obstacle to real growth. They are an obstacle to spiritual depth. They prevent the soil being watered by the rain of the Spirit, and they prevent the plough from properly turning over the soil of the soul.

    If there is sin in our hearts then we should not expect to find great fruitfulness in our prayers. 'The prayer of a righteous man availeth much'. Indeed when there is sin rooted in our hearts it makes our prayers a lie. With one breath we are saying 'I worship you, O Lord', and with the other we are saying, 'I worship and serve myself'. To have sin rooted in our lives means that we are fairly tolerant of it, not that we sin at all. We may all sin, but the saints loath and hate sin because of the damage it does to their relationship with God. If we sin and consider that, 'It is normal', 'I am only human', 'Its not so bad as X or Y', then we have allowed sin to take root.

    At some point we must decide that we do not want to commit a resistant sin any more, and want to see it uprooted from our lives because we love God too much. If we think sin is normal and human then we will never root up these sins. If we understand that sin is the most abnormal and subhuman condition for a person to fall into because it separates us from real life, from real 'being', then we will turn to God and ask Him for the grace we need to root out these stones. We cannot do it on our own and must seek to use all the resources God wishes to give to be able to do so. But the hope set before us is that as we do root out these stones then the soil of our heart is better prepared to bear fruit.

    When we really and truly love God more than sin we will not sin. The fact is that when we sin it is because we choose at that moment to sin, and at that moment we separate ourselves entirely and completely from God. We choose the abyss instead of paradise. We choose non-being instead of the fulness of life.

    iii. The weedy soil. Perhaps this is the greatest danger for many committed Christians. We have received the word of life and it has taken root. It has sprung up in our hearts. Yet it fails to produce the expected fruit. We do not find any obvious sin in our lives, but our lives have been taken over by other priorities. We are busy worrying about college. We are busy looking for a good job. We are busy looking for a wife or husband, or we are trying to keep a girlfriend or boyfriend happy. We don't want to be Larry the Loner so we spend a lot of time hanging round the Mall with other people. We are obsessed with a sport and it has taken up all of our spare time. None of these activities are entirely bad in themselves, but when they become the driving force in our lives then it is the spiritual condition of our heart which suffers.

    But in fact the weeds need not only be things outside the Church. It would be possible to be so concerned about learning hymns, to be concerned about being nearest the microphone (only out of a desire to serve of course), to be most important on the parish council, to be the most popular Sunday School teacher, even the most popular priest, the priest who has the ear of the bishop, the priest who has the most people following him on Twitter, all of these can also be weeds which smother our hearts and prevent us seeing real spiritual growth.

    If there is some aspect of our lives which we could not live without, other than God, then there is some weed in the soil of our heart. And sometimes those things we are most committed to are taken away from us. Not because God wishes to punish us, but because if they are not removed then they will become, if they are not already, idols which we worship rather than God, and they will slowly strangle the life out of our hearts.

    Let me use a very personal example. In my own life I have desired to see many tens and hundreds of people come to faith in Christ and join our Orthodox Church. This is a good desire, but it can also become a false desire. What if I want lots of people to join the Church to validate my own ministry and person. How do I tell the difference between those desires? The person we lie to most is usually ourselves. I had to be brought to a situation, before I became a priest, and when my own priest became very ill, when I had to offer our little community to God and say, 'If it is your will that this community fade away and be dispersed then so be it. Your will be done'. I had to let go of any desire to see the Church grow unless it was in God's will, in God's way, and in God's time. Having given up all desire for growth which was linked to my own self-affirmation, God has graciously begun a period of growth almost without us doing anything. I have baptised 3 adults and an infant this past year, and I will make a new catechumen next week, God willing.

    We must give up everything if we want to see the weeds cleared away. We need to examine all of those things we are engaged in and ask if they are preventing us growing closer to God, even if they are outwardly spiritual and Christian activities.

    iv. The good soil. What is it about the good soil which allows it to bear fruit? It seems to me that it is prepared soil. The stones and weeds have been removed. It is well watered and has been turned over by the plough. It has depth so that the seed can take root. It has nourishment so that the seed can grow tall.

    This is why we engage in spiritual practices. They are the means by which we prepare the soil of our heart when we engage in them with serious spiritual intent. They provide the opportunity for the seed of life to take root and flourish. Repentance and tears soften the hard crust of our heart. Confession and action against sin removes the stones. Critical self-reflection with humility helps us to see what things are taking the place of God in our heart. And prayer, fasting, regular communion, humble and hidden service of others, study of the Bible and the reading of the lives of the saints are the means of preparing our hearts for the coming of God.

    When the soil of our heart is prepared it is watered by the dew of the Spirit. The seed of the Word is received and takes root. The Sun of Righteousness shines upon our heart and the seed germinates, brings forth shoots, grows upwards towards the light, and finally brings forth a harvest of spiritual fruit.

    All of this requires effort. A lifetime of effort. It requires careful attention to each detail. We cannot live the Christian life by accident, or on auto-pilot. It requires that we be aware of and attentive to God at each moment, and bring our hearts back to the presence of God as soon as we have wandered. This is why we pray the Jesus Prayer, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, haver mercy on me' and seek to make it a prayeful habit throughout each day.

    I am truly a beginner in the life of Christ. But it may be that some of you younger people might choose God with your whole hearts while you are young, might give everything to Him, and might easily outrun me in bringing a harvest home to the Master of the field. I pray earnestly that it might be so.

    Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things you need will be added unto you.

    Father Peter
  • Well put, Fr. Peter. I needed that too.
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