Book Talk on The Prayer Book (Notes and MP3)

It figures that a priest would pick “The Prayer Book” as his favorite book, right?  Listen as Fr. Anthony makes a case for breathing life into the prayers in the prayer book on a regular basis. One of the many benefits is that it will make the Orthodox worldview (the myth that is true!) real in your life and thus allow you to live more efficiently.  Let us know what you think!
Check out this episode!


What is IN the Prayer Book?

  • Open it up to discussion of the contents.
  • Which parts get used the most often (or SHOULD get used most often)?
  • That’s what I am going to focus on: the prayers (vs. the services and instructions)

Shameless Plug: OrthoAdoration podcast. Morning, Evening, Pre-Communion, Post-Communion, Hours.

Back to the Book: why have a book with these particular prayers in them?

  • Get their answers.

Most obvious

  • Prayer is one of the best ways to develop and maintain our relationship with God. “Reading” these prayers (is reading the right term? It’s not like reading a novel!) does that for us.
  • Prayer is the way we thank God for blessings and ask for His help. These prayers do that well and in the proper way.
  • We CAN use our own words, but these were the words of saints preserved and passed down (and tested and confirmed) through many, many generations (note that they are often labeled according to the saint). These can serve as models even for when we use “our own words.” These prayers teach us how to pray! “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, 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…” St. Luke 10:1-2a).

Less obvious (and this also speaks to REPITITION!)

  • To train our minds.
    • Train the reasoning brain. Teaches us words, phrases, and approaches that pattern our thoughts and responses.
    • Train the passions. For the next ten to fifteen minutes, I am going to focus on THESE things and nothing else. This is a controlled arena; a weight room; a rifle range.
    • Train the nous. Humility, awe, and thankfulness; these are the only rational responses to being a human in the presence of God. More on this as we go.
  • Repetition is so valuable.
    • Music. Requires repetition of scales arpeggios, and practice pieces to 1) learn how the musical world is structured and 2) how to attune your senses and your actions to it; first self-consciously but but over time more automatically.
      • Without this, there is only what one hears… to the extent one’s “ear” is good, one might begin to intuit some patterns… but what about the voice? What about performing? What about composing?
      • This is the way it is with us and our moral actions. We will intuit some patterns from the world, informed and informing our own “conscience”
    • Repetition builds up a reliable pattern. It establishes a healthy order. It builds a wall around our minds to provide a safe place for us to interact with ideas and challenges. We need that sense of order and reliability.

Look at the prayers.

Morning prayers.

In the Name…”

What is going on here? Our first thought on something frames the entire process. Why would the Church teach us to begin with this? Ukrainians often do this three times, just to make sure the point is made. But what is the point being made?

What does it mean to do something “In the Name” of someone else? It is an invoking of their authority. We are exercising a possibility that has been opened up to us through Christ Himself; the one that desires a union with us. This is a powerful presumption and invocation! When you do something in someone else’s name, you had better do it in accordance with their desires and your covenant with them!

God be merciful to me a sinner (x3); God forgive all my sins before You. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, through the prayers of Your Most Pure Mother, of our Holy and God-bearing Fathers and of all the saints, have mercy on us. Amen.

What do we learn here? Who am I? A SINNER. (A sinner with allies!) Who is God? One who sees my sins and has the capability of forgiving me and having mercy on me (and us!). What does He do? Exercise forgiveness and mercy.

  • Forgiveness? What kind; Restoration? Fortitude? Release? Restoration (and, because we are ignorant, forbearance).
  • Mercy? What is mercy? Page 393.
  • Bodily acts of mercy: feed hungry, drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, shelter to the traveler, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead. Prayer relates to these in the sense that it a utilitarian way (we are asking God for these things… and the strength to provide them IN HIS NAME). So we are asking God to provide this kind of mercy to us.
  • Spiritual acts of mercy: convert sinners to righteousness!!!, instruct the ignorant!!!, comfort the sorrowful!!!, bear personal wrongs patiently!!!, forgive offenses!!!, to pray for the living and the dead!!!. God works through the prayers to provide each of these to us and for us (and us in cooperation with Him IN HIS NAME) through the actual voicing of the words of these particular prayers (e.g. he is converting us, instructing us, comforting us, etc.).
    • It would be very strange for us to ask for God’s mercy (e.g. a zillion times in the Jesus Prayer) and not to use the very mechanism he offered to bring that mercy into our lives (i.e. the prayers of the Prayer Book).

God Will Save Me

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.

A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.

When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

If all we are doing is asking for God’s mercy… then we are the same!

What else do we learn? Have to pick and chose some (if this were a seminary class, we could break it down prayer by prayer; MAKE A PITCH FOR SEMINARY).


From the morning tropars (As we rise from sleep we worship You,)… what is the purpose of our arising? To praise God properly!

This is repeated wonderfully in the main prayer of the morning (St. Basil);

As I rise from sleep, All-Holy Trinity, I think You, for through Your great goodness and patience You have not been angry with me, an idler and sinner, nor have You destroyed me in my sinfulness. Rather, You have shown Your usual love for mankind and when I was prostrate in despair, You raised me to keep the morning watch and to glorify Your Power. Now enlighten the eyes of my mind and open my mouth to study Your words, to understand Your commandments, to do Your Will, to chant to You in heartfelt adoration and to praise Your All Holy Name, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen!

What else do we learn here? That we could (should!) be destroyed by our sinfulness; but that God let us have another day. We also ask for the things we need to make the day worth living (understanding and praise).

Psalm 50 (why?!). Creed (why?!).

First (Makarius): I am a sinner (nothing good in Your sight!). Forgive me so I can worship you well.

Two (ibid): offering of song, request for compassion, deliverance from idleness, and request for a sinless day.

Three (ibid). I am trying to do your work (though Your loving-kindness I work “IN YOUR NAME”!) but am under attack from the world and the devil (who?!!!). Asks for help in this because “all my hope is in You.”

Four (ibid). Thanks for the night. Let me do Your will today.

Five (ibid). Let me praise you the way the angels do (who?!)

And so on.

Frequent images: we are asleep and need to wake up. We are sinners who need forgiveness. We are weak and need God’s protection and strength. God is the unchangeable One who does good in the world. God has done good in our lives. Intercessors (e.g. Mother of God; Guardian Angel; patron saint; Holy Fathers).

NOTE: Intercessory prayers with specific names and intents (i.e. the kinds of things most of us “pray for” make up a small portion of our prayers. What does that teach us about how good our instincts are when it comes to prayer?

A couple more random things. The main theme of evening prayers? Repentance, cleaning up, and protection during the night.

What do we learn from Communion prayers? Woman with oil. Woman with issue of blood. Leper. Fire!!! Tears.

Conclusion (don’t get ready to go; my conclusions are Orthodox conclusions; e.g. “Let us complete our prayer to the Lord!”

The Prayers teach us who we are, who God is, and what He does for us. Immersing ourselves in this reality THROUGH PRAYER makes us more intelligent (i.e. our opinions about ourselves and the world are more closely aligned with what is true and useful), peaceful (because the order is designed for perfection… and we are meant to be part of that perfection), and productive (because our thoughts and actions are more efficient).

Who am I? What do the prayers say? What is the proper attitude of such a person when he sees himself “naked”? Hiding (as Adam)? Despondency? Self delusion? No… it is REPENTANCE and HUMILITY!!!

Who is God? What do the prayers say? What is the proper reaction? AWE!!!

What does He do in our lives? What do the prayers say? What is the proper reaction and attitude? THANKFULLNESS!!!