We pray to follow Our Lord’s call to us "to pray always and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
The Holy Spirit calls us to "watch and pray.” (Matthew 26:41)
Prayer transforms us. Prayer transforms the heart. Prayer helps us defeat through God’s grace demons, temptations, and worldliness.
For Christians, there are two general types of prayer: Personal or private and liturgical. Personal or private prayer, however, also is ecclesial.
St. Cyprian writes:
"When we pray, we pray not only for ourselves but for the entire people, because we are all one people ... Christ himself, our teacher and master, desired that each would pray for all, as he, having gathering all within himself, brought them to the Father.”
When we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, we pray as a member of the Church and so pray in and for the Church. When we pray, therefore, we participate as Christians in Jesus Christ’s common priesthood.
Our Lord is the teacher of our prayer, but he is also the model of our prayer. In Scripture, we witness how he prayed in the desert, as a solitary, with the apostles, and throughout his life, even up to the moment of his death.
When we pray as Christians, we pray to the Father as Our Lord taught the apostles. The Church Father Tertullian calls the Our Father the “epitome of the whole Gospel.”
Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky writes:
“If we pray in a properly Christian way we cannot say more than what is contained in the Lord’s Prayer. This is because we cannot desire anything better or higher or more suitable for us than the desire we express in the petitions of the Our Father. The Our Father is the last word in prayer, it is the absolute prayer. We might even say that outside of this prayer, there is no prayer. Everything that is prayer is contained in this prayer.”
With the Our Father, we also pray the psalms, short prayers, the Jesus Prayer, and the Rosary. We pray before icons, and examine the conscience. Through our prayer, we experience silence and may receive the gift of tears.
Christ Our Pascha teaches:
“Our Lord prayed the Psalms ... was brought up on them ... prayed with the words of the psalms even on the cross.”
St. Basil the Great writes:
“A psalm implies serenity of soul; it is the author of peace, which calms bewildering and seething thoughts ... forms friendships, unites those separated, conciliates those at enmity. A psalm is a city of refuge from the demons; a means for inducing help from the angels ....”
As Eastern Catholics, we pray many short prayers:
We greet one another with a short prayer: Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
We make the sign of the cross and reverence the Holy Trinity: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We say many times in prayer and liturgy a short prayer: Lord have mercy!
When we pray for the dead we say a short prayer: Everlasting memory!
Another short prayer we pray is the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. The Jesus Prayer is prayed with a prayer rope that is traditionally made of wool and consists of 100 knots, with every ten knots divided by a bead. Christ Our Pascha includes a method for praying this prayer. A simple method is as follows: Begin with the usual beginning prayers found in Christ Our Pascha and our prayer books. Say the Jesus Prayer on each of the knots. On the bead pray, “O Most Holy Theotokos, Save Us.” Conclude with “Through the prayers.”
The Rosary is not only a prayer for Roman Catholics. Eastern Catholics and Orthodox have prayed a version of the Rosary for centuries. Christ Our Pascha includes a method. A simple method is to begin with the usual beginning and on each of the beads (or knots if you use a prayer rope) pray the Angelic Salutation, "Rejoice, Mother of God, Virgin Mary." This prayer can be found in Christ Our Pascha and in our prayer books.
Examination of Conscience
This is the prayer we should make at the end of the day to thank God for the day and to reflect on how we obeyed and failed to obey the Lord’s commandments each day. Christ Our Pascha contains a method. A simple method is this: 1. Thank the Lord for the Day. 2. Reflect on how you obeyed the Lord’s commandments during the day. 3. Reflect on how you failed to obey the Lord’s commandments. 4. Make a commitment to do better the next day. 5. Ask the Lord for his mercy and for the grace to do better.
Every Ukrainian Catholic and Eastern Catholic home should have at least one icon and hopefully many more. Icons depict images that point to the Lord and include images of Our Lord, the Most Holy Theotokos, the apostles, the saints, scenes for Our Lord’s life, and other scenes from Scripture. In praying with icons, meditate on the image. Let it inspire you to follow Our Lord.
Regularity of Prayer
At the very least, we ideally pray morning and evening every day at a set time. How long should we pray each day? On the night before he died, Our Lord asked the apostles for an hour. They could not pray that night an hour. They slept, and they lost heart. After Pentecost, however, they were changed men.
An hour a day does not seem much for the Lord to ask and for us to give. But our goal as Christians is to pray unceasingly, making our entire day and life a prayer, in answer to Our Lord’s command, “to pray always and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)
Vocal Prayer and Silence
Some prayers we pray aloud, as when we pray the Divine Office or Divine Liturgy with others. Praying aloud when we pray alone may help us defeat distractions. Praying aloud also joins our prayers with the angels.
Praying in silence allows us to hear God’s words. Whether praying vocally or silently, we need to maintain inner attention.
Although we pray in community with others, we need to take time to find, as Our Lord did, quiet places to pray alone. These places of solitude will help us open our heart to Our Lord.
Fasting, and Vigils
Prayer, fasting, and vigils are central to Christian life. Fasting helps us to learn obedience to the Church and self-discipline. Both help us in our efforts to work with God’s grace to defeat demons and temptations. Vigils also helps us with these efforts.
Fasting and vigils help us defeat sin and keep us ever watchful:
Our Lord told the apostles:
“Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hours.” (Matthew 15:13)
“This kind [of demon] cannot be drive out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
St. Basil the Great teaches:
“To the measure that you take away from the body, to that measure you will fortify the soul with spiritual strength.”
Some receive the gift of tears from God when they pray. Those who receive tears have deep remorse for their sins, recognize their own imperfection, and marvel at God’s mercy.
Christ Our Pascha teaches:
“The gift of tears cleanses our spiritual eyes and enables us to see ... the way that God sees.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa writes:
“Tears are like the blood of the soul’s wounds.”
[Notes from our first catechetical talk based on Christ Our Pascha, pages 217-230.]