Christian Life Skills: Praying for others
Praying for enemies
The Jesus Prayer
To pray for someone more diligently
A difficult to learn Christian life skill is to pray consistently for others. As in all spiritual and even temporal things, we cannot succeed without God’s grace helping us, but this knowledge should not stop us from, as my dad has said: “using our noodle!” A little practical organization in this area goes a long way, if combined with zeal and resolute purpose.
We all have people we care about, but when we start to pray, the memory of all their names may be elusive. Prayer with attention is hard. If we are struggling to remember names, our attention may be divided, and we may get fatigued.
Keep a list.
The solution is simple! Have a moderate list of people you want to pray for. Note cards are good – they can fit in your prayer book or pocket. Some (like me) prefer to keep a list on the computer and print it out periodically. I have even created a template of “note cards”, four to a side, which is useful for this purpose. After printing, fold the paper in half, and cut or rip the halves. Then do it again, and you have four equal sized note cards.
Keep a small list.
When I was younger, I had huge lists of people – just about everybody I knew, subdivided into all kinds of categories. It was too big for me, and I fell into the trap of not praying for anybody at all on some days when the idea of reading that huge list fatigued me before I started. Remember: “It is better to do a little thing than fail to do a large thing”.
Either keep a small list, with family, friends, your pastor, and your enemies or those who have offended you or disturb your soul in some way. It should not be book size. Some will make a list for Monday and another for Tuesday, etc. If you are that organized, I salute and admire you. The important thing is to have a manageable list of people for each day.
I like lists, because even though I know all my parishioner’s names by heart, it gets very fatiguing to call to mind all their names. I use my diptychs for this purpose.
Have a set time.
If you have a set time to pray for others, you will pray for others. Some suggested times: after morning (better) or evening prayers and during your commute in the car, bus or train (but don’t forget the off days!) When I was in an office I would go outside and walk on some railroad tracks and pray for people. It was a great break from work
Pray for your enemies.
This seems obvious, since our Lord commanded us:
“… Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44)
In my experience as a pastor, this idea does not always occur to us, or we are resistant to it.
It is IMPERATIVE that you pray for your enemies, or those of whom you have any bitterness, towards, remember wrongs, etc. You know the people of whom your soul feels darker and colder and angry when you think of them or encounter them. Listen to your soul! Sometimes this coldness is disguised from us, but if you are attentive to yourself, you will feel when your peace is disturbed by the thought of or interaction with someone. This is always your fault! There is no keeping score here – it does not matter if “he/she/they” were at fault too. You should not dare to disobey a direct commandment of the Lord.
We cannot love as God loves without learning to forgive our enemies. Don’t think of an enemy as only someone that you might come to blows with or are in some kind of open conflict with. Learn to feel the chilling darkness from that dark shadow that blocks out the warmth of the sun from your soul.
It is more important to pray for your enemies, those who curse you, and hate you than yourself or your loved ones. God hears our prayer when it is pure. Bad feelings about others make us impure. It is as simple as that, and besides, the Lord commanded us.
Just do it; make a list of people you have problems with. Don’t write a novel – there is no need to include biographical information!
Pray for these people everyday, simply, resolutely, and even if your prayer is accompanied with anger and clenched teeth.
It is MUCH better to pray and fight against anger than to be angry and not pray. You need to fight off the anger, and the only way is to forgive, and the best way to forgive is to pray.
Do not let yourself be fooled – the snake in the grass that we see is less dangerous than the one we do not see. Just because we do not feel anger when we do not think of someone does not prove anything! Just try thinking of those certain people in your life, and see if you feel any darkness. And then try praying for them – any anger or any kind of darkening of the soul during this time is a sure sign that you must pray for them – for your sake as well as theirs.
How to pray for others.
God knows the needs of all of us. In general, it is best to pray simply. You could say “Lord have mercy on (name)” for each person, or use the Jesus prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on (name).”
Some may want to mention particular needs, but it is best to keep it simple. The intercessory prayers of the church are a good guide. The more specific you get, the more you think, and the less you pray, and there is always a danger that you will sin by judging others.
If you want to pray more intensely for someone, you can use a prayer rope to count prayers, and say, for example, 10 prayers per person. Anything that is easy to count with the rope is a good number. Some ropes are divided into tens; others have a large bead every 25 small beads.
To pray for someone more diligently:
Save, O Lord, and have mercy on Thy servant(s) ________, [bow]
Deliver him (her, them) from every tribulation, wrath and need [bow],
From every sickness of soul and body, [bow]
Forgive him (her, them) every transgression, voluntary and involuntary, [bow]
And do whatever is profitable for our souls. [bow].
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
New Journal entries, homilies, etc. are on our BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime
Journal Archive: http://www.orthodox.net/journal
Blog posts & local parish news are posted to our email list. Go to here: http://groups.google.com/group/saint-nicholas-orthodox-church to join.
Redeeming the Time BLOG: http://www.orthodox.net/redeemingthetime
Use this for any edifying reason, but please give credit, and include the URL of the article. This content belongs to the author. We would love to hear from you with comments! (email@example.com)
 “Diptych” means list. All priests have one, and they use it to commemorate the living and the dead in the “Proskimidie” or “Preparation service” before the Divine Liturgy, by taking out a small piece and putting it on the diskos (the round plate on a small stand that is used with the chalice) for each name. This bread is latter added to the chalice after the faithful are communed, with the prayer “By thy precious Blood, O Lord, wash away the sins of those here commemorated, through the intercessions of Thy saints” Only the Orthodox are commemorated in this way (since only the Orthodox may have Holy Communion), but most priests are like me and have many non Orthodox in their diptychs that they pray for without taking out particles of bread.
 This prayer is taken from the "Old Believer Prayer Book", available from the Church of the Nativity, Erie, PA
It is also online at:
 A "Bow", also known as a "poklon" is performed by making the sign of the cross, and simultaneously bowing the head and bending from the waist.
We confidently recommend our web service provider, Orthodox Internet Services: excellent personal customer service, a fast and reliable server, excellent spam filtering, and an easy to use comprehensive control panel.