Dear Reader,


            It is with trepidation that we have chosen prayer as the theme for this issue of The Missionary. It is easy to write on a subject where one is expert, but prayer is a difficult topic, in which we can all claim to be but beginners. Some might think that prayer is no one else's business except their own, but many Orthodox Christians living in the West are under a strong media influence, which colours their perception of the world, and imposes it own images of prayer on their subconscious mind. Many fail to realize what a remarkably rich repository of prayer they have within their own Orthodox Church, perhaps thinking that what they see on TV or in a friend's heterodox church is much the same thing. Our ideas are also influenced by our parents and grandparents. Serbian Orthodox children, growing up in the Diaspora, have a wide spectrum of exposure to a life of prayer, ranging from none at all, to occasional visits to their local Orthodox church ‑perhaps for Christmas or Pascha, Baptisrns, marriages, funerals, Slavas, through sporadic outbursts of prayer that arise from an urgent need (e.g. the ill health of a loved one), to regular attendance in church and daily prayer in their homes. This exposure will determine whether they remain in the Holy Orthodox Church (and this, in turn, will determine whether they will remain ‘Serbian’). Many immigrants, old and new, think that teaching their children to be Serbs is paramount, and Orthodoxy only an option. In the end their children and grandchildren will be neither. The proof of this is in the five generations of immigrants and their offspring on this continent over the last 100 years. It is unheard of to find a third, fourth or fifth‑generation Serb, who feels, speaks or calls himself Serbian, but who has forsaken the faith of his fathers, the Holy Orthodox Church.

            Every child will grow to adulthood with at least the need for prayer, and they will fulfill this need one way or another, whether within or outside of the Orthodox Church. Many of them will bear no resemblance to what one would call prayer from an Orthodox perspective. Those of us who grew up in the West are used to seeing various public expressions of prayer: at formal luncheons, the beginning of special events, not to mention the aggressive performances we see from almost every religious denomination on TV and radio. The secular world around us certainly has its own solutions to this 'problem' of Christian prayer. Even within our own churches we often have a minute of silence which is 'offered' as a prayer for the dead, (usually at church meetings). This is an example of how secularism has invaded the Orthodox parish, and is the level of 'prayer' which many schools now practice to keep from offending atheists and agnostics. Surely we Orthodox can do better?! Despite the apparent diversity of these exhibitions of prayer, they all have one thing in common: they depend on and exploit our emotions. This is an easy trap for many of us to fall into. We wish to go to a Church that makes us 'feel good' (not that we should ever feel bad!). Did we get a good feeling from the priest's sermon? Was the singing great or just mediocre? Did the incense smell good? Were the priest and church president warm and friendly after the service? How was the coffee? We might travel from parish to parish each week looking for just the right environment so that we get the right 'feel' from the service. Some Orthodox clerics have labeled these people 'incense‑sniffers'. Yes, these are all very important considerations, but in the end we must confess that what we are seeking  while shopping around for the right parish, is not God's kingdom, but our own self‑satisfaction. Feeling good has nothing to do with prayer. Prayer is not an emotion. If it makes us feel self­satisfied, it may have in fact failed us. Above all, prayer is work. The meaning of the word Liturgy is the work of the people. What makes us brothers and sisters is that we gather together regularly at Liturgy, at the same place, to pray (work) together for our common good. Brothers and sisters recognize one another. After all, they live together in their Father's House. To come to church occasionally or to wander endlessly from parish to parish implies a desire not to participate in this collective work, but only to satisfy one's own momentary emotional needs and desires. No family can exist if its individual members think solely of their own needs, changing spouses and even children until they find just the right ones to satisfy themselves. This, of course, is how the average North American family operates. It is not at all surprising that many Orthodox Christians treat their Church family in the same way. It is only when we pray together that we can feel united. It is no accident that the four C's on the Serbian shield stand in the four corners of the Cross. Political unity has no saving grace. It is only the unity we share around the Cross of Christ which leads to salvation. And prayer is central to this unity.

There are a plethora of questions to be asked: why should we pray at all? to whom are we praying? what are we praying for? how should we pray? what does prayer actually do? does it move God or us? It is impossible for us to answer any of these questions to everyone's satisfaction, however, we are blessed with a multitude of writings on prayer from the authors of the Holy Bible, by the very words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as the writings of the Holy Fathers and Mothers of Orthodoxy.

All of the Orthodox writings on prayer, whether from Holy Scripture or the Church Fathers, reveal a striking uniformity of experience. In the Orthodox Church this experiential aspect of prayer is nowhere better stated than in the saying that one who truly prays is a theologian and a theologian is one who truly prays. Both seek the same end, to know God intimately- to meet our Creator face to face. Both must approach what they do in the same way, whether they have the gift of putting their experience into words as the theologian, or simply living their experience practically in their lives. This is no place for theory, but for action. If our Orthodoxy is not practical, then we are not Orthodox.

Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of the Russian Church suggests that before we embark on a path of prayer, we should sit on a chair in the middle of a darkened room, keep everything out of reach, and try for only 5 minutes to empty our minds of every thought. Do not try to pray. Do not let ourselves daydream. Do not even conjure up any mental images. Most of us who try this will have the same experience - our minds will refuse to be still, images and thoughts will pour in, and the harder we try to expel them, the more we will encounter something we fear and avoid at all cost - boredom. There we sit, for only 5 minutes with no external distractions. We are alone with ourselves, and clearly there is nothing external to bore us. The only conclusion one can reach is that we ourselves are profoundly boring. At the other extreme, we learn from the Church Fathers, is the highest form of prayer: to stand before God with our mind in our heart. These two extremes both point to a space which exists within each of us. Christ calls this space the heart. It is the centre of our essence as humans. Many of the church Fathers metaphorically refer to it as a garden. Deep within us is this garden of the heart, which we as gardeners tend all of our lives in order to let the seeds of Holiness, first planted in Holy Baptism, sprout and blossom. Prayer is our most important gardening tool. Let us fervently pray that one day our

moments of silence will not be filled with profound boredom but with the profound joy of walking with God in the garden of our heart, as Adam once did.

In the following articles and brief quotations, we present our readers with a wide range of materials which we hope will help to answer some of the questions which have been posed, and as guideposts in our life of prayer.


The Editors