This is the 4th blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.” The first blog is “Why Pray? “ and the previous blog is Why Pray? (III).
As we have already seen, prayer is not simply an activity that Christians engage in, but it is a way of life that leads us to union with God (theosis). St. John Cassian (d. 435AD) wrote:
“Such should be our aim: to achieve, already in this life, this breathing in unity as a foretaste of the life and the glory of heaven. Such is the goal of perfection . . . that the whole of our life and all the motions of our heart may become one single uninterrupted prayer. (John Cassian…)” (Olivier Clement, THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM, p 211)
Prayer was and is the means by which God intended us to be in continual communion with Him. The Genesis narrative of the Fall (Genesis 3) however tells us of how our communion with God was broken, and even the nature of prayer changed.
“Prayer, originally, is not the work of man alone. Neither is it performed for his comfort or for the fulfillment of his needs or demands. The greatness of prayer lies in its being the work of spiritual beings in general. It is neither of this age, nor for this age. Thus, if we restrict prayer to the satisfaction of man’s needs and demands or to responding to his pleas in this life, it loses its essential greatness. Through hallowing the name of God, paying homage to him, thanking and honoring him with pure praise, man is transformed into a spiritual being. He thus joins the heavenly host in their transcendent ministry.
However, we ask God for temporal things because we have fallen from our original spiritual status in which we lacked nothing. Although this is alien to the original concept of prayer, God in his graciousness has come down to our level and promised to listen to our prayers when we bring him our needs and complaints, which he knows only too well. He thus assures us that he will never abandon us for our sins and that our tribulations are a matter of concern to him.” (Matthew the Poor, Orthodox Prayer Life, pp 26-27)
Despite the human rejection of a relationship to God as Lord, God has continued to love us and provide us with the means to work toward Him, to seek Him, to cooperate with Him, and to be united to Him in our life time: namely prayer. We experience loss and separation from God through our own sinfulness, but then God gives us hope and attempts to stir in us that love of God which we gave up through selfish pursuit.
God has given us a gift, an antidote to the effects of the Fall. We are not predestined to sin, to continually moving away from God. God has given us the gift of prayer as a means to counteract the effect of the Fall, the temptation to sin, and the fear of death. We can choose to cooperate with God and prayer is our tool to achieve this synergy with the Triune God of love.
“The only means by which you can spend the day in perfect holiness, peace, and without sin, is the most sincere, fervent prayer as soon as you rise from sleep in the morning. It will bring Christ into your heart, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and will thus strengthen and fortify yours soul against any evil; but still it will be necessary for you carefully to guard your heart.” (St. John of Kronstadt, MY LIFE IN CHRIST, p 20)
The answers to the question, “Why pray?”, are varied, but for the Christian, prayer is what constitutes our life. Everything we do is prayer, for everything we do we submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we consciously choose to follow Christ we are already praying. When we on any given day decide to serve Christ in whatever manner, we are offering prayer to our Savior.
Next: What is Prayer?