The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Now, these are devout men, always in the synagogue, up to the temple regularly, and they knew the ways of their religion. They heard prayer all the time. But still they ask, “How do we pray?”
The answer was the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven… I had to memorize it in Greek in seminary; I can’t recite it all the way through anymore, but it was a good spiritual exercise. Most of us memorize the Lord’s Prayer at an early age, if we are raised in the church. It’s a good thing to do, for there are times in life of such dire need of prayer that we can’t even think, we can’t even respond, and the prayer the Lord gave us is always there for us. People will spontanteously join in if we say it out loud. It is the greatest comfort in times of trouble, and the Lord Himself left it with us. Many, many theologians have written on the Lord’s Prayer. I don’t think it needs a lot of explanation. People sometimes wonder about “lead us not into temptation,” but this simply means, “Don’t abandon us when we face the tough times for the soul.” That’s why it’s followed by “and deliver us from evil.” This is more accurately translated “save us from the Evil One.” It specifically means Satan, not just the accidents of life that lead to pain and inconvenience.
Prayer is the Christian’s strongest weapon against sin and evil. It puts us in the presence of God. With the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we turn to God, sometimes run to God, in prayer. In times of great turmoil, whether physical or spiritual, “Lord, save me!” is more effective than a mouthful of fancy words.
The Apostle Paul tells us, “Pray without ceasing.” Keep a word of prayer always in thy heart. The Jesus Prayer is meant for this unending prayer. It goes on in thy heart while thee is doing other things. And it will call thee to silence in the midst of noise, solitude in the midst of hurry. It becomes the prayer of the breath – as natural as breathing. Some of the prayer practitioners attempt to make it integral with breathing, but this seems forced to me, an esoteric practice. Let the Prayer be what it is, and work within thee for peace.
The prayer cap is a symbol of unceasing prayer. When are we not praying? And doesn’t a woman cover her head in prayer, to show that she is under the headship of Christ? (Remember that this is a privilege and a gift of glory; even bishops must uncover at the altar, but not women. They remain veiled as Moses was veiled, to keep in sanctity the glory of God.) So the prayer covering is her symbol and reminder of everlasting prayer.
Prayer is an attitude, a state of the soul. It is the natural state of the Christian. It can be conscious, as when we deliberately in voice and attitude turn to God with our thanksgivings and petitions, or unconscious, as our souls reach out to the Eternal Light that nourishes them as the sun nourishes plants.
The Lord hears our corporate prayers, the prayers the church sets before us to guide us and keep us safe from heresy (in theory, at least.) The Lord hears silent prayer, and heartfelt prayer, and the simplest prayer offered in a half-second. Christians don’t need testimonials about prayer being answered. We know that our living and breathing is a gift of God. All things come from God, even those things we do not want. Prayer is not about petitions, asking for what we want. That is baby prayer. As we mature as Christians we pray “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And that is enough.