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Prayer with Non-Orthodox


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#1 Kostandin

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Posted 23 April 2015 - 04:37 PM

Dear All Orthodox Fathers (Priests), Brothers and Sisters: Christ is Risen!

 

I have some questions on the prayers with my non-orthodox friends.

 

Sometimes I participate in meetings with non-orthodox people. (Non-Orthodox in the sense that they are not

members of the Orthodox Church, but they are Trinitarian believers, but protestants )

During these meetings, we can study the Bible and sometimes we pray, if someone asks to pray (let's say if someone from

them is sick or has a family member that is sick). Or we may sing songs to Glorify the God.

 

But in the recent years, I have read (and also my Spiritual Father has said to me ) that we must not pray

with heretics, also I have read that this may be considered a self-excommunication from the Orthodox Church.

 

(Honestly speaking, I am not in peace to call them heretics - even within my mind -  because they call me brother,

so I feel that this is a disgusting word to use for them, but as the matter of fact, they are not members of the Orthodox Church.

They are not baptised, or baptised from any protestant pastor)

 

I am trying to avoid these meetings, but I could not do it completely because they are my friends and ask me to go

and meet them for this. I love them and I cannot abandon them.


So I am not in peace abandoning them, but, knowing these cannons of the Orthodox Church, I am not also

in peace praying with them. This is creating very much trouble within me and I do not know what to do.

(I feel sometimes, temptations from Satan, asking me to abandon all..even Orthodox Church and Non-Orthodox groups...

and to live in sin. But I try to avoid such temptations and ask help from my Lord).

 

In order to summarize I need some help from you in order to know what to do with this situation

 

Thanks!



#2 Phoebe K.

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Posted 23 April 2015 - 06:48 PM

hi,

He is risen indeed,

 

I can understand your dilemma as I came in from a non-Orthodox tradition (I just celebrated the second anniversary of my baptism) I still know many people who are not Orthodox and live in a non-Orthodox household, my Godmother also had issues in this area.  

 

Firstly we must make a destinction as some of the father (especially some of the more modern ones) between Heritics (those who have known the truth and gone another way) and the Heterodox, (those who have never known the truth or the full teaching of the Gospel) as there is a distinction in this.  We must witness to the truth with both but it is done in differing ways.  With the Hetitics the Church is clear that we must avoid them as they are excommunicate, but we must pray for their return.  With the Heterodox we must take a more gentle line as the fathers did converting those who had only heard the Aryan version of the Gospel in parts of nothan Eroupe, in that they preached and lives the true Gospel and thus brought the people to the true faith.

 

It is a delicate subject and those who are well grounded in the Orthoodx faith with the blessing of their Spiritual father can attended meeting of those outside the church on the bases of witnessing to the truth and engaging in apologetics for the Orthodox faith, that is presenting the Orthodox view of the matter at hand.  This however is not a calling many have.

 

If they are not baptized in any form they cannot fully be called Christian or heretic/hetrodox, but rather must be regarded as those seeking the truth, and with those who are in that situation we as those enlightened by our Baptism and Crismation have a duty to show and when they ask tell them the true Gosple while always praying for them to come to faith.

 

When it comes to praying at the same time as them (I will not say with as we pray in a way which is different to that of the Protestants) the advice I was given by my Chatichist was that if for some reason I had to be in that situation (a family wedding, funeral or the like) was to say the proper Orthodox Prayers.  My feeling would be in this situation the Jesus Prayer would be very apropreate, and if it is one of those situations were everyone says a prayer having a small stock of Orthodox prayers written out from which you could read the one appropriate (the chose of which ones to use would need to be careful as many Protestants have issues with praying to our Lady or the saints).  If it is a short bit of Prayer before something else excuse yourself to go to the loo or the like for a few minuets.  Also do not be embarrassed to do things like Cross yourself with them, this can a witness to your beliefs and may be a opportunity to explain why you do so (make sore you are confidant in explaining this before hand though).  If it is possible to avoid the prayer centered meetings it would probably be best, and let them know why you do which might make them interested in your faith more.

 

When it comes to hymns there are some of our festal hymns which are easy to sing in English and can be very profound (if you had recordings of these on a CD or device so that you could contribute them to a session of hymn singing).  Likewise knowing what the Church teaches about the most popular passages of Scripture can be helpful (having something like St John Chrysotoms homilies on the Scriptures can be a helpful too, if you have to say why you look to someone elce to understand refer to the story of deacon Philip and the Ethiopian in acts, we all need help understanding the scriptures).

 

If they are your friends there is no reason you could not invite them to one of the Orthodox Services, Vespers of Vidule would be an Idea, or a service which your Church dose in the week or a Sunday liturgy, so they can see how we worship.  This would be in one way emulating Philip in calling Nathanuel, and could well bare much fruit if they are really seeking to be open to God.

 

You are dealing with the temptation you (and all of us) get sometimes in the right way, you reject it and run to the Lord though our Lady to can be a place of refuge in storms of this life, this is what the fathers of the desert say to do and for most is the sensible way to deal with it, if the thought pesters you a lot reveal it to your spiritual father for his prayers are important in the struggle too.

 

I hope this may be of help, I can only speak from my little experience and what I have read of the fathers.

Phoebe



#3 Lakis Papas

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Posted 23 April 2015 - 07:49 PM

We, Orthodox Christians, are together in the same physical and spiritual place, in the Church, as a single and indivisible and authentic body of Christ.
 
The participation in other groups of religious orientation and in prayers should not detract us from our original inclusion in Lord's Body. Are there any spiritual reasons for our participation in these heterodox groups? 
 
Perhaps the reasons are emotionalPerhaps, there we find companionship and friendly atmosphere and we feel that we share with these people common thinking and common morals?  If someone can not discontinue his participation in heterodox congregations he should try to understand what is the reason that prevents him from leavingMost often the reasons are neither dogmatic, nor spiritualProbably, the reasons are humanitarian: friendships are created, the sense of companionship is strong, valuable human bonds are createdpeople are sharing interesting compassionate feelings and create ties of solidarity and of true friendship. All these are very precious human elements that one has strong and reasonable hesitation to renounce
 
Such guileless participation in heterodox congregations creates conditions of spiritual disarmament. We solve our spiritual problems and our social and personal deadlocks with substitutes. Sometimes the Orthodox parish life fails to offer the social life and the spirituality that we expectI think many Orthodox face similar dilemmasThe problem is mainly pastoral and should concern priests and bishops. But it is not only the substitution of solutions to psychological and humanitarian problemsThe heterodox congregations replace the Church in ecclesiastical level - and this is a very important aspect.
 
One of the main problems of participation in heterodox groups is the syncretism and secularism. Then, prayer is secular, church becomes our own achievement. We do not  participate in the Church, but in a secular church. The rules are right: we must not engage in heterodox congregations.


#4 Ben Johnson

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Posted 23 April 2015 - 11:17 PM

Dear All Orthodox Fathers (Priests), Brothers and Sisters: Christ is Risen!

 

I have some questions on the prayers with my non-orthodox friends.

 

Sometimes I participate in meetings with non-orthodox people. (Non-Orthodox in the sense that they are not

members of the Orthodox Church, but they are Trinitarian believers, but protestants )

During these meetings, we can study the Bible and sometimes we pray, if someone asks to pray (let's say if someone from

them is sick or has a family member that is sick). Or we may sing songs to Glorify the God.

 

But in the recent years, I have read (and also my Spiritual Father has said to me ) that we must not pray

with heretics, also I have read that this may be considered a self-excommunication from the Orthodox Church.

 

(Honestly speaking, I am not in peace to call them heretics - even within my mind -  because they call me brother,

so I feel that this is a disgusting word to use for them, but as the matter of fact, they are not members of the Orthodox Church.

They are not baptised, or baptised from any protestant pastor)

 

I am trying to avoid these meetings, but I could not do it completely because they are my friends and ask me to go

and meet them for this. I love them and I cannot abandon them.


So I am not in peace abandoning them, but, knowing these cannons of the Orthodox Church, I am not also

in peace praying with them. This is creating very much trouble within me and I do not know what to do.

(I feel sometimes, temptations from Satan, asking me to abandon all..even Orthodox Church and Non-Orthodox groups...

and to live in sin. But I try to avoid such temptations and ask help from my Lord).

 

In order to summarize I need some help from you in order to know what to do with this situation

 

Thanks!

Go ahead and pray with them.  When they see how the Orthodox pray, perhaps some will become interested and visit your Liturgy.



#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 07:04 AM

Since posts #3 and #4 offer contradictory advice, which is not helpful to Kostandin, I would weigh in and say that what Lakis says at post #3 represents the position of the Church - we are not allowed to pray with heterodox and heretical people any more than we could participate in their sacraments (if they have them). This does not mean that we do not love them, it does not mean that we abandon them in the sense that we pray for all, but praying with such involves joining ourselves with them and that we cannot do. I suspect that Kostandin knows the answer to his question inasmuch as he says he is not at peace in praying with these people.



#6 Father David Moser

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 03:10 PM

let us clarify a few things:

 

heretics:  Yes, heterodox Christians are indeed heretics - that is they hold a Christian belief that is at odds with the Orthodox faith (which we proclaim in our own prayers to be the "true faith" - see the hymn after communion in the liturgy).  Heretic is not a "dirty word" or a "curse" or some kind of insult - it is a statement of fact - these Christians, however well meaning they may be, however nice they may be, however "inclusive" they may be are outside the Church.  At the very least these protestants will generally deny the sacramental nature of the Church, the visible nature of the Church and the authority of Holy Orders (that is the authority of the priesthood to administer the sacraments).

 

praying with heretics: Praying with someone is vastly different than praying in the presence of someone or praying at the same time as someone. When we pray with someone, taking their words as our own or agreeing with their words as our own, we enter into their prayer, we pray with them.  The ancient saying, "lex orandi, lex credendi" applies here.  It means as we pray, so we believe.  If you enter into the prayers of the heretics, you embrace their heretical beliefs - even if those beliefs are not explicitly stated in the prayer but implicitly a part of the form and structure of the prayer (and if you don't you become a hypocrite and liar by confessing as a belief that which you do not believe).  Either way, it is not a good idea (and yes, sinful).  You cannot remove yourself from every time and place where such prayer occurs and so it is best to learn the Orthodox prayers that have been given to us so that they become your own prayers, issuing forth from your heart without the need for written words.  The Jesus prayer is a good start; the Trisagion prayers are also easily memorized.  Look to the Psalter, the Divine Liturgy and others.  Even the simply prayer "Lord have mercy" is appropriate in nearly any situation - repeat that prayer if nothing else (this is especially good in situations where people are expressing their concerns for others in their form of intercessory prayer.  You can take the same concerns and simply offer the prayer, "Lord have mercy" committing the whole situation to God's providence.)

 

Participating in heterodox or "nondenominational" prayer meetings/Bible studies:  While there is a significant "feel good" element here about being around other people who accept you for who you are (unlike God who accepts you where you are and then expects you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him), one must be extremely careful in such participation.  The "feel good" element is like the bait of a trap - it masks the danger lurking behind it and lures you further in until you are caught up in that danger.  (I'm not saying your friends are the one's doing the trapping - the devil has set the trap and you are all victims together).  If you tacitly approve of the trap by knowingly walking in and pretending that its all OK, then you facilitate their captivity (even if you manage to escape yourself). 

 

You say that "During these meetings, we can study the Bible and sometimes we pray, if someone asks to pray (let's say if someone from them is sick or has a family member that is sick). Or we may sing songs to Glorify the God."  When you study the Bible, do you all sit around and say what you think the Bible means or maybe share what a particular passage has meant to you?  Do you accept the authority and teaching from someone who is teaching a different doctrine of that given by the Church?  Not good in either case.  To the first (what I think the Scripture means) I have to provide the response of a dear friend (a hieromonk well known to some of the old timers on this forum - Fr A) "The Church doesn't care what YOU think, we have the revelation of Christ and 2000 years of Holy apostolic Tradition to tell us what is true!"  So if you are "studying the Bible" are you learning what the Father's teach about the Bible or are you wallowing around in your shared ignorance.  Or perhaps you are using a book or study guide from some protestant teacher or preacher who is invariably teaching a "different Gospel from  that which you have received from (the Church)" (2Cor 11:4)  If this is the case, then you are allowing yourself to be led into heresy.

 

Prayer for others we already covered - on to "singing songs".  What are spiritual songs, hymns, if not prayer.  There is a lot of heresy disguised in the words of a song and it just kind of "slips by" out of our mouths without so much as a second thought.  Only sing those songs which are given you by the Church.  Remember that the whole of our services are sung ((they are a series of songs or even one long song) and the purpose of the things that we sing is to convey the true faith, to teach us the Orthodox faith.  If its not an Orthodox song - then best not to sing it.

 

Finally you said "But in the recent years, I have read (and also my Spiritual Father has said to me ) that we must not pray with heretics, also I have read that this may be considered a self-excommunication from the Orthodox Church."  So now you compound an innocent error (that of attending a prayer meeting) by willful disobedience to your Spiritual Father - thinking that you know what is better for your spiritual life than he.  Disobedience is nothing more than self willed pride and such pride is the root of our separation from God.  A side note here on "self acting excommunication" - there is no such thing.  Excommunication must be imposed by the Church on a person - and so we cannot excommunicate ourselves apart from actively renouncing the Orthodox faith.  However a person can put himself in a place where he is susceptible to excommunication, and it is this state which is often referred to (mistakenly imo) as "self-excommunication"  The path is still open for one to repent and even when repentance is slow, the Church will hold the door open for one to correct his ways as long as possible.

 

So, stop being a self-willed disobedient spiritual child, intent upon walking into the devil's deadly trap because it feels good and the people are all so nice.  Be an Orthodox Christian, which is to say, be obedient to the instruction and practice of the Church and especially to that of your spiritual father.  It is not easy to work out your salvation, but the more your strive, the more God will pour out His grace upon you to help.

 

Fr David Moser



#7 Kostandin

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 04:08 PM

Thank you Father David, Phoebe, Ben Johnson, Reader Andreas for your advices. I appreciate your thoughts and your time for answering my questions.



#8 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 05:38 PM

But will you heed what Fr David said?



#9 Ilaria

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 06:10 PM

Dear Constantin, you said that you feel disgusting to use such a word - heretics - about your friends; however, I would suggest to take a look to the other side of the situation: in the Orthodox Church we honor and venerate the Mother of God, while those who we call heretics do not; furthermore, sometimes, they even distort the truth about her virginity, which is offending, even from the Evangelical point of view only.


If you honor and venerate the Mother of God, if you love her as your own mother, how would you feel when someone is offending her in such a way? If someone would say about your own mother things which would be offending, will you accept this, as part of the relation?

 

Therefore, I would suggest that you should reconsider the approach and separate the friendship from the spiritual relation with them. 



#10 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 06:43 PM

Perhaps it may be said that the unease which Kostandin feels at offending his acquaintances is emotional, but the unease he feels at praying with them is spiritual. Obviously, the spiritual unease is much more important, as Fr David so clearly explains.



#11 Lakis Papas

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 08:12 PM

If a married person is engaged in an intimate relationship with another person, is it possible to sustain two relations at the same time?

This is called digamy. It is a very difficult situation.

#12 Kostandin

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 03:56 PM

The only thing I can say for the moment is that I would request you all to pray for me in order God may enlighten me to make the proper choice.

 

I would never exchange the sweetness of Orthodox Church with anything else in the world...but out of love I do not want to abandon those people. They always ask me to be with them, to pray with them, for them, etc... I feel that Jesus would have never abandoned such people, although they might have some doctrinal errors.

 

Also, if they say something wrong against The Most Holy Mother  of God or any Saint, I try to explain them the correct (Orthodox) truth.

 

So please pray for me that God may help me !

 

(something else that confuses me, is :Are-there-saints-outside-of-orthodox-church?

I have opened another thread for this : )

 

http://www.monachos....ch/#entry157811


Edited by Kostandin, 27 April 2015 - 04:01 PM.


#13 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 04:24 PM


The only thing I can say for the moment is that I would request you all to pray for me in order God may enlighten me to make the proper choice.

 

You have been told in very clear terms what the proper choice is. St Theophan the Recluse says:

 


But love for one's neighbour [and he was talking about Orthodox neighbours] must have its bounds and limits. If you do not keep within the right limits, it may turn you away from the love of God, cause you great harm, and cast you into perdition. You must indeed love your neighbour, but your love must not cause harm to your soul. Watch lest your soul suffers loss in its chief blessing, peace of heart.


Edited by Reader Andreas, 27 April 2015 - 04:24 PM.


#14 Phoebe K.

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 05:41 PM

I would suggest that a balance you can make which keeps the faith and dose not fully abandon your friends is to not share in the meetings which focus on religious things, you will probably find it needful to explain why to them.  In this you would be keeping what your Spiritual Father has said, and disobedience is one of the things which robs of us of peace of heart.  You could still meet up with them for a coffee or something socially, so as not to compleatly cut them off but not to be put into a position which is not healthy for an Orthodox Christian.

 

We have to foucus on our own salvation first, then others will come to the knowledge of the Truth too, as St Seripham says, "acquire peace and thousands around you will be saved."



#15 Father David Moser

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 02:06 PM

In the end this is not a question to be resolved by a group on the internet - it is a question that must be given over to one's spiritual father and then to abide by his direction.  Go back to your spiritual father, explain all that you have said and learned here and then ask for his guidance.  And then do as he instructs.  That is the "right choice".

 

Fr David






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