Prayer - Part 6

On the Law of God
The Model of Christian Prayer

by Saint Philaret the Confessor

For Orthodox Christians, the model of prayer is, of course, the “Our Father”
(the “Lord’s Prayer”). If we look at its composition and content, we see
that, externally, it is divided into three parts: invocation, seven
petitions, and a glorification. In its inner content, it can be divided into
three common parts: the main one, which encompasses an invocation and the
first three petitions; the petition about daily bread; and, three petitions
about our personal sins.

What is the foremost thing about which a Christian must pray? About that
goal for which we must strive most of all: the Kingdom of God and His Truth.
We see that this is the first part of the prayer. In appealing to God as the
Heavenly Father, an Orthodox Christian testifies that our true fatherland is
not on earth, but in heaven. “Our abode is in the heavens,” the Apostle
firmly says.

In this appeal to the Father, a Christian prays that God’s name be hallowed,
both in the personal life of each of us and in human history. It is
especially hallowed when we Orthodox Christians, through the example of our
own lives, lead unbelievers to glorify the name of our Heavenly Father.
Further, we pray that the Kingdom of God be manifested on earth. Observing
life, we see in it a constant struggle between two principles: light and
darkness, truth and falsehood, good and evil. When we see this, we cannot
but pray that there will be a victory of light over darkness and that there
will be a triumph of God’s Kingdom - the kingdom of Truth and Good.

In the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God’s will be
fulfilled in man’s life in the same way that it is fulfilled in the Heavenly
world. The Christian conscience is aware and firmly convinces us that not
only is it our duty, but it is real wisdom and the truth of life to submit
to God’s will. The Heavenly Father knows what is beneficial and necessary
for each one of us, and through His infinite love and goodness, wishes us
good and salvation even more than we desire it for ourselves. Therefore,
Apostle Peter says, “Cast all your cares on Him; for He cares for you” (1
Pet. 5:7).

The fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer is the only one which deals with
bodily needs. We also turn to God and ask for all that is necessary for
bodily life...

The fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer concerns forgiveness of sins. In
this petition, as elsewhere, in His teaching, our Saviour makes it clear
that an indispensable precondition of our receiving forgiveness of sins from
God is our own forgiveness of our neighbors. But how often this petition is
spoken falsely! We read, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,”
while in reality, we neither forgive nor forget, but are offended and
conceal vexation in our heart, and even a desire for revenge. Therefore,
each time a Christian repeats this petition, he must consider whether he has
forgiven his enemies and offenders. If not, how can he expect forgiveness
from God for himself?

The two last petitions, the sixth and seventh ones, speak of one thing: the
causes of sin. At first we ask that its embryos be removed from us, that is,
that we be delivered from enticements and temptations, and then that we be
delivered from the evil one, that is, from the root of all sins, Satan.
People usually fear external misfortunes: failures, illnesses, poverty, etc.
Christianity teaches us to be more fearful for our immortal soul. “Do not
fear those who kill the body but cannot harm the soul,” our Lord said, “but
rather fear the One Who can destroy the body and the soul...” Concerning
external misfortunes, particularly trials and persecutions endured for the
Faith, our Lord said to those who suffer them, “Rejoice and be glad, for
great is your reward in the heavens.

It is not external misfortunes and poverty that the Orthodox Christian must
fear, but rather he must fear his own sins and falls. Everyone knows how
much we become accustomed to sinning, literally sinning at each step and at
each moment of our life. Sin is a violation of the Truth of God’s Law, and
the result of sin is suffering and grief. The Lord’s Prayer instills in our
hearts a great aversion to these spiritual evils, so that while humbly
confessing our weakness and inclination toward sin, we ask God to preserve
us from falling into sins and to deliver us from the evil master of sin -
the devil.

At the end of these seven petitions, there has been added a solemn
glorification of God’s power, authority and glory.* This glorification of
God’s grandeur contains a filial expression of unwavering and clear
conviction that everything we ask for will be given to us from the love of
the Heavenly Father: for His is “the kingdom and the power and the glory,
unto the ages of ages. Amen.”

The Lord’s Prayer is not the only prayer of glorification, however. There
are prayers which are purely and simply glorifications, such as “Praise the
name of the Lord” or “Holy, Holy, Holy...” We do not use them as often, but
they are representative of the endings of our prayers, especially in the
Divine Services. Prayers of glorification must be seen as especially
elevated, for in them, we express Christian love for God and bow before the
Most High.

The third aspect of prayer is thanksgiving. Quite understandably, a
Christian who loves God and knows of His love, mercy and benefits cannot but
experience feelings of thanksgiving in his heart. The most important prayer
of thanksgiving is the most important Divine Service - the Holy Liturgy. Its
main part, referred to as the “Thanksgiving (Eucharistic) Canon” begins with
the words, “We thank the Lord...” And the pure, bloodless sacrifice, a
sacrifice of truth, a sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ which is
given us in the Holy Communion, is fulfilled by Christ Himself, by His Grace
and almighty power, and it is only received by us, with a devotion of
thankful love. This is why in the most important moments of the Liturgy, the
priest solemnly exclaims, “Thine Own of Thine Own, we offer to Thee, in
behalf of all and for all,” while the faithful respond with the hymn of
thanksgiving, “We hymn Thee, we praise Thee, we give thanks to Thee, O our

* The words, “For Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory...” are not
part of the Lord’s prayer as such, but a liturgical response to it, included
by the Evangelist. The fact that it appears in the Gospel shows how old the
Liturgy is.




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