St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church
A parish of the Orthodox Church in America
What prayer means
by Fr. Silviu

The ones who came before us left us many insights into prayer, in the Scriptures and outside of the Scriptures. One of the earliest and, arguably, most common definitions given to us is: prayer is a conversation with God. This is a great insight into the nature of prayer, indeed very powerful. In a way, it is a blow to the way in which we usually do prayer. Because, let me point out, in order for us to have an actual conversation with someone, it is neccesary for us to stop talking, so that the other person can also speak. Moreover, we can only hear our interlocutor only to the extent to which we ourselves do not speak. So, paradoxically enough, we need to quiet down, to stop talking, to stop shouting our demands to God, in order for us to hear God. This is why—as many elders have pointed out—a person of prayer is a person who leaves behing his wounds and desires, those life experiences which make us talk, as much as humanly possible. A person of prayer moves away from being a person focused on himself to being a person focused on God. This is why, as the blessed apostle Paul points out, prayer is essentially something different from entrities, intercessions, and even thanksgivings (1 Timothy 2:1). Ultimately, in all these, as much as we are oriented toward God, we are nevertheless still fundamentally aware of ourselves, of what I need to ask, of what I need to give thanks for. And true prayer moves beyond all such things, into a singular focus on God. If you wish, true prayer begins when I actually dialogue with God because I stop speaking constantly, and is complete in a divine monologue, in a divine speech, when I no longer speak at all, but God only speaks to me. This is the substance of the Jesus prayer. In it I mute myself in front of Christ, by finding myself as one without power, without significance, without life, and by finding Him as Lord, as God, as Savior. In it I do not even ask to be saved, because that, too, is revealed to be ultimately a selfish desire, but I only unveil myself as someone who has no salvation in himself. This is only possible by coming to the proper relationship with my life, particularly to my ineptitudes, my sufferings, and to the fact that I die. By doing so, as Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra says, 

The moment we accept death, true life can begin. Only by means of death can one «trample down death», and so attain to resurrection. Thus, depending on how the psalmist confronts the problem of suffering, God will be either his savior or his executioner. Again, the secret to his freedom does not lie in the rejection of his sufferings, but in his joyful acceptance of them. He will be truly free only when he lets go of wanting to be free from his sufferings, for all freedom and all life depend on our being in the right relation to God. When he accepts his death; when he allows himself to hear the sound of his footsteps descending into the grave, he will find that death no longer has a hold on him, for now he is with God. The darkness will vanish and he will see only light. (Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Psalms and the Life of Faith [Athens: Indiktos, 2015], 140)

Therefore, our prayer is not a petition, it is not our speaking to God. Our Orthodox prayer is our hearing of Him, which can only happen in our dying to ourselves. Spiritual life is the key here, and spiritual life is not a program of success, but a loss, the loss of our own selves. 

Mailing Address
St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church
PO Box 667
Pharr, TX 78577
704 W Sam Houston
Pharr, TX 78577
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