For What Should We Pray? (II)

This is the 27th blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.”  The first blog is “Why Pray?” and the previous blog is For What Should We Pray?

Christ the Servant washing His disciples’ feet

Prayer does not inform God about our needs.  Rather prayer establishes and maintains our relationship to our Lord, God and Creator.  It shapes and forms us. Prayer does not change God into our servant ordering Him to do our will, but teaches us that we the servants and He is the Lord upon whom we depend.

“… they consider praying unnecessary; they say that God knows everything without our asking, and forget that it is said: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’  (Matt 7:7).  Our requests (prayers) are necessary expressly to strengthen our faith, through which alone can we be saved.”  St. John of Kronstadt  – d. 1908AD, MY LIFE IN CHRIST, p 13)

Prayer serves to teach us our relationship to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Prayer is not necessary for God, but is necessary for us for it defines both ourselves as humans and also our relationship with our Creator.

In prayer, we can bring up to God our most basic needs in life.

“When you wish to eat or drink, call on the name of the Lord, and ask a blessing of Him for your food and drink, saying, ‘Lord, bless.’  And think here that you will taste and enjoy the good things of your Lord.  For everything that is God’s is good, as was said above, The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof (Ps 23:1).”   (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk – d. 1783AD, JOURNEY TO HEAVEN, p 82)

We can also ask for the greatest spiritual blessings.

“In one place it is said that the Father ‘will give good things to those that ask Him’ (Matt. 7:11); elsewhere, that He will ‘give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him’ (Luke 11:13). From this we learn that those who pray to God with steadfast faith in these promises receive not only remission of sins but also heavenly gifts of grace. The Lord promised these ‘good things’ not to the righteous but to sinners, saying: ‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him?’ (Luke 11:13). Ask, then, unremittingly and without doubting, however poor your efforts to gain holiness, however weak your strength; and you will receive great gifts, far beyond anything that you deserve.”  (St. John of Karpathos (7th Century?), The Philokalia, Kindle Loc. 9127-37)

Prayer, even when we are not sure what words to say or what our real needs are, does place us in the presence of our Lord.  Conscsiously acknowledging the Lordship of God and standing in his presence is the beginning of communion with the Triune God.

Metropolitan Philaret (d. 1867AD) of Moscow taught this prayer:

“O LORD, grant that I may greet the coming day in peace. Help me to rely on your holy will at every moment. In every hour of the day, reveal your will to me. Bless my time with all who surround me. Teach me to treat whatever may happen to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all. In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all is sent by you. Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it will bring. Direct my will. Teach me to pray, and pray yourself in me. Amen.”   ( Prayer Book – In Accordance with the Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church ,  Kindle Loc. 159-64)

Next:  For What Should we Pray (III)