Therapeutic Medicine

prayer as medicine

The Medicine found within the Holy Orthodox Church

by Abbot Tryphon

One medicine for the heart found within the Orthodox Church, is the use of a “Prayer Rule.” This “Rule” is of the utmost importance, for the Prayer Rule helps develop the discipline we all need to progress spiritually. It is one of the greatest of tools, one that has been handed down from the earliest of times. This “art of prayer” comes down from the experience of the Early Church.
Along with keeping the fasting rules of the Church, including the Wednesday and Friday fasts, the Prayer Rule, given to us by our Spiritual Father, Spiritual Mother, or, our Confessor, is the medicine that will help us in our journey into the Heart of God. One basic ingredient in this Prayer Rule, is the Morning and Evening Prayers. I personally prefer the prayers as found in the Jordanville Prayer Book (they can be purchased directly from Holy Trinity Monastery, in Jordanville, New York,) for the language used is the best of English “liturgical language,” and better serves, I believe, the inner life. Common pedestrian language is fine for everyday communication, but formal English liturgical language, when spoken to God, creates the sacred space one reserves for the Lord.

The use of the Jesus Prayer,

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,”

throughout the day, aids us in a most powerful way, to focused on Christ. This prayer is often at the heart of any Prayer Rule, because there is power in the Holy Name of Jesus, and this prayer fulfills Saint Paul’s injunction that we

“should pray always.”

The Jesus Prayer, also known as the Prayer of the Heart, gives us the strength to walk with Jesus, throughout the day, even when driving through heavy traffic, weeding in the garden, waiting for the bus, or sitting in a long board meeting.

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Finally, it is important to remember that the Church, as defined by the Early Church Fathers, is not a religious institution, but, rather, a living organism that is the Hospital for the Soul. Her priests, who first sought therapy, became the therapists. Therefore, the frequent use of the “tools” given to us by Christ, through His Church, are of the utmost importance to assure our spiritual progress. Weekly confession, and the weekly reception of the Holy Eucharist, give us spiritual strength, and enable us to live “in the world,” without being “of the world.”

Lastly, whenever we meet a priest, we should ask for a blessing, remembering that it is not his blessing we are seeking, but the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose priesthood the clergyman participates in. When addressing a priest, or bishop, in a written form, whether by letter, or email, it is a good and pious practice to always ask for a blessing. This can be done, if it be a bishop, by writing, “Master, bless.” If a priest, “Father, bless.” Just before signing your name, “Kissing your right hand, and asking your prayers.” Again, this is NOT about the bishop, or the priest, but ALL about Christ, Whose blessing we seek. It is much the same with the veneration of icons, for when we kiss the icon of a saint, we not only show our love and respect to the saint, as we seek their prayers, but we are kissing Jesus Christ, Who dwells in His saints.

Because Orthodoxy is “wholistic,” in nature, our living out this Faith should not be confined to Sunday morning. If we were a pianist, and made our living playing with a orchestra, we wouldn’t think of going through a week without daily practice, for we’d not be in the orchestra for long. As well, a marriage that is not worked at on a daily basis, is doomed to ultimate failure, for a relationship between two people requires effort. If we expect to have a relationship with God, and would seek to have Him dwell in our heart, we have to treat our spiritual life as something important, and something that we are committed to.

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An occasional Liturgy does not suffice if we expect to grow in Knowledge and Wisdom.


Therapeutic Medicine

About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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