“Prayer is a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God. St. Silouan identifies love for God with prayer, and the Holy Fathers say that forgetfulness of God is the greatest of all passions, for it is the only passion that will not be fought by prayer through the Name of God. If we humble ourselves and invoke God’s help, trusting in His love, we are given the strength to conquer any passion; but when we are unmindful of God, the enemy is free to slay us.”
Archimandrite Zacharias in The Hidden Man of the Heart
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess. 5:17
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men ought always to pray and not lose heart.” St. Luke 18:1
“Watch, and pray always…” St. Luke 21:36
I can think of nothing that more clearly illustrates the reality that prayer is communion with God than the commandment to “pray without ceasing.” Were prayer mere communication – sharing information with God – or pleading – asking God to do one thing or another – the commandment would seem excessive. Only if prayer is living communion with God does it make sense to strive for unceasing prayer. The commandment to “pray always” is tantamount to saying: “Live!”
Orthodox tradition has most often sought to obey this commandment through the unceasing use of the Jesus Prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (or shorter versions). The quiet repetition of this prayer is not some effort at the creation of a Christian mantra – but rather remaining present to God in a state of repentance.
I had the interesting experience last Sunday in the Liturgy of having completed a sermon that was concentrated on the mercy of God. No sooner was the sermon finished than I returned to the altar to begin the Litany of Fervent Supplication whose response is a triple “Lord, have mercy.” I was struck by the fact that this was the prayer of the heart of the Church. Its repetition throughout the day is a union with God and also a union with the Church.
Indeed prayer is the sound (whether spoken or not) of God within us. For according to Scripture: “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father’” (Galatians 4:6). Thus prayer in its most perfect form is Trinitarian – the Spirit praying in the name of the Son to the Father: it is the sound of God within us.
Fr. Thomas Hopko tells the story of his leaving for seminary and his mother’s advice: “Go to Church. Say your prayers. Remember God.” Clearly a wise woman.