By H.G. Dr Geevarghese Mar Osthathios
The canonical prayers are written down in all the ancient churches, but silent prayers and extemporaneous prayers have also their place in the orthodox traditions. Prayer is communion with God alone or in communion with the church.
Written prayers are an aid to prayer as they are very rich in their contents and were written down by people of greater spirituality than ourselves. Mechanical repetition or parrot-like recitation of written prayers are not what is expected of the faithful, but slow praying with real concentration. Prayers are in the mother tongue in the major Orthodox churches. Written prayers prevent us from our natural tendency to be selfish in submitting our own needs before God without a penitential heart. We are allowed to write down our own prayers for our own discipline and spiritual growth.
The written prayers are full of contrition, praise, intercession and invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. They have many allusions to the Holy Spirit. They give us a sense of the unity of the church. While we pray the written canonical prayers we are in solidarity with the saints of all time and all places who have prayed the same prayers.
There are also written prayers for special occasions like visitation of the sick, house visitation, birthday celebration, wedding anniversary etc. Those who have the ability and grace to offer brief and appropriate extemporaneous prayers are not forbidden from doing so.
We must cultivate the habit of both canonical and extemporaneous prayers in in addition to silent meditation which is of ultimate Importance. In all our prayers there must be adoration of the Holy Trinity, the overflowing love towards Jesus Christ, our Savior, the power of the Holy Spirit, Who teaches us to pray.
It is better to use written prayers when large number of people are worshipping and extemporaneous prayers in small groups in small fellowship meetings. As St. Paul says, 'all things must be done decently and in order' (I Cor. 14: 39).
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