Personal prayer (I)

12.How many kinds of prayer are there?

If we take into account the person who makes the prayer, the number of persons who attend it, the place and time when it is made then we distinguish two kinds of prayer : the personal prayer and the prayer of the Church or in other words the personal and the public cult.

  1. What means personal prayer?

The personal prayer is the prayer made by every believer alone or with his family with other believers anywhere, anytime read or recited as it is written in a book of prayers or even taken out of his heart.

A prayer of this kind is the one made by the Saviour on the path between Bethany and Jerusalem (Luke 11, 1), the one made by saint apostle Paul on the roof of his house from Joppa  (Acts 10, 9); the one made by the publican in the temple (Luke 18,13); the one made by the holy apostles Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16, 25) and others.

  1. What is the prayer ?

The prayer is the elevation of our mind and will to God. Evagrios the Monk says that `the prayer is the speaking of the mind with God`

For this reason when we speak with God, meaning when we pray, we should draw away from our mind any worry and focus all the powers of our spirit on God. Meaning that the mind should think of Him and the memory should forget about all the earthly things and the heart speaking with Him should rejoice full of love. `Since who loves God always speaks with Him as with as father, drawing away any sinful thought. Only to think about God it doesn’t mean prayer because the demons think about God but they don’t pray.

  1. Why the prayer is followed by some visible signs as the sign of the Cross the kneeling down the prostrations, the raised hands and others?

During prayer we make the sign of the cross, make prostrations, stay on our knees and many others in order to increase our inner piety and make it manifested

  1. How is made the sign of the cross and what we say when we make it ?

The sign of the cross is made in the following way: we bend inside and hold together in the palm the small finger and the ring finger, we unite the tips of the thick finger the index and the middle finger from the same hand and having them united in this way we make the sign of the cross on the forehead, chest, the right and the left shoulder.

Any prayer begins by saying : in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen, followed by the sign of the holy cross. Thus when we say: ` in the  name of the Father` we make the sign on our forehead, when we say `and of the Son` we make the sign on the chest and when we say `and of the Holy Spirit` we make the sign first on the right shoulder then on the left one and we end by saying `amen.`

The sign of the cross is a very old Christian custom, dating from the time of the Holy Apostles. We make the sign of the cross when we say any prayer aloud or in our mind and when we pass, by a church, by a crucifix; when we begin and when we end something or as Tertullian says ( 240): `At every step and deed we make the sign of the holy cross`.

When we make the sign of the holy cross let us meditate at the glorification of the Most Holy One in whose name we make it. Thus we should not make the sign of the cross in a hurry, no matter how hurried we would be by chores.

Depending on the way we make the sign of the cross the other men see what is the place has God in our hearts.

  1. When we make the sign of the holy cross do we make a testimony of faith?

Without any doubt. Making the sign of the holy cross we confess the faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ the Crucified One and the faith in the triune God.

And the sign of the cross reminds us that the Son of God who made Himself man saved us by his crucifixion on the cross. Thus the sign of the holy cross it is somehow a brief teaching of the Christian faith. The Church honors with great piety the holy cross:  three days a year  (on 14 th September, the third Sunday from the Great Lent and 1st of August) are consecrated to honoring the holy cross.

The cross made of wood or metal, nicely worked and adorned is present on every Holy Table and in every church where it is officiated the Holy Liturgy.

In the same time it is present on all the church spires and bell towers and in our graveyards the reposed wait the resurrection of the dead under the protection of the holy cross. The vessels and the holy vestments of the churches are  adorned with crosses. Many churches are built in the shape of the cross and the ecclesiastical books are full of a lot of chants in the honor of the holy cross.

In many places the cross is placed at the water wells and the crossroads and the last fact, which is of great significance: the second arrival of the Savior, when He comes to judge the live and the dead will be announced by the appearance of the sign of the Son of Man in the sky.`(Matthew 24, 30), namely of the cross.

What do we gain when  we make the sign of the holy cross?

By making the sign of the cross we gain God’s blessing, because it crashed the wall of enmity between God and man. (Ephesians 2, 16); the holy cross protects us against  hauntings and against many spiritual and physical evils.

The sign of the cross is by itself a divine blessing and the `blessing brings holiness which chases away the evils and bring the good, says the canon 22 of saint Basil the Great.

  1. The cross protects us of physical harm. The sign of the cross saved from destruction the first born from Israel because the sign made on the pillars and thresholds of the doors beside which the angel of death passed without knocking. (les. 12, 7, 27), prefigured the sign of the cross. This was the sign which healed the people bitten by snakes, because the copper snake risen by Moses in the desert saved people only by watching it  (Num. 31), prefigured the sign of the holy cross (John 3, 14).
  2. The Cross chases away the demons. As the dog runs away of the stick which hit him the devil runs away of the cross which reminds him that he was defeated by it. `The Cross, says saint John the Damascene, is the shield, the weapon and the sign of victory against the devils.` And our Church sings:

`Thou gavest us Thy Cross as a weapon against the devil, O Lord; for he trembles and quakes, unable to bear the sight of its strength.`The sign of the holy cross which symbolizes the cross of Christ protects us of the cunnings of the devil. By this sign the Christians regained their freedom from the pagan domination. In the year 312 the emperor Constantine the Great saw in the sky a bright cross where it was written: `By this sign you will win`

Then he making this sign on the flags and the armies of his caste he won the battle with Maxentius. The expression `by this sign we win!` matches the sign of the cross we make.

Only the mentioning of the cross of Christ chases away the invisible enemies and strengthens us against their schemings.

`No evil spirit will dare to approach you seeing on your face the arms which knocked him down, this shining sword whose deadly blow many had gotten. Many saints used to chase away the bad thoughts from their mind making the sign of the cross and with the sign of the cross the Christians demolished the idols and their temples during persecutions

  1. When must we make the sign of the holy cross?

We can make the sign of the cross anytime especially before and after the prayer when we go to bed and when we wake up, when we get in or out of the house, before we start and after we finish anything especially when the temptation assaults us, in a word in all circumstances.

We make the sign of the cross when we wake up to receive God`s blessing for the entire day. We make it before sleep for chasing away from our mind all sinful thoughts for having a peaceful night. We make it before prayer for being protected of the dissipation of our mind and of the lack of concentration at prayer. We make it before starting work and after we finish it for asking help first from God and afterwards for thanking Him for His help.

Tertulian (160-240) says that the first Christians as those from his time used to make the sign of the cross: before and after work, when entering and exiting, when getting dressed, before sleep, in all our works we make the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Who gets the habit to make the sign of the cross in any circumstances fulfills completely saint Paul’s word:

`Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. `(I Corinthians 10, 31). So let us not be ashamed of the cross of Christ.