Volume IV - Spirituality

Prayer, Fasting and Alms-Giving

Liturgical Prayer

Liturgical prayer is not simply the prayers of individual Christians joined into one. It is not a corporate “prayer service” of many persons together. It is rather the official prayer of the Church formally assembled; the prayer of Christ in the Church offering His “body” and “bride” to the Father in the Spirit. It is the Church’s participation in Christ’s perpetual prayer in the presence of God in the Kingdom of heaven. (cf. Hebrews 7:24-25, 9:24) The model of liturgical prayer is in the book of Revelation, and not in the gospel events of Jerusalem or Galilee.

In the Orthodox Church there is no tradition of corporate prayer which is not liturgical. Some consider this a lack, but most likely it is based on Christ’s teaching that the prayer of individuals should be done “in secret.” (Matthew 6-.5-6) This guards against vain repetition and the expression of personal petitions which are meaningless to others. It also protects persons from being subjected to the superficialities and shallowness of those, who instead of praying, merely express the opinions and desires of their own minds and hearts.

When a person participates in the liturgical prayer of the Church, he can only do so effectively to the extent that he prays by himself, at home, and in his own mind and heart. The one who “prays without ceasing” is the one who offers and receives most in liturgical prayer.

When one participates in the liturgical prayer of the Church, he should make every effort to join himself fully with all the members of the body. He should not “say his own prayers” in church, but should pray “with the Church.” This does not mean that he forgets his own needs and desires, depersonalizing himself and becoming but one more voice in the crowd. It means rather that he should unite his own person, his own needs and desires, all of his life with those who are present, with the church throughout the world, with the angels and saints, indeed with Christ Himself in the one great “divine” and “heavenly liturgy” of all creation before God.

Practically this means that one who participates in liturgical prayer should put his whole being, his whole mind and heart, into each prayer and petition and liturgical action, making it come alive in himself. If each person does this, then the liturgical exclamations become genuine and true, and the whole assembly as one body will glorify God with “one mouth, one mind and one heart.” (See Worship, Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)