Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Holding to a Prayer Rule


  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 Dan L.

Dan L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 35 posts

Posted 27 December 2012 - 01:34 PM

So I have been a catachumen for about 8 months now and for 6 of those months, I have been doing the rule of prayer in the red prayer book that I got from my parish. For the past few weeks, I have noticed a distinct lack of concentration on my part and find myself halfway through a prayer without even really thinking about what I am saying. If I am struggling with this only 6 months in, how do those of you who have been praying for years keep your mind focused on your prayers? I don't have a particularly long prayer rule, so you would think I would be able to keep my focus, but it has kind of been like driving to work; you get there and barely even remember the drive because you do it so often. I asked my priest and he just told me to pay greater attention. (Which is exactly what I'm struggling with) Any tips by you old prayer pros? :)

#2 Norman George Barber

Norman George Barber

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 14 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 27 December 2012 - 02:04 PM

I am by no means an "old prayer pro" but old yes.
I run into the same problem, what I do is stop, say the Jesus Prayer,
Cross myself and tell satan to go, I do this until I feel I can continue
and then resume where I left off. It does seem to help, but it is hard to stay focused
at times. Hope this helps you

#3 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 27 December 2012 - 02:09 PM

I find that adding prostrations and metanias help. You might try a few prostrations before and after prayers and metanias where crossing oneself is appropriate if you are physically able. I refer to it as prayerobics. If it is possible to light a candle or lampada, this may also help provide some focus.

BTW, in case you are unfamiliar, a metania is crossing oneself then touching the floor, sometimes referred to as a small or lesser prostration or a "bow". You might also try "mixing it up" a bit, adding or changing out some of the other prayers in the book outside of the morning and evening prayers if you don't already.

Another thing that some have found helpful is to have a memorial book (usually just a notepad) marked for different days with various prayer intentions. You might pray for specific people on Monday, pray for the sick on Tuesday, special intentions or other people on Wednesday and so on. This allows you to expand your prayers without becoming overly burdensome and again, adds some variety to help keep focus because you have to think about what day it is.

#4 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 27 December 2012 - 02:38 PM

'The struggle for prayer is not an easy one' says Staretz Sophrony, and our inadequacies and failures give us our sense of spiritual poverty. I was taught that it is good to 'warm up the heart' before prayer in order to dispose one to prayer. This can be by way of spiritual reading, perhaps a short homily, passages from a service text, or the life of a saint. When the heart is thereby readied for prayer we should find it easier to concentrate.

#5 Fr. Michael L.

Fr. Michael L.

    Regular Poster

  • Validating
  • Pip
  • 29 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 27 December 2012 - 03:14 PM

From St. Theophan the Recluse - The Spiritual Life, pp. 146-149.


What can be done about thoughts running about every which way during reading and prayer? No one is free from this. There is no sin in this, but it is out of place. It is a sin when someone willfully develops within himself alien thoughts, but when they run off involuntarily, is there any fault? The fault comes about when somebody who has noticed straying thoughts continues to stray in them. It is necessary to do this: As soon as you notice Your thought wandering off, immediately put it back In its place.


For diminishing the straying of thought during prayer, it is necessary to make an effort to pray with warm feeling. To do this, it is necessary to warm the soul before prayer with meditation and with bows. Learn to pray with your own prayers. For example, the essence of evening prayer is to thank God for the day and for everything that one has met in the course of it, both good and bad. For the wrong which has been done, one must repent and ask forgiveness, promising to make amends the following day; then one prays to God for protection during sleep. Say all of this to God from your mind and from your heart. The essence of morning prayer is to thank God for sleep and revitalizing, and to ask Him to help to do things throughout the day for His glory. Again, say this to Him with all your heart and mind. While you are at it, both in the morning and the evening, make known your vital needs to the Lord, both inner needs and outer ones, speaking to Him like a child: "See, Lord, my illness and weakness! Help me and heal me!" All this and similar things you may say to God in your own words, without using your prayerbook. Maybe this will be better. Try this, and if it works, you may put aside your prayerbook altogether; if it does not work, however, then you should pray with your prayerbook, or else you may be left entirely without prayer.


So that the words of the prayers in the prayerbook take on meaning and warm the heart, you should sit down in your free time, other than the time when you are at prayer, and think out thoroughly the content of the prayers, and become keenly aware of them. Then when you read the prayers during prayer-time, whether in the morning or evening, all those thoughts and feelings which came to you during meditation will be renewed, and they will collect your attention and warm your heart. Never read a prayer hurriedly. Another thing: Try to learn the prayers by heart. This greatly aids undistracted prayer. A prayer must be learned Just like anything else.


Learn to think of God not only when you are standing at prayer, but also at every hour and at every minute, for He is everywhere. From this peace will pour into your heart, giving strength for daily business and a regulating of affairs. Your present desire of drawing closer to God will be completely realized in this way. Just as someone standing in the sunshine is warm, so too is the person who always remembers God.


Add to remembrance of God the remembrance of death and of eternal bliss or damnation. These two remembrances will divert us from everything evil, even in thought, and direct us to everything good, not just for show, but in truth. Some think mistakenly that remembrance of death poisons life. It does not poison life, but instead teaches us to be careful and to abstain from everything that does poison life. If we were to remember death a little more, there would be less confusion in our lives, both personal and collective.


You reproach yourself for pride. Good, very good. Be on the lookout for its appearance and immediately cut it off. Pride likes to do everything for itself, but you are to do everything for the glory of God and the good of others, not thinking of yourself, not having pity for yourself. Indeed, the proud outwardly do most of the very same things that those who are nor proud do, except that they have a different direction and different intentions in everything. Our Job is to redirect these intentions from pride to self-reproach, and then direct our actions in line with this. This must be learned. Learn, learn. Lord give the blessing!
You want me to scold you without mercy. Nothing would come of this. To me, you have been chaste and pure so far. It remains for me to wish that the Lord always keep you the way you have seemed to me; if you are not like that in actual fact, may He vouchsafe to make you so.



#6 Marc J

Marc J

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • 4 posts

Posted 27 December 2012 - 04:28 PM

Greetings, Dan. I try to articulate each word in a manner so that I focus on the specific word. I also try to ensure (and feel) that I am praying from the heart. This helps me to stay on track. When I realize that I am off track, I say the Jesus prayer and ask for focus. I bet that if you really think about to Whom you are praying, that you will remain focused more than not. This works for me and I hope it can help you!

In Christ,

Marc

#7 Dan L.

Dan L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 35 posts

Posted 27 December 2012 - 08:09 PM

Thank you all! Many great suggestions here. I suspect that trying these many ideas will certainly aid me in keeping my focus where it should be.

#8 Jeremy Troy

Jeremy Troy

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 175 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 28 December 2012 - 04:02 AM

It has helped me in the past to say a short prayer in my own words between the prayers in the prayerbook. First of all, pray for whatever it is that your mind is straying to. If it's straying to a family member, then pray for that family member. Next, pray that God will grant you to say your prayers with full attention.

#9 Richard A. Downing

Richard A. Downing

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 240 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 28 December 2012 - 09:56 AM

I'd like to reinforce what Herman said about prayerobics.

My prayer rule is quite long (I'm retired, so this is not a problem), and it is noticable that the tendency for the thoughts to be found to have wandered is greatest at the beginning. I say 'found to have wandered' because that's my experience, I suddenly become aware that I am chanting without thinking, and am thinking of something else - usually something vainglorious.

At one time I found help in imagining myself in a large area full of people - the Saints around God's throne, me right at the back feeling like I'd wandered into a convention for a group I didn't belong to. In truth that is how we are, surrounded by the Saints and Angels, standing with the throng before the Throne. But this is dangerous, because it is not reality, but imagination, and what is to say that I have it right?

Now I use some prayerobics, and say the Seven Bow beginning - it's in some prayerbooks, and then make the sign of the cross and a deep metany before each of my Saints' icons, saying for instance: 'Holy Poemen pray for us" before each. This takes a little time, but because of the Icons it is not possible for the mind to wander. Then I light my candles and stand before the Icon of Christ himself and start my prayers.

The point is that we need to be fully aware that we are, indeed, entering the Throne room, and we do, indeed, find ourselves surrounded by the Saints, and we are, indeed, before the very God who loves us. And that this is where we belong because we are invited.

Now, I'm making it sound like I am very holy, and I'm not. Or that the Lord lets me achieve this prayer very time, and He doesn't. But the few times when it happens is worth all the times when it doesn't.

My Spiritual Father told me that everyone has periods of 'dry prayer' when nothing seems to be happening, and then it's easy for the mind to drift, but to remember that we are surrounded by Saints who pray with us, and they know how to do it right - so ask them to help.

Love,
Richard.

#10 Dan L.

Dan L.

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 35 posts

Posted 28 December 2012 - 07:09 PM

Jeremy, I would like to say that my mind is drifting even to worthy things that I could pray about, but it is usually something stupid like my hobbies or something that I need to do around the house. I did try putting in personal prayers into my "scripted" prayers this morning and that was helpful.

I also added the recommended "prayerobics". I felt a bit silly with those doing them for the first time, but I'm sure that will pass. I only have one small icon right now and my wife is not Orthodox, so she thinks it is a bit strange that I pray standing or kneeling to a mostly empty wall anyways, adding bows and such is going to be even more strange for her. :)

#11 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 29 December 2012 - 01:26 AM

Often our priest when we confess various weaknesses and struggles will make suggestions that are helpful. Usually when we are struggling with our spiritual life this is the best place to turn for advice and prayer, since he is our appointed guide and intercessor. Also since as we confess over times he gets to see the personal pattern of our struggles this can also help his advice be more effectively geared toward where we are personally.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users