Since the Triodion is a special time to prepare us for Great Lent, and Great Lent will have a greater focus on prayer, I thought this week I would talk about prayer. Once I was asked, “Can we pray for people who are not of the Christian faith, for example for the healing from a sickness?” When I was considering this question, it occurred to me that we should speak about prayer in general since it is a central part of our Orthodox Christian Life. The simple answer to this question is, “YES, we should pray for people who are not Christian,” but why we pray might be a better question for us to ask. For that we turn to the New Testament witness.
Christ Himself addressed the topic of prayer several times within the Gospel, mostly in the context of the act of praying. He was either praying or telling His followers to pray...
Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5.44)
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. (Matthew 26.41)
Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10.2)
Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21.36)
When you pray, say: Our Father.... (Luke 11.2-4 see also Matthew 6.9-13)
Who should we pray for? EVERYONE
What should we pray for? SALVATION, MERCY, and PEACE for EVERYONE
Where should we pray? In the depth of your heart, sometimes alone and sometimes with others.
When should we pray? ALWAYS be in a state of prayer
Why should we pray? Because it brings us closer to God and each other
There are times for personal private prayer, and there are times for communal public prayer. We need both to fulfill our spiritual journey to God. If we only pray in the privacy of our secret place, we run the risk of wounding the unity of our Christian family. If we pray only when we come to Church, we run the risk of temptation from the sinful world that surrounds us.
I always suggest using an Orthodox Prayer Book instead of saying random prayers. This practice helps us in two ways. First, it helps us learn the language of prayer since an Orthodox Prayer Book is a compilation of prayers written by Holy Saints. Second, it helps us learn to pray without a selfish motivation. In other words, when we use an Orthodox Prayer Book, we use the right language and ask for the right things. Left to our own words, we are more likely to pray for the wrong things for the wrong reasons.