What is praying? Praying is creatures saying to God, “O God, we desire, and we want what you want. We want your will to be done. We want to be instruments of you. We want to be your servants. We want to be your children. We want to be with you.”
...Fr. Thomas Hopko (Speaking the Truth in Love: Predestination, Providence, and Prayer)
Prayers of the Hours
The following prayers are reprinted from
A Manual of the Hours of the Orthodox Church
published by the Sisters of the Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery, Otega, NY
and are reproduced here with their gracious permission.
We include a link here to their online bookstore.
"Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice."
From ancient times the Church, under both the old and the new covenants, has ended the day with the setting of the sun, beginning the new day by lighting the lamps of evening. As the day comes to a close, believers, together with the Church, stand before God filled with gratitude. We thank Him for the abundant blessings He has granted to us and to all creation throughout the day just past. With the setting of the sun, everything is led towards rest. Many psalms of the Old Testament, including 104 and 141, are dedicated to this Hour. Let us pray now, hymning God together with the whole of creation.
"In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety."
After the evening meal and before going to sleep, let us glorify our Creator. We should thank Him again for the blessings of the day and ask His forgiveness of our faults and negligence. Let us entrust ourselves to Him who created us and sleep in peace, knowing that we are under the protection of the Lord who holds all things in His hands.
"At midnight I will rise to praise You."
When it is possible for us to rise in the middle of the night for prayer, or perhaps impossible for us to sleep so that we turn to prayer, we are able to enter into a long tradition. We find this witnessed to in the Old Testament by the great prophet David. We also find it in the New Testament, there in the jail of Philippi where the apostles Paul and Silas hymned God at midnight, "the prisoners listening to them" (Acts 16:25). This prayer has a particular grace, for while everything is silent and at rest, the soul, which loves God, rises from her sleep, and together with the heavenly realms, the angels, she sends up her praises and thanksgivings. The saints throughout the ages have had much to tell us concerning the particular blessing the soul feels when it prays at this hour.
"O God, Your are my God;
early will I seek You!"
At dawn the believer again rises and seeing the coming of day, the expression of God's abundant love towards mankind and all creation, he or she goes first to God with praises, thanksgivings and petitions, seeking His blessing for the new day.
From the old Israel, Christians inherited the discipline of prayer at set times of the day. The Church, the new Israel, through the life-giving Spirit, established Matins fully as the prayer of sunrise.
"To You I pray, O Lord; in the morning You hear my voice!"
For millenia before the use of clocks, the hours of the day were reckoned from sunrise. We would say now that the First Hour after sunrise corresponds to about seven o'clock in the morning. Our Church prays and asks God to bless the day at this hour. She particularly beseeches God to guard us from everything that could harm us in body or soul. At this time, when the senses are awakening through the material light, she calls for spiritual awakening through the Savior Christ, who is "the true light enlightening every man who comes into the world."
"Take not Your Holy Spirit from me."
At this hour, which corresponds to about nine o'clock in the morning, the believer along with the Church thanks the Heavenly Father for the very rich gift He gave to the Church when at the third hour the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, came down upon the Apostles (Acts 2:16). From that time onward the Holy Spirit ever remains in the Church, guiding, sanctifying and safeguarding it. As we share with every faithful soul this invaluable gift, we thank our God and Father and ask Him never to deprive us of the fruits and graces of the Spirit.
"There they crucified Him. ...It was now about the sixth hour."
Now, even more than at other times, we should join in prayer with the Church, for every soul, delivered by Jesus, ought to have a sense of awe and gratitude. At this hour, corresponding to about twelve noon, the divine drama of our Lord's sacrifice began. At Golgotha, "the place of the skull," Jesus was nailed to the Cross like a criminal (Matthew 27:45 ff.; Mark 15:33 ff.; Luke 23:44 ff.). Do not just shudder, considering the terrible image, but rejoice in the infinite love of God. Give Him grateful thanks, for by this, He has wrought our salvation.
"And at the ninth hour...Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last."
At this hour, corresponding to about three o'clock in the afternoon, the drama of our Lord's sacrifice upon the Cross ended as He gave up His spirit to the Heavenly Father. He had promised His Kingdom to the repentant thief (Luke 23:43). Our Church, and with her every faithful soul observing in wonder, gives thanks and prays to the divine Redeemer, singing of these inconceivable and saving events with appropriate hymns. And so the liturgical day is closed with the joy and fulfillment of the Cross of Christ.
The Prayer of St. Ephraim
Especially during the period of Great Lent, this prayer is used both at the Hours and during any extra devotions. Normally it is accompanied by prostrations, to help bring the body to a feeling of penitence and humility.
O Lord and Master of my life,
do not give me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather a spirit of
chastity, humility, patience and love
to Your servant.
Yes, Lord and King,
grant me to see my own transgressions
and not to judge my brother,
for blessed are You unto ages of ages.