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Orthodox Prayer - What, Why and How
by Bishop Paulos Mar Gregorios
Part 1: What is Prayer?Prayer is like breathing. Without breathing we cannot love. When we breathe, air enters our lungs, cleanses the blood in our veins by relieving it of the carbon dioxide, and supplying it with oxygen. If I do not breathe for a few minutes I die. When I have hard physical work to do, I need more air than when I am sleeping or sitting in a chair. Fortunately God has so ordained that we do not die spiritually just because we have failed to pray for some time. But when there is no prayer, sin accumulates and the proper functioning of the spiritual life becomes obstructed. And if you have important spiritual work to do, you need more prayer than otherwise. Only those who pray constantly are exercising their spiritual muscles. Prayer is communion or communication with God - opening ourselves to Him and receiving His love. It is by living consciously in this relationship of love that we can be transformed into the image of God. By prayer, we become more like God, more loving, more wise, more powerful, more kind and good. In prayer, we are cleansed of the accumulated impurities of our life and we are supplied with power to live a good, kind and holy life. Prayer is not a matter of asking God for all kinds of things. Some teenagers speak to their earthly father only when they need money. We should not become like them in relation to our heavenly Father - going to Him only when we need something. The relationship is valuable in itself, as in all true love. It is not what we get out of it that matters, but the fact that we are in communion with our Heavenly Father.
Next: Part 2: Why Pray?
Source: "What is Prayer? Why Pray? How Pray? (written for Orthodox young people in India)" pages 76-83 "The Joy of Freedom" 1967 (republished 1986 by CLS, Madras, India)
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