The Duties of a Layman to Pray

One of the remarkable things the Lord has taught this the first of sinners, is to always pray and pray for those around us. The first prayer we ought to pray is the Jesus prayer, because this prayer is clearly in the will of the Father, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” There are times to pray this prayer specifying the sins one has on ones’ conscience. For example:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner, the glutton.

 Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner, the prideful.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner, the arrogant.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner, the ravenous.

Orthodox pray this prayer continuously or as often as possible. And there are times when, conscious of those around us, we can pray this prayer as a sort of introduction for those around us. By this is meant we realize we are ourselves unworthy to pray for others. We realize we are truly nothing but flesh and blood and bones filled with sins. But we are the only thing around that can call out to God in this place and time, so we call out for help of other Saints so that many might be gathered together to intercede for those around us.

 We realize that as God grants us mercy when we so ask, for He is Love and this world is ordained for mercy, we have an opportunity to access the Queen and righteous person who is Mother Mary, the Mother of God and our spiritual Mother.

And in this the prayer in the West, slightly pre-schism, is “Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.”

By accessing the Son and Lord, the King, we ask humbly to approach the righteous Mary, ever Virgin. In that moment, we bring ourselves boldly to the Mother with our neighbor in silence, in our heart.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen

In so doing, we ask for the prayer of Mary for “us sinners”, plural. And here we combine and bind all together into the Church even those outside of the Church. Our prayer is to bring all to Christ.

Many people in this horrible modern world do not have others who pray for them. We can silently, stealthily pray for others in our heart, not seeing ourselves as worthy so to do, but to approach God’s mercy, Christ’s mercy, and then the mercy of the Mother.

Our prayer is not in arrogance, though we may be prideful, ravenous, gluttonous, and even arrogant sinners.  Our prayer is away from our passions and to the Mother for others with others. 

Praying both of these prayers together, the Jesus prayer and the Hail Mary, are very powerful. It is a sort of spiritual 1-2 punch. It keeps our hands up to our face in a spiritual sense, as we have sinned and we ask for Christ mercy. It delivers a blow to demonic forces by the NAME of Jesus, for in the name of the Lord shall we destroy them. And then we pray with the most righteous fully human person, Mary, whose prayers avail much. For Mary is alive and not dead. Now we have two persons praying for a third, and someday at the hour of their death, perhaps a third person praying with us so that Christ is present; “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Now the western Church has another jewel that follows Holy Scripture with exactitude. When in crowds, or perhaps in vigils, we can pray decadal patterns of these prayers in sets of 10. Since most of us have 10 fingers, or ten toes, this is pretty easy to do. Before we start however, we can pray “Our Father” as the Lord commanded, with the 10 natural phrases matching the 10 commandments. And if we pray 15 decades with 3 introductory ‘Hail Mary’ prayers, and punctuate the decades with ‘Our Father’, we will pray 17 ‘Our Fathers’ and complete the great catch of Peter, 153, in a day.

These can be prayed over the course of a day, semi-continuously. For the introductory ‘Hail Mary’s’, one ought to pray for all of those one has sinned against in any way shape or form, and for all that might hate us or persecute us. This way we get covered when we pray. It sets our heart in the right sort of place where we put off the old man with his passionate grudges, and put on the new who is as a little child and cares nothing for the worries of adulthood.

How often one forgets the reality that one is better in the back of the Church as a publican, than in the front as a Pharisee![1] The Jesus prayer reminds us we are publicans, while the act of praying with Mary asking her righteousness on “us sinners” makes us closer to actual human beings.

Not everything in the West or from the West is wrong. There is a beauty in the Rosary and Rosary pattern, and it seems the Mother of God has graced our Western Catholics with things we ought to appreciate while remaining true to the Holy Gospel with precision.

However, it is important at this juncture to remind of the dangerousness of Roman Catholicism before discussing the beauty of some of their tradition further.

[1] Luke 18:9-17

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