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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
47- Prayer Drills
Make it your aim throughout the days of fasting to increase your prayer. Do not fall short in your Agbia or your normal prayers. We place before you, the following drills which your should try to perform to the best of your ability.
(1) Prayer drill while travelling:
While on your way, use the psalms, short or special prayers to occupy and lift up your heart to God. You may say:
Forgive me my God and do not take my sins into account. Have mercy on me, You the all merciful God. Save me, O’Lord, from my weaknesses and strengthen me. Bless O’Lord these sacred days, and bless these days of fasting. Allow me, O’Lord, to spend a period of time with Your. Unite my heart to You, O’Lord and fill me with love. Grant me your blessings, O’Lord and assist me. Bestow upon me a blessed and a pure heart. Wash me, and make me whiter than snow. Purify me and save me O’Lord. Protect me from all evil. Partake in this work with me. Let it be according to Your mercy and not according to my sins.
Train yourself in these and other similar types of prayers while on the road travelling. What is important is to keep your heart occupied always with God.
(2) Train yourself to pray in the midst of others:
Whether you are in a meeting, with friends or relations, or in the midst of people anywhere, lift up your heart in silence to God, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. In this way, you keep quiet while your heart is busy conversing with the Holy Spirit. For a silent person is a store of God's secrets. As the Spiritual man says, “Silence your tongue so that your heart may speak”.
(3) Learn to pray while working:
Manual labour can easily be intermingled with prayer. It was thus with our forefathers, but may be different to the work performed by people living in the world. Even if your work requires mental concentration, try to lift up your heart to God from time to time with a very short prayer, saying: “I long for You, O’Lord. I do not want to stay for long away from You. Make me work be dedicated for You. Bless all that I do. I love You, O Lord from all my heart and I long for You. I praise Your Holy Name while I work. Your Name is sweet and blessed in the mouths of Your saints. I thank You, O’Lord, from all my heart. Be with me. Collaborate with me in my work. Do not let work detach me from my fellowship with You. Nothing takes me away from loving Jesus Christ.
(4) Train yourself in contemplation during prayer:
Take for example, the prayers of the psalms and the hourly Agbia prayers as a mean for spiritual contemplation. When you pray in this way by reciting them, you do so profoundly. Do the same with the Mass prayers and the church hymns so that they may influence your heart when you hear them.
(5) Train yourself to remain in pray:
Train yourself to prolong your prayer whenever you find that prayer is about to come to an end, even for two minutes longer. It is important is that you do not hasten to conclude it and leave the presence of God. Resist and continue even for a very short time. Then take your permission from God and end your prayer.
(6) Practice purity and spirituality in prayer:
These drills are numerous. They include prayers performed with understanding, depth, warmth, humility, and penitence as well as without folly and distraction. If you are unable, then carry out the following drill.
(7) Train your self to pray for the sake of praying:
Saint Isaac was asked: “How do we learn to pray?” and he answered: “By praying.”
There is no doubt that prayer, like any spiritual activity, “comes down from the Father of lights.“ (James 1:17). Seek it as did the disciples who said: “Lord, teach us to pray.“ (Luke 11:1).
Say to Him: Allow me, O’Lord, to pray, and the sweet seclusion to be with You. Give me the words that I should say and grant me the desire to pray. Grant me love with which to love You and which makes me pray. Grant me warmth in prayer, tears and submission. I do not know how to pray, O’Lord, so teach me how. Grant me the appropriate feelings for prayer. Speak to me, O’Lord, that I may speak with You.
(8) Train yourself to pray for others:
Do not only pray for yourself when you fast, but also pray for others. How many people have asked you to pray for them and you did not? Try to remember during your fast, those whom you feel are in need of prayer because of a problem, hardship, sickness or in need of it for their spiritual life. Pray for them as well as for those who have departed.
Pray for the Church, for the safety of the country, for the general welfare, for those who do not know God, for the heretics, the reckless, and the infidels, and for God's Kingdom on earth.
It is a good opportunity that you pray for others, especially for the following:
(9) Pray for your offenders:
This is more of a divine order than instructions. Thus, the Lord says: “Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.“ (Matt 5:44). It is an opportunity for you to train yourself in carrying out this commandment while you fast.
Pray that God may forgive your offenders and save them. Pray for their love to you and your love for them so that your heart may not change towards them because of their offence. Wish them well and pray to God to have Him spare you from condemning them in thought or before others.
It is natural that you pray for those whom you love but it is much more pleasant to pray for those who have offend you.
Say to Him: O’Lord protect, rescue and forgive them. Grant me a blessing in their eyes. Make me to love them as much as I love those who are dear to me. Make my heart pure towards them.
(10) Other drills for prayer:
(a) Train yourself to pray early in the morning and to have God as the first one to talk, even for a short prayer every day saying to him, Thank You, O’Lord and bless this day. And grant me a sacred day that I may please You.
(b) Train yourself in repeating prayers of saints. Look for them and use them in praying. (The prayers of Prophets are found in the bible and in the Church book of the Joyous Holy Saturday).
(c) Read spiritual books that bear spiritual warmth that help you pray in earnest.
(d) Pray before doing any work, and before every visit and every meeting.
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