“…I had rather speak five words with my understanding…than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” (1 Cor 14:19)
We wonder how to pray, how to ask God for all of our needs and good desires, and how to speak the best that we can and with the wisdom of a life with God. This is not easy to see at first, not easy at all. First we need to know how to pray, that is the first step. Prayer really means to draw near, from the root of this Greek word for prayer in the New Testament “prosevche.” It isn’t primarily asking, as if God can’t see in advance just what is best for us. What it means is to explore and then practice how to meaningfully pray in a way that draws us close, so close to Him that we become enlivened by Him. This is the first step in speaking with understanding.
The second step is how to trust God enough to really ask Him to teach us how to see all of our needs and good desires enough and rightly to even ask. If we have a real concern, we need to ask, but to ask humbly and with the understanding that He knows so much better than us what is good for us, and when and how to ask. By thus qualifying ourselves as not capable of knowing what is best, and really giving Him our assent that this is so, and so asking Him to teach us how to pray, we have begun to learn the real dependence needed for a lively and proper relationship of ourselves to Him. We need to conform our understanding to His into a healthy relationship.
The third step is to seek the wisdom of the Church and Her Saints to best learn just what to pray and when, from the prayers given in Church, and our prayers at home, and our spontaneous prayers when the need and desire is born in our heart. When our little word becomes connected and conformed to the word of the Church, and the Saints, and to the Fathers of the Church in all of their wisdom, then we can learn more about what these five words to speak with understanding really mean.
Kyrie Iesou Xriste eleison me!
Gospodi Iisus’e Khrist’e pomiluy mya!
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!
The Monastics at St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and at the Convent of St. Silouan
and the Faithful at St. Nicholas Church
and the Staff at Orthodox Byzantine Icons and St. Isaac’s Bookstore.