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Archbishop Stylianos of Australia

On Prayer

Εκδόσεις Αρμός, Μαυροκορδάτου 7, 106 78 Αθήνα

2) The sense of the need and value of prayer.

It would no doubt sound strange and perhaps unbelievable, but it must be said -because it is true- that the power and value of prayer are already given and in essence brought together even before one begins to pray. From the moment that one simply senses the need to pray, a mystical law begins to operate, thereby placing the human person in direct communion with God, and it is precisely on that point that the sincerity and authenticity of prayer is found.

If we look carefully at the passage from the first Epistle of Peter which we have placed immediately under the heading of this text, we shall see that, before giving the salvific exhortation: "be serious and watchful in your prayers", the Apostle places the categoric statement: "the end of all things is near". This statement is the summarised evaluation of the faithful person who sees with great anxiety how quickly the "form" of this world passes by. All things come to an end in this world, and very quickly at that. Ιn the midst of such instability and general changeability, it is only natural that people should want to "grab hold" of something. There is a wise saying in Greek which expresses precisely this need for support in one tragic phrase: "a drowning man grabs on to his hair". The urge for self preservation and survival is so intense, that even one drowning, who no longer has any hope of being rescued, will grab onto his own hair!

We must however confess that the sense of changeability in this world is not enough to create the need for prayer. From the instability and transient nature of the world one could have the same likelihood of being led to complete desperation, or even to suicide. This is why it is necessary to have basic faith in the existence of God, so that one can feel the possibility of "refuge", if not the "call from above" to address one's Creator. The need for prayer is then born out of the changeability of the world only when one knows and recognises that the "constant" called God is always available.

Here we must add that the person of faith, in the face of the instability and transient nature of this world, suddenly feels that the time remaining to take care of one's salvation has been "mutilated". This is why the prayerful request to God is firstly that He may "make haste" to save us. Especially when we call upon the intercessions of the Virgin Μary, the feeling of the brevity of time is expressed more urgently. Thus, in the well- known hymn "Unashamed protection of Chrίstians", three intense verbs in the form of optative-imperatives are used to emphasise the need for a speedy intervention: "Come quickly in your goodness", "be swift to intercede" and "make haste to supplicate". The same feeling is expressed in the characterisation "Swift to hear" used in reference to the Virgin Mary.

One could consider both elements, namely the insecurity brought by the changeability of the world and the security which is found by faith in the existence of God, as being "presuppositions" of prayer. Ιn actual fact, however, it is only the motivating factor. Simply feeling the need to pray does not mean that you already have the secure presuppositions for your deep spiritual request to function properly. These presuppositions are ensured only by a conscientious activation of all our psychosomatic powers simultaneously, as we shall see in the next part.

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