The first disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ asked Him to teach them to pray, so that they might share in His communion with the Father (see Luke 11.1-13).
For many of us, however, prayer is not something that comes easily. We have to practice drawing near to God. Thankfully, the Orthodox Church has accumulated some wisdom – prayers that have been passed down through the ages – that teach and support us in our life of prayer. The Biblical Psalms were the first “Prayer Book” of the early Church, for they capture the full range of human experience and emotions, lifting them up to God.
These “written” prayers of the Church do not quench the spontaneous outpouring of the human soul to God. Many of the prayers of the Church also have a beautiful poetic expression, such as St. Nikolai of Zhicha’s Prayers by the Lake. Rather, by praying the prayers of the Church, our hearts kindled with an attitude of humble reverence and love for the Lord.
For Orthodox believers, all prayer begins with what are sometimes called the “Trisagion Prayers”:
The Trisagion Prayers are a set of ancient prayers that begin each service of the Daily Cycle. They are also commonly used to begin one’s private prayers.
+Glory to Thee, our God, Glory to Thee.
O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere present and fillest all things, Treasury of Blessings and Giver of life: Come, and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.
+Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal: have mercy on us. (3 times)
+Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O Most-Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name’s sake.
Lord, have mercy. (3 times)
+Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
(If a priest is present) For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
(if no priest is present) Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God have mercy on us and save us!
St Innocent of Alaska, On Prayer:
“…It is important to establish a regular time for prayer (for instance, mornings and evenings), and to develop stability and patience. You should constantly overcome haste, distraction, indifference and insincerity. In addition, you must strive to warm your heart with love for God. Only a sincere prayer brings comfort and peace to the heart. Much effort is necessary in order to learn to pray properly, and, as we well know, all the righteous ones strove throughout their lives to learn the art of prayer. Nevertheless, your personal effort is not enough. It is the Holy Spirit who makes our prayer to be fervent and to come from the bottom of our heart. This was well known to the saints who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, stood day and night in prayer in sweet rapture, failing the while to notice the time fleeting away.
Pray even though at first your prayer may be weak and imperfect because of your sinfulness and estrangement from God. Pray with diligence and fervor; train yourself to be sincere in your conversation with God. Thus, little by little you will learn to pray and will start to feel a sweet comfort. The Holy Spirit will have mercy on you and will come and reside in you if you show faithfulness in your efforts at prayer.
The Holy Scripture teaches: Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). How is this possible for people living in a secular world? If you are to pray all the time, how then are you to perform your other duties? The advice of perpetual prayer is directed not toward outward but toward inner prayer. If desired, you can turn to God internally whether you are alone or with others. Only he who does not want to pray will not find time for prayer.