Prayer as Standing in God’s Presence

Moses standing in prayer

“First, then, to worship or to pray is to stand before God. Note immediately the wideness of St. Theophan’s definition. To pray is not necessarily to ask God for something; it need not even be to employ words, for often the deepest and most powerful of all prayers is simply to wait upon God in silence. But whether we are worshipping with words, through symbols and sacramental actions, or in silence, always our underlying attitude is the same: we are standing before God. To stand before God: this implies that worship is an encounter meeting between persons. The purpose of worship is not just to arouse emotions and to produce appropriate moral attitudes, but to enter into a direct and personal relationship with God the Holy Trinity. ‘As a friend talking with his friend,’ writes St. Symeon the New Theologian, ‘we speak with God, and with boldness we stand before the face of Him who dwells in light unapproachable.’ Here St. Symeon briefly indicates the two poles of Christian worship, the two contrasting aspects of this personal relationship: God ‘dwells in light unapproachable,’ yet we human beings are able to draw near ‘with boldness’ and to speak with Him ‘as a friend talking with his friend.’ God is beyond all being, infinitely remote, unknowable, ‘the Wholly Other,’ the mysterium tremendium et fascinans. But this transcendent God is at the same time a God of personal love, uniquely close, around us and within us, ‘everywhere present and filling all things’ (Orthodox prayer to the Holy Spirit).” (Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Inner Kingdom, pp 59-60)

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