A Daily Cycle of Prayers
I'm not going to get on here and talk about what my prayer life is or is not. That would defeat the purpose of Matthew 6:6
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But I would like to lay out in this post what a full daily cycle of prayers looks like. Of course, I am speaking as a lay person, here. Monastics have the same structure, but perhaps longer, according to their rule. And I am also writing as a learner. If I make a mistake in what I write, please forgive me and feel free to give me relevant information.
And what I"m laying out here is not necessarily every Orthodox Christian's rule of prayer, but rather a possibility. Something to strive for if one is called to pray in this way.
The most basic rule of prayer consists of Morning Prayers and Evening Prayers. Each of these little prayer services take about 20 minutes to complete. There is also a section of intercessions for the living and the departed that gets added on to Morning prayers.
The first thing in each service in an introductory prayer followed by the prayer of the Publican (O Lord have mercy on me a sinner!), and this is followed by is what is known as the Trisagion Prayers (thrice holy). This starts with a prayer to the Holy Spirit: O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth who art everywhere and fillest all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life come and abide with us, cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, O Good One.
Holy God, Holy, Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us. (3 times)
Oh most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, blot out our sins. Master, pardon our iniquities. Holy One visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name's sake.
Lord have mercy (3 times)
Glory be the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Followed by the Lord's prayer:
then (in the morning prayers):
Come let us worship God our King.
Come let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and our God.
Come let us worship and fall down before the very Christ Himself, our King and our God.
This is sort of the basic introduction to the prayers that follow. These include some morning hymns which call to mind our sleep and rising as being metaphors for this life and our eventual "awakening" to be with the Lord in heaven, and also sleep and awakening being a metaphor for when we were dead in our sins, but now are made alive in Christ.
Psalm 50(LXX translations, that is) (51 in translations based on the masoretic text) "Have mercy on me O God..."
Followed by ten prayers of varying lengths with general theme of "Help me to awaken to the Reality of You, God, and things spiritual and to live for Your heavenly Kingdom.
Followed by intercessions, both personal and general.
Evening prayers: similar structure, minus the penitential psalm and creed. The main theme of the evening prayers are: "Help me not to fall asleep in my sins", and the going to sleep process is a good time to remember one's impending death. Sins are confessed in the evening prayers. There's also an introductory section with the trisagion, followed by some hymns, followed by ten prayers. (Pre-communion prayers have the same lay-out)
In addition to this, it is possible to pray:
First Hour prayers
Third Hour prayers (9 am)
Sixth Hour prayers (Noon)
Ninth Hour prayers (3 pm)
Versperal prayers (early evening)
Evening prayers (aka Compline)
Prayers before sleep.
I'll talk more in detail about the general structure of each of these little services, how they can be conflated, if one so desires, and provide some more links in future posts.
For now, here is the complete text of Orthodox Morning Prayers
And here is my favorite out of the 10 prayers:
Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ:
O my plenteously merciful and all merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and become incarnate so that Thou mightest save all. And again, O Saviour. save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee. For if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty; yea, Thou Who art great in compassion and ineffable in mercy. For he that believeth in Me, Thou hast said, O my Christ, shall live and never see death. If, then, faith in Thee saveth the desperate, behold, I believe, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Let faith instead of works be imputed to me, O my God, for Thou wilt find no works which could justify me. But may my faith suffice instead of all works, may it answer for, may it acquit me, may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory. And let Satan not seize me and boast, O Word, that he hath torn me from Thy hand and fold. But whether I desire it or not, save me, O Christ my Saviour,! forestall me quickly, quickly, for I perish. Thou art my God from my mother's womb. Vouchsafe me, O Lord, to love Thee now as fervently as I once loved sin itself, and also to work for Thee without idleness, diligently, as I worked before for deceptive Satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.