Friday, March 19, 2010

The Importance and the significance of Prayer in

Syrian Orthodox Church

Fr.George Varghese Vayaliparambil

Prayer simply means COMMUNICATION WITH GOD. While praying, our Soul, Spirit, Body and Mind unite to praise Lord along with the angels. It is through prayer that we thank God for his mercy upon us, praise Him for his mighty deeds for our salvation, submit our plea for the remission of debts and forgiveness of sins and request for his kindness and grace for our protection.

We can see that prayer has formerly been mentioned in Genesis, chapter 4.

* Genesis 4:26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enoch. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.

Why Should I Pray?
• Prayer Develops Our Relationship with God. If we never bother to speak to our spouse or never listen to anything what they might have to tell us, our marriage relationship will quickly develop a void space in between. It is the same way with God. Prayer—communicating with God—helps us grow more closer and more intimate with God.

* Zechariah 13:9 I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure, just as gold and silver are refined and purified by fire. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'These are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.' "

* John 15:7 But if you stay joined to me and my words remain in you, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted! • The Lord Instructed Us to Pray. One of the simplest reason to spend time in prayer is because the Lord instructed us to pray. Obedience is a natural by-product of discipleship

* Matthew 26:41 "Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!"

* Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

* Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (NIV)
(See also - Matthew 7:7 and 1 Timothy 2:8)

What is the Correct Posture for Prayer?

Is there a certain posture for prayer?
Yes! There is. In the Bible, people prayed on their knees (1 Kings 8:45), bowing (Exodus 4:31), on their faces before God (2 Chronicles 20:18; Matthew 26:39), and standing (1 Kings 8:22). You may pray with your eyes opened or closed, quietly or out loud—however you must be most comfortable and least distracted.

In Syrian Orthodox Church we give most importance to the gestures and postures. Our Liturgy is highly symbolic, so each movements, gestures and postures should be meaningful and appropriate to communicate a particular message.

Usually in public and private prayer we are supposed to stand, by keeping our heel together and the fingers little wide to each side. We can keep our hand tied, close to our chest or can keep it opened like begging to the Lord some times.

The faithful say the daily prayers standing, facing the East direction. A prelate, priest or a senior member of the laity leads the prayer. The sign of the cross is drawn while prostrating in veneration to Lord Jesus Christ at appropriate points in the prayer—in the Trisagion, the Praise of the Cherubim, when the incarnation of the Word is confessed in the Nicene Creed, etc. On days when Divine Liturgy is celebrated and also between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, the sign of the cross is drawn without prostration.

Women must cover their head with veil while praying (1 Corintians 11: 11-15)

How Many times should we pray a day?

Bible teaches that we should pray at all times and do our daily chores with prayer and praise to the Lord. Canonically we are instructed to pray 7 times a day. In accordance with Psalm 119:164, “Seven times in the day have I praised thee for thy judgments, O Righteous One,” the Syriac Orthodox Church set the times for prayer to seven: Evening or ramsho prayer (Vespers), Drawing of the Veil or sootoro prayer (Compline), Midnight or lilyo prayer, Morning or saphro prayer (Matins), the Third Hour or tloth sho`in prayer (Prime, 9 a.m.), the Sixth Hour or sheth sho`in prayer (Sext, noon) and the Ninth Hour or tsha` sho`in prayer (Nones, 3 p.m.). The Midnight prayer consists of three qawme ‘watches’ (literarily ‘standing’).

The ecclesiastical day begins in the evening at sunset. For example, Monday starts at sunset on Sunday evening. Hence, Monday's evening (ramsho) and compline (sootoro) prayers, are actually performed on Sunday in our modern reckoning. Today, even in monasteries, the evening and compline prayers are said together, as also the Midnight and Morning prayers, and the Three, Six and Nine O'Clock prayers, reducing the times of prayer to three. However, the common practice today (except during fasts) is to pray twice a day. Evening prayer starts with the ninth hour (tsha` sho`in) prayer of the previous day, followed by the evening (ramsho), and finishes with the compline (sootoro). Morning Prayer starts with the prayer of midnight (lilyo) followed by morning (saphro), the third hour (tloth sho`in) and noon (sheth sho`in).

Why is prayer 7 times a day?

It is a biblical practice. Psalm 119:164 says, “Seven times in the day have I praised thee for thy judgments, O Righteous One.”

For us Christians, it is the time to meditate the entire Christ events and the passion of Christ’s death and resurrection of our Lord that he performed for our salvation and the time to praise and glorify him.

Praying 7 times a day is obligatory for an Orthodox Christian. Altogether, in 7 times prayer, we recite the “Kaumo” 10 times a day. The Ten kauma is meant for the purification of our 10 senses of action and knowledge. Failure to complete this 7 times prayers and the reciting the kauma is a sin which requires confession. This 7 times prayers are said to be connected with the 7 stages of Jesus’s sufferings on the day of his crucifixion.

Evening or ramsho prayer (Vespers) - Jesus’s body was taken off from the Cross by Joseph and Nicodemos.

Jesus was buried in a new grave - Drawing of the Veil or sootoro prayer (Compline)
Midnight or lilyo prayer - Jesus was caught by the Roman soldiers and taken to the Palace of the High Priests.

Morning or saphro prayer (Matins) - Jesus was questioned in front of Pilate and High priests.

The Third Hour or tloth sho`in prayer (Prime, 9 a.m.) - Pilate gave his verdict to crucify Jesus.
The Sixth Hour or sheth sho`in prayer - Jesus was Crucified
The Ninth Hour or tsha` sho`in prayer (Nones, 3 p.m.) – Jesus’s soul left his body.
Should I Use Eloquent Words?

Your prayers need not be wordy or impressive in speech.
* Matthew 6:7 "When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again."
* Ecclesiastes 5:2 ”Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

What If I Don't Know How to Pray?

The Holy Spirit will help you in prayer when you don't know how to pray.
Romans 8:26-27 ”In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.”

We have the canonical prayer book. All the prayer in it is either taken from the bible versus or recited by the saints and the fathers of the church who are influenced by the Holy Spirit by meditating the word of God.

The Syriac Orthodox book of prayer for routine use is called the shhimo, meaning ' simple [prayer]'. The shhimo has offices for the canonical hours for each day of the week. Each canonical office begins and ends with a qawmo (literally 'standing'), a set of prayers that includes the Lord's Prayer. At the end of the office, the Nicene creed is recited. (When prayers are said twice a day, the Nicene creed is said at the end of sootoro in the evening and at the end of the sixth hour in the morning.)

Various translations of the Syriac shhimo, most of which are partial, have been produced in the twentieth century. The translation by V. Rev. Konattu Mathen Malpan into Malayalam was authorized for use in Malankara by Patriarch Ignatius `Abded Aloho in 1910. This translation was also partial. In that, prayers from the offices of seven days were combined into one for each office for all days of the week. An edited version of the English translation of the Malayalam text, was published by Rev. Dr. K. Mani Rajan in 1992.

Tunes in our prayer

The prayers are intoned as chants or melodies. The melodies are set in the Beth Gazo and chanted in eight modes; the mode for the day is derived from the liturgical calendar. The hymns are sung antiphonally by two choirs (goodo), especially when prayer is said in churches or monasteries. May the Lord receive our prayer and give us remission of debts and forgiveness of Sin and protect us now and forever in both worlds