Saturday, February 20, 2010

Guidance on Rule of Prayer

What follows is the rule of prayer as recommended by Saint Theophan the Recluse.

1. Choose a rule of prayer––evening, morning and daily prayers.
2. Start with a short rule at first, so that your accustomed spirit will not form an aversion to this labor.
3. Pray always with fear, diligence and all attention.
4. This requires: standing, prostrations, kneeling, making the sign of the Cross, reading, and at times singing.
5. The more often you do such prayer the better. Some people pray a little every hour.
6. The prayers you should read are written in the prayer book.  But it is good to get used to one or another, so that the spirit would ignite each time you begin it.
7. The rule of prayer is simple: standing at prayer, with fear and trembling say it as if you were speaking into God's ear, accompanying it with the sign of the Cross, prostrations and falling down, corresponding to the movement of the spirit.
8. Once you have chosen a rule you should always fulfill it, but this does not prevent you from adding something according to the heart's desire.
9. Reading and singing aloud, in a whisper, or silently is all the same, for the Lord is near.  But sometimes it is better to pray one way, other times another.
10. You should firmly keep in mind the limits of your prayers.  It is a good prayer that ends with your falling down before God with the feeling that  Thou Who knowest the hearts, save me.
11.There are stages of prayer.  The first is bodily prayer, with reading, standing and prostrations.  If the attention wanders, the heart does not feel, and there is no eagerness; this means there is no patience, toil or sweat.  Regardless of this, set your limits and pray.  This is active prayer.  The second stage is attentive prayer: the mind gets used to collecting itself at the hour of prayer, and says all with awareness, without being stolen away.  The attention blends with the written words and repeats them as its own.  The third stage is prayer of the feelings––the attention warms the heart, and what was thought with attention becomes feeling in the heart.  In the mind was a compunctionate word, in the heart it is compunction; in the mind––forgiveness, in the heart––a feeling of its necessity and importance.  Whoever has passed on to feeling prays without words, for God is a God of the heart.  This, therefore is the summit of prayer's development....
12. However no matter how perfect one has become in prayer, the prayer rule should never be abandoned, but should always be read as prescribed and always begun with active prayer.  Mental prayer should come with it, and then prayer of the heart.  Without a rule, prayer of the heart is lost, and the person will think that he is praying, but in fact he is not.
13. When the prayerful feeling ascends to ceaselessness, then spiritual prayer begins––a gift of the Spirit of God which prays for us.  This is the last stage of attainable prayer.  But it is said that this is also prayer that is incomprehensible to the mind, to surpass the limits of awareness (As described by St. Isaac the Syrian).
14. The easiest means for ascending to ceaseless prayer is the habit of doing the Jesus Prayer and rooting it in yourself.  The most experienced men of spiritual life who were enlightened by God found this to be the one simple and all effective means for confirming the spirit in all spiritual activities, as well as all spiritual ascetical life; and the left detailed guidelines for it in their instructions.

Next: The instructions for the Jesus Prayer.

More on Saint Theophan on Prayer
More on a prayer rule (including a beginning prayer rule)
More on the Jesus Prayer

Reference: Path to Salvation,  pp256-258

1 comment:

  1. Friend, I know this sounds strange, but could you do a bullet point list of this post on wikihow? I have a really hard time accessing large blocks of text and have been scouring the 'net for how to build a prayer rule. Thankf you


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