This short article deals with an answer to the question shown below.
“Which kind of prayer do you need to practice more often – praise, petition or repentance?”
This is a question people ask very often. There are differences of opinion about the form of prayer to practice more often. The Pentecostal group insists on extemporary prayers only in all occasions, public and private, and they don’t like any written prayers. Other protestant groups may use short version of written prayers with more emphasis on extemporary ones. The Orthodox churches put more emphasis on liturgy and worship that the forefathers practiced and handed down to us for use. The Orthodox liturgy is filled with praises, petition and repentance. First, let us look at the definition of prayer.
What is prayer?
Prayer is a means of communication with Triune God (Holy Trinity). It includes praise, petition and repentance (or asking forgiveness for sins), which make the orthodox prayer and worship perfect. No prayer is perfect without praise and glory to God. No prayer is meaningful to a person without the petition to the heavenly Father for provisions for daily living. No prayer is effective without real repentance of sins and confession of faith. We need them all.
The early church followed the Lord’s command and practiced it in their church life.
The Lord’s prayer is an example of the liturgy with right combination of praise, petition and repentance (St. Matt. 6:9-14).
- “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name” – honor God as holy and worship Him.
- “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”- surrender to the rule of God’s will.
- “Give us this day our daily bread” – petition for our daily needs.
- “And forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors” – repentance and asking forgiveness for sins.
- “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” – Petition for grace and guidance for us as the children of God to live a holy life as our Heavenly Father being Holy.
- “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” – the awareness of God’s kingdom, glory and power, should lead us to praise and worship Him.
Why is emphasis on praise and worship?
Praise and worship is angelic in nature because angels in Heaven are always praising God, saying “God is Holy.” The prophet Isaiah depicts his heavenly experience vividly in his vision: “And one cried to another, and said, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). The four living creatures each having six wings and full of eyes sing the song ‘holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!”, and they sing day and night without ceasing (Rev. 4:8). In worship we join with the heavenly beings to glorify God.
In Orthodox Holy Qurbana the chief celebrant says, “Whom all the heavenly orders, divisions and hosts adore, angels and arch-angels, cherubim and seraphim, thrones and lordships invisible and innumerable, laud and extol with voices unceasing and with tongues ineffable, giving utterances to Thy triumphant glory, praising, shouting, crying and saying”. Then the congregation responds, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, who fills heaven and earth with his glory. Hosanna (praise) in the highest, blessed is He who came and is coming in the name of the Lord God. Glory be to Him in the Highest.”
The Lord is worthy of praise and worship, because He is the creator of all, Father who loves the world and there is none above Him. The creatures and twenty-four elders give glory and they kneel down in front of the throne of the Lord saying “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11).
We ought to worship him because “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num. 14:21). “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).
Petition is a request or memorandum to an authority for something. Prayer is not always just asking favours only, but it is included in the worship. Jesus has given us the privilege to ‘Ask, Seek and Knock’ at His door of grace for blessings (LK. 11:9,10). Therefore, do not need to be shy of asking, seeking and knocking.
Repentance is the state of being sorry or regretful of the wrong doing, without which there is no acceptance before the Holy Lord. Come to the Lord not with the pride of the Pharisee, but with the humility of the Publican who had repented and returned to his home with forgiveness (Lk. 18:9).
Why do we kneel down when we pray? The Lord’s Prayer ends up with “Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever, Amen” (Mtt. 6:13). “Heaven is Your throne and the earth is Your feet”. God is worthy of honor and we should kneel down to kiss His feet. Not only that all the creatures and elders in Heaven always kneel down in front of the throne of the Lord (Rev 4:11). We all need to kneel down when pray except the physically disabled.