Orthodox Prayer

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowèd be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from the evil one:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever.

A man who gives but nature its due and does not let his vain thoughts stray after things outside his needs is not far below the angelic state: he imitates their need of nothing as far as in him lies by being content with little. Therefore we have been commanded to seek only what is sufficient to preserve our physical existence.  So we say to God : Give us bread. St. Gregory of Nyssa, "The Lord's Prayer"

If we acknowledge ourselves to be weak and unwise, to be living in poverty, and if we have a friend, a protector and benefactor who loves us and can do much for us, it is only natural that in time of need we would turn to him with a request to help us.  And the more he loves us the more eager he will be to hear out our requests and fulfill them, the more so if we express ourselves with trust and love.  Everyone knows how much pleasanter it is to assist a person who lays out his need with complete faith than one who is irresolute and doubtful: maybe you can't help, maybe you won't want to; or he begins to give advice: this isn't the kind of help I want, I want this-no other. The pure, spontaneous urge to help someone-a spark of our divine likeness-is extinguished by such distrust or selfish insistence, or we will help him out of a sense of duty, of necessity rather than desire.

Further: having a loving, powerful and wise friend and benefactor, we will turn to him not only with our needs but we will love him in return; we will try to express this love, to thank and praise him.

It is precisely in this way that a Christian relates to God.  We know that He loves us, each of us, each of His creatures, according to His word: if a woman should even forget her children, yet I will not forget thee (Is. 49:15), and, as St. John the Evangelist teaches us: Let us love God, because He first loved us (I John 4:19).

We know that He Who created heaven and earth, Who holds all by the power of His hand is All-powerful, Almighty, Omnipotent.   And we, Christians, turn to Him in prayer, entreating Him concerning all our needs; we bring before Him all the sorrows and dangers that befall us, doing so with complete faith and love, much greater even than a loving son towards his beloved and loving father; not burdening Him with our wants, which are often sinful and senseless, not demanding that He absolutely must send us this or that, but only weeping over our misfortunes and needs, and leaving their relief and fulfillment wholly to His all-good and all-wise will, being certain that He hears us.

As loving children, we not only make requests of God, we also thank Him for His countless blessings, and we praise Him, expressing thereby our love for Him, seeing in Him the fullness of all that is good in the universe.  A person with a mature Christian soul rejoices at each opportunity he has to pray, to express his love for God, just as a person in love relishes every chance to express his love for his beloved.   For this reason the Apostle Paul exhorts Christians: Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17), for this reason many monastics and pious laymen constantly say the Jesus Prayer throughout the day, a short prayer which one can repeat all the time, without tearing oneself away from one's work and daily activities.

The fundamental prayer for a Christian, the model for all prayer is the Lord's Prayer, which Christ Himself taught His disciples.  The Gospel says, One of His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.  And He said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father, Who art in the heavens, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.  (Luke 11:2; Matt. 6:9)

This prayer begins with an invocation of the Lord: "Our Father, Who art in the heavens."  Christ brought us the greatest possible joy, the greatest possible privilege: the right to call God our father, a right which people lost when they betrayed God, violating the commandment He gave.  We call God, "Father Who art in the heavens," not because God lives in heaven.  God is Spirit, He is "everywhere present", i.e., in heaven, on earth and in every place; heaven, which extends over all the earth, is a symbol of all that is highest, and as such symbolizes the throne of God.  So that in saying, "Our Father, Who art in the heavens," we are saying: Our Father, Who is above everyone and everything!

Then begin our appeals.  The first are the words, "Hallowed be Thy name." Every loving son, in relation to a father who possesses every merit, has a burning desire that the name of his father become known to everyone and be glorified by everyone.  Here, the son ought to fear above all lest his father's reputation be damaged in any way on account of him, a son unworthy of such a father.  These are the feelings we express in relation to the Heavenly Father-God, in saying, "Hallowed be Thy name."  Holiness is a quality which incorporates all others.  Therefore, in the full sense of the word, only God can be holy, as the Church sings, "One is Holy, One is Lord..."  People can be holy only relatively, but the more they attain to such holiness, the more in them and through them the name of the Lord is glorified, just as praise given a good son always reflects upon his parents.  It is in this sense, that God's name may be glorified through us, that we make our first petition in the Lord's Prayer. "Thy Kingdom come," we ask in the second petition.  The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17), explains the Apostle.  It is not physical relaxation and bodily pleasures that we must think about, if we are striving towards the Kingdom of God, but about those spiritual benefits of a clean conscience, i.e., righteousness, peace and joy, which the Holy Spirit abundantly bestows. The Kingdom of God will come in the fullness of its power and glory at the end of the ages, when the world will burn in the cleansing fire of God's judgment, and all those dead from ages past will be resurrected; when all lying, all filthiness, all wickedness which fill the world will come to an end, and when Christ and His perfect law will rule throughout the universe.  Each and every Christian soul ought to strive towards this appointed time, exclaiming together with the Apostle: Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

However, the Kingdom of God may be thought of not only as existing in some remote future, at the end of the ages.  With the coming of Christ it already manifest itself in His Church.  The Church contains everything that can be in the Kingdom of God, in all its fullness and immutability.   In the Kingdom of God, which will come after the end of the ages, we will not find anything which does not exist even now in the Church.  And in the Church there is nothing which will be subject to change or which will cease to be with the coming of Christ.  Of course, here we are speaking about the Church not as an organization, but about the Church as an internal, grace-filled organism, about the Church as the Body of Christ, to Whom we are all joined in the Mysteries and from Whom we separate ourselves as a result of sin, reuniting ourselves through repentance.  Christ spoke about this internal, ineffable life of our soul when He said, The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).

And so, in saying, "Thy Kingdom come," we ask the Lord that His Kingdom reign in our souls through righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and that this Kingdom of Christ would be revealed in all the world, that an end come to this oppressive time of falsehood and wickedness.

In the third petition of the Lord's Prayer, we ask that all that we do and all that happens to us occur not as we ourselves wish but as it pleases God. Trust is the basic foundation of prayer.  And we can trust God our Heavenly Father completely, knowing that He is all-good, that He loves us immeasurably, which means that He wishes us only good, and knowing at the same time that He is all-wise, omnipotent and omniscient. We know this not only in relation to ourselves but in relation to our close ones, and in relation to everything dear to us: to our country, our family, our society. Only evil, man's sin, hates the Lord, and all else that is dear to the human heart, and therefore dear to the Lord, just as a mother and father hold dear what is dear to their children.  And for this reason we can and ought, with complete and perfect trust, to submit ourselves and everything dear to us to the will of God.  "That we may commit ourselves and one another and all our lives unto Christ our God."

Our desires, plans, strivings are often unwise, short-sighted, subject to change.  Sometimes we want something very much and succeed in obtaining it only to bitterly regret it.  The example of a past generation of Russians who strove for radical changes in the old regime is apparent to all of us. God's plans, by contrast, are always and infinitely wise. And he who is able to leave everything wholly to the will of God finds absolute peace, perfect tranquility, and preserves this peace even amidst difficult trials, and he rejoices, recognizing sometimes in the muddled paths of the world's destinies or in the blind alleys of his own life the guiding hand of God-God's will.

It was precisely thus that, once and for all, the angels in heaven gave their whole lives over to the will of God, and we ask that it would be the same here on earth, that we all go along the same true path.

Man is composed of body and soul.   Both the one and the other require food. Food for the soul is prayer, while for the body we ask the Heavenly Father in the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer: Give us this day our daily bread.  "Daily", that is, essential, neither too little nor too much.   And the Lord will always grant this.  On the whole, man needs relatively little food for the body.   People suffer more often from an excess of food than from a deficiency.  There is more than enough food on this earth. If people satisfied themselves with what they really needed, there would never be any hunger and destitution among some, and an overabundance-to the point of undermining the health of both soul and body-among others.  There wouldn't be such cruel struggles and wars, because it isn't for their daily bread that people are fighting but for a surplus, for what is excessive, extravagant.

We ask our Heavenly Father for our daily, that is, necessary food, knowing that to receive it we must labor, for if any would not work, neither should he eat (II Thess. 3:10).  But in laboring to receive this food we must not engage our hearts, our cares and anxieties.  Our hearts must be free in order to belong wholly to God, to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Take no thought, says the Saviour, for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt. 6:34).

And elsewhere Christ says, Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind....But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you (Luke 12:29).

In the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer we ask that the Lord forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  The original meaning of the word "debt" refers to our obligation, our duty: everything that we ought and are obliged to do, to think, to say. Our obligations before God are immeasurably great. He is absolute goodness, He created us that we would love what is good, that we would do good and serve good, while we, without any plausible justification, and to our own detriment, incline towards evil.  And in spite of it the Lord gives us here the right to appeal to Him with a request for forgiveness, and He promises to forgive us; He is glad of the opportunity to forgive, just as a loving mother rejoices in the opportunity to make peace with a naughty child, when he asks her forgiveness.

The only condition the Lord sets for His forgiveness is that we should forgive those who have in some way offended us.   Christ indicated the importance of this condition several times in his teachings, illustrating this point in the parable about the merciful king and the unmerciful debtor (Matt. 18:23), and in the words of His Sermon on the Mount: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14-15).  And again: If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift (Matt. 5:23) .

In the sixth petition we pray: Lead us not into temptation.  Our faith and faithfulness to God must be tested, we are bound to be faced with trials, and we must overcome them.  If our will has not been seasoned in the war against temptations, it is not strong; love and faithfulness, too weak to struggle against temptations, have no value.  A father rejoices when he sees his son, because of his love and devotion to him, refuse something which might cast a shadow on his father's name.  A mother asks her child for a taste of a sweet treat he's been given, and rejoices if the child shares it with her, rejoices at the love which the child demonstrates in so doing. A loving and beloved person is happy if this love, when subject to trials, remains steadfast.  Such a love acquires a much greater value, stability and longevity.  Our love for God, i.e., for goodness, righteousness, beauty, whose perfection lies in God, must be indestructible, thoroughly tempered, for it must endure not for a short time but for an endless eternity. Therefore, temptations must come, as Christ said, it must needs be that offences come (Matt. 18:7).

But because temptations give opportunity for falling, for betraying God, a chance that we will not endure in our faithfulness to Him, we must fear such temptations more than anything in the world, for all other fears are mere specters, but this is very real.  Therefore we must pray that the Lord would deliver us from temptations and grant us strength to combat them and vanquish them in His name.

Translated from Besedi o Sviashchenom Pisanii i o Vere by Archbishop Nathaniel, Vol. II; Russian Orthodox Youth Committee, Baldwin Place, NY, 1991
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The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God the Father the All-sovereign,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things, visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of the Father before all the ages,
Light of Light, true God of true God,
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father,
through whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens,
and was made flesh of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man,
and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,
and suffered and was buried,
and rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and ascended in the heavens,
and sitteth on the right hand of the Father,
and cometh again with glory to judge living and dead,
of whose kingdom there shall be no end:

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and the Life-giver,
that proceedeth from the Father,
who with Father and Son is worshiped together and glorified together,
who spake through the prophets:

In one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church:

We acknowledge one baptism unto remission of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come

The Nicene Creed is the definitive statement of Christian orthodoxy.

Origins of the Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed was formulated at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicæa in AD 325 to combat Arianism, and it was expanded at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in AD 381 to balance its coverage of the Trinity by including the Holy Spirit. It is the only creed that was promulgated by any of the seven ecumenical councils and thus it is the only creed that is truly ecumenical and universal. In the Orthodox Church, it is the only creed.

The New Testament and the Nicene Creed are deeply entangled with each other. The wording and the concepts in the Nicene Creed come from the New Testament—in fact, one of the most important debates at the Council of Nicea concerned whether it is proper to include a word in the Nicene Creed that does not occur in the New Testament. On the other hand, at the time that the Church issued the official canon of the New Testament, it customarily compared writings to the Nicene Creed to determine if they were orthodox. So you are correct if you say that the Nicene Creed proceeds from the New Testament, and you are correct if you say that the New Testament is certified by the Nicene Creed.

To put it more precisely, the Nicene Creed and the canon of the New Testament were formed together as part of the same process.

The Nicene Council and the Trinity

The Nicene Council did not invent the Trinity, as some people imagine. A full century before the Nicene Council, Tertullian wrote a voluminous explanation and defense of the Trinity and was viewed by his contemporaries as defending the orthodox Christian faith to nonbelievers. A couple of decades before Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus, bishops at opposite ends of the Mediterranean basin, both taught the Trinity. A half century or more before Irenaeus and Clement, we find Trinitarian teachings in the authentic works of Justin Martyr, who died in 157. At the very beginning of the second century, St. Ignatius, a respected bishop, was martyred in his old age. On his way to his martyrdom, he wrote epistles to the churches along the way, making theological statements that are best understood in the context of Trinitarian theology. Finally, the Didache, an ancient manual of church discipline that could possibly date from the middle of the first century, quotes the Trinitarian formula of Matthew 28:19 in its instructions for baptism.

We can trace the dogma of the Trinity straight back to apostolic times. We have it from the pens of bishops and theologians who were charged with preserving and passing on the faith and who lived all over the Mediterranean basin. From this we can only conclude that mainstream theology in the ancient church before the Council of Nicea was Trinitarian.

The Filioque Clause

In AD 589, a church council in Toledo, Spain, modified the Nicene Creed so that the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father and the Son. (In Latin, and the Son is filioque, so this is known as the filioque clause.) There may not have been any particular motive for this change, because it looks like something a scribe would do to mend the text. It is also possible that the change was intended to strengthen the defense of the Trinity. The filioque clause spread through the western part of the church. In 796, Paulinus of Aquileia defended the filioque clause at the Synod of Friuli, which indicates that it was opposed, and after about 800 it crept into the liturgy in the Frankish Empire. Some Frankish monks used the filioque clause in their monastery in Jerusalem in 807, but eastern monks disputed it as improper.

Protestants inherited the filioque clause from the Roman Catholic Church, but the Orthodox never accepted this change for scriptural, theological, and procedural reasons. Since Canon VII of the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus in AD 431 is still in effect, the Nicene Creed can only be changed by a true Ecumenical Council.

The Importance of the Nicene Creed Today

The Church formulated the Nicene Creed before it selected certain apostolic writings, called them the New Testament, and declared them to be Holy Scripture. Another way of looking at it is that God chose the people who were bound by the Nicene Creed to affirm the contents of the New Testament, thereby endorsing the theology of the creed. The Nicene Creed is therefore a reliable test of our interpretation of the New Testament. If we are at variance with the Nicene Creed, we are in error. So whoever denies the Trinity must also deny the New Testament, and whoever upholds the New Testament as Holy Scripture must also affirm the Trinity.

In the beginning, the Church did not have a formal creed, nor did it have a formal list of the books in the New Testament. Then it formulated the Nicene Creed to express its doctrines and to serve as a test of orthodox teaching. So for a while there was a Church with the Nicene Creed but, even though it used the books of the New Testament as Holy Scripture, it had no official statement saying that they were. After the Church was bound by the Nicene Creed, it made a formal list of the books in the New Testament. Therefore, whoever attempts to reconstruct the ancient Church with an official list of New Testament books but without the Nicene Creed is reconstructing an imaginary church that never existed. This doesn’t mean their church is invalid, it just means that it isn’t a historic reconstruction, because in any part of Church history in which there was an official list of New Testament books, the Nicene Creed was the official expression of faith and the final test of orthodoxy.

For More Insight…

The Nicene Creed was specifically designed to combat Arianism, Manicheanism, Apollinarianism, and Monarchianism (and its variants, Modalism, Patripassianism, and Sabellianism).

Copyright ©2001 by Kenneth W. Collins.
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The Jesus Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

In the First Epistle to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul says: "Pray without ceasing." How then, is one to pray unceasingly? By often repeating the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." By becoming accustomed to this appeal, great consolation and the need to continually make this petition will be felt within, and it will be carried on, as if of itself, within one.

Although in the beginning the enemy of the human race will offer hindrances to this, by causing great weariness, indolence, boredom and overcoming sleep, having withstood all these with the help of God, one will receive peace of soul, spiritual joy, a benevolent disposition towards people, purification of thought, and gratitude towards God. In the very Name of Jesus a great and graceful power is present Many holy and righteous people advise repeating the Jesus Prayer as frequently as possible; without interruption. It is necessary for everyone, whether eating, drinking, sitting, serving, travelling, or in doing anything, to ceaselessly lament: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" in order that the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in descending into the depths of our hearts, may humble the serpent of destruction, and save and enlighten the soul.

St. Seraphim of Sarov: " 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' Let your attention and instruction be centered on this. Walking, eating, standing in church before the beginning of the service, continue with the prayer; on entering and departing keep this prayer on your lips and within your heart. In such a manner, with the invocation of the Name of God you will find peace, you will attain to purity of spirit and body; and the Holy Spirit, the Origin of all good, will make for Himself a dwelling within you and will guide you in all piety and purity."
Bishop Theophanes the Recluse: "To more conveniently become accustomed to remembering God, the fervent Christian has a special means, namely, to repeat ceaselessly a brief prayer of two or three words. Mostly this is 'Lord, have mercy.' or 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' If you have not yet heard of this, then hear it now, and if you have not done it, then begin from this hour to do it."

Those who have truly decided to serve the Lord God must train themselves in the rememberance of God and in unceasing prayer to Jesus Christ, saying mentally: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Through such activity, and by guarding oneself from distraction, and with the preservation of peace in one's conscience, it is possible to draw near to God and to be united with Him. For, according to the words of St. Isaac the Syrian, "Except for unceasing prayer we cannot draw near to God" (St. Seraphim of Sarov). Fr. John of Kronstadt also counselled frequently the use of the Prayer of Jesus.

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The Prayer of the Last Optina Elders in Russia

Lord, allow me with a calm heart to welcome whatever happens to me in the upcoming day. Allow me to completely immerse myself into Your holy will.
During every hour of this day - guide and uphold me.

No matter what news might come my way, allow me to accept it with a calm heart
and the complete knowledge that everything happens in accordance
to Your holy will. Guide me in everything I say and do.

In every unexpected instance, do not allow me to forget that everything is
sent down by you. Teach me to honestly and wisely interact
with each member of my family, not to embarrass or offend anyone.

Lord, allow me the strength to bear the burdens of the upcoming day,
guide me safely through whatever might happen to me today,
take control of my will and teach me to pray, to have faith, to
hope, to endure, to forgive, and to love. Amen.

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Prayer for a Woman with Child

O Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ our God, the Source of life and immortality, I thank Thee, for in my marriage Thou has blest me to be a recipient of Thy blessing and gift; for Thou, O Master, didst say: Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth. I thank Thee and pray: Bless this fruit of my body that was given to me by Thee; favor it and animate it by Thy Holy Spirit, and let it grow a healthy and pure body, with well-formed limbs. Sanctify its body, mind, heart, and vitals, and grant this infant that is to be born an intelligent soul; establish him in the fear of Thee.

A faithful angel, a guardian of soul and body, do thou vouchsafe him. Protect, keep, strengthen, and shelter the child in my womb until the hour of his birth. But conceal him not in his mother's womb; Thou gavest him life and health.

O Lord Jesus Christ, into Thine almighty and paternal hands do I entrust my child. Place him upon the right hand of Thy grace, and through Thy Holy Spirit sanctify him and renew him unto life everlasting, that he may be a comminucant of Thy Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

O All-Merciful Christ our God, look down and protect me, Thy handmaiden, from fear and from evil spirits that seek to destroy the work of Thy hands. And when my hour and time is come, deliver me by Thy grace. Look with compassionate eye and deliver me, Thy handmaiden, from pain. Lighten mine infirmity in the time of my travail and grant me fortitude and strength for birth giving, and hasten it by Thine almighty help. For this is Thy glorious work, the power of Thine omnipotence, the work of Thy grace and tender-heartedness. Amen.

My most gracious Queen, my hope, O Mother of God, the joy of those in sorrow, help me, for I am helpless. Intercede thou and pray thy Son, Christ our God, that He lighten for me this season while I am with child, and that He ease the burden of heaviness of me, this unworthy handmaiden, and bestow His blessings upon the child to which I am giving birth. For I know no other help save thee, no other hope save thee, O Mother of God that will guard and protect me and my child. For by thine intercession and help we send up glory and thanksgiving for all things unto the One God in Trinity, the Creator of all,
now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

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Preparatory Prayers for Confession

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Preparatory Prayers for Communion

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