Friday, July 11, 2008

The Habit of Prayer

Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog Glory to God in All Things is my favorite Orthodox blog. I read it every day, and I recommend that you do so as well. The posts are always very inspiring and helpful, and he posts something nearly every day. His recent post on prayer is especially helpful. Here are the first few paragraphs, just to whet your appetite:

Though created in the image of God - man has fallen far. The image is not demolished, but we have not fulfilled the likeness and we frequently distort the image beyond recognition. Part of the true human life described in Genesis, are the “walks in the Garden” with God. Man and God converse - they share communion with one another. We see the restoration of this in the life of Christ whose constant life of prayer is frequently referenced in the Scripture.

Man makes a return to the Garden when he turns to God in prayer. The essence of all prayer is communion with God. Prayer, even intercessory prayer, is always about communion with God. We do not pray in order to change God’s mind. We do not pray in order to get things. We do not pray in order to make things happen. We pray in order to be in communion with God, Who alone does what He wills, gives what He wills, and governs the universe without advice from anxious men.

As we pray, and the more truly we pray, we unite ourselves to God, and His actions. His will and His gifts become things for which we can give thanks.

Click here to read the rest of this outstanding article. Be sure and read the follow-up article too.


charlene said...

Fr. James,
I learned from and enjoyed Fr. Freeman's first article. but got lost somewhere around the inverted pyramid on the follow-up article. Please remember that Orthodoxy is really new to me. May I explain what I do understand, in hopes you can find the disconnect?
I know we should pray for our enemies. If we do not forgive those who wrong us, how can we expect others to show us mercy when we harm them? How can I be close to Jesus when He gave up everything and died for my sins, that I might be forgiven for mine? If I were murdered tomorrow, I would want anyone who loved me to forgive the murderer lest their bitterness destroy them and their bond with God. I would want them to see to it the man was incarcerated by the state to protect others, and I would not want them to turn their backs to the murderer if he was holding a knife, but I would want them to forgive him.
The article tells us that each man is responsible for the sins of every other man. In mathematics there is something called "Chaos Theory" that tells us that even in seeming randomness there is order. A simple explanation is often given: A butterfly flaps its wings, which moves the leaf, and the leaf's movement affects something else... until ther is a hurricane on the other side of the world, that all started because the butterfly flapped its wings. Even a small sin that I commit against another may influence that person to commit a sin of his own, that affects another person... that may culminate in a major act against mankind. ( On a brighter note, economics has a concept called the "Multipler Effect". I get one more dollar of income and spend a portion of it which becomes additional income to the person I buy from. That person spends a portion of his additional income , and so on. When we add up the total effect on the economy, many times more than just that portion of the original dollar have been spent. Here, a small act of kindness can cause the person receiving to be kind to two others because he feels so good. The two people that receive his kindnesses each are kind to two others until the world is truly a better place, and it all started with that one small kindness. I am still lost at the communion with the world by being at the bottom of the pyramid. Can you help?

Fr. James Early said...


Thank you for your comment. Fr. Stephen's writings are indeed hard to understand at times--and not just for beginners to Orthodoxy.

I believe that what he is saying, in a nutshell, is this:

True prayer brings us not only in communion with God, but also with other people. When we are in true communion with other people, we can (he might say we MUST) take on the burden of their sins. Thus we can carry not only our own sins to God in confession, but those of others as well.

This is truly a deep concept! Let me know if you need any further clarification.

charlene said...

Fr. James,
Thank you for your help. My understanding now is that as we deepen our relationship with God, our relationship with fellow man will also deepen. Or perhaps it is also true that only though connecting more with fellow manking can we go further into a relationship with our Lord. When I reach the point that I can truly understand and accept how unworthy I am of Jesus' love and sacrifice for me, only then will I truly identify with my fellow man, my fellow sinners,and it becomes an "I am sorry for all our sins, for all the hurt our sibs have caused our fellow man and for we hurt we have caused You oh Blessed Lord." Is this any closer to what Fr. Freeman seems to be getting at?