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Liturgical Prayer

Litur­gi­cal prayer is not sim­ply the prayers of indi­vid­ual Chris­tians joined into one. It is not a cor­po­rate “prayer ser­vice” of many per­sons togeth­er. It is rather the offi­cial prayer of the Church for­mal­ly assem­bled; the prayer of Christ in the Church offer­ing His “body” and “bride” to the Father in the Spir­it. It is the Church’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Christ’s per­pet­u­al prayer in the pres­ence of God in the King­dom of heav­en. (cf. Hebrews 7:24–25, 9:24) The mod­el of litur­gi­cal prayer is in the book of Rev­e­la­tion, and not in the gospel events of Jerusalem or Galilee.

In the Ortho­dox Church there is no tra­di­tion of cor­po­rate prayer which is not litur­gi­cal. Some con­sid­er this a lack, but most like­ly it is based on Christ’s teach­ing that the prayer of indi­vid­u­als should be done “in secret.” (Matthew 6-.5–6) This guards against vain rep­e­ti­tion and the expres­sion of per­son­al peti­tions which are mean­ing­less to oth­ers. It also pro­tects per­sons from being sub­ject­ed to the super­fi­cial­i­ties and shal­low­ness of those, who instead of pray­ing, mere­ly express the opin­ions and desires of their own minds and hearts.

When a per­son par­tic­i­pates in the litur­gi­cal prayer of the Church, he can only do so effec­tive­ly to the extent that he prays by him­self, at home, and in his own mind and heart. The one who “prays with­out ceas­ing” is the one who offers and receives most in litur­gi­cal prayer.

When one par­tic­i­pates in the litur­gi­cal prayer of the Church, he should make every effort to join him­self ful­ly with all the mem­bers of the body. He should not “say his own prayers” in church, but should pray “with the Church.” This does not mean that he for­gets his own needs and desires, deper­son­al­iz­ing him­self and becom­ing but one more voice in the crowd. It means rather that he should unite his own per­son, his own needs and desires, all of his life with those who are present, with the church through­out the world, with the angels and saints, indeed with Christ Him­self in the one great “divine” and “heav­en­ly litur­gy” of all cre­ation before God.

Prac­ti­cal­ly this means that one who par­tic­i­pates in litur­gi­cal prayer should put his whole being, his whole mind and heart, into each prayer and peti­tion and litur­gi­cal action, mak­ing it come alive in him­self. If each per­son does this, then the litur­gi­cal excla­ma­tions become gen­uine and true, and the whole assem­bly as one body will glo­ri­fy God with “one mouth, one mind and one heart.” (See Wor­ship, Litur­gy of St. John Chrysos­tom)