In the Early Church, there are three ways of prayer:
I. Prayer with psalms
II. Prayer with scriptures
III. Prayer with unveiled face.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the spirit of the lord ” (2 Cor 3: 18). (This is what we call free spontaneous prayer).
I. Praying using the Book of Psalms
– They have the conviction that the Book of Psalms is the “inspired book of Prayer” given to the people of God in both Testaments.
– Moreover, they even call it the “spiritual Manna” after the word “manna” which described the daily food provided by God Himself for His people Israel. They said, “As the people were eating the same food everyday which sustained them physically and even spiritually (they never lost one single battle in the wilderness), so we also need to be fed on our spiritual Manna every day”. Again, Philo, the well‐known historian, said that Jesus used to pray the Psalms with His disciples in the temple.
We can also find some references in the book of Acts denoting the continuity of this practice during the time of Apostles:
(1) Acts 3:1 “Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.”
(2) Acts 10: 9 “The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.”
(3) Acts 10: 30 “So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.”
This is considered a type of liturgical prayer, which the early church acknowledged (Learned from the apostles).
Then, what is liturgical prayer?
It is the liturgies used in the traditional churches and repeated every Sunday.
And what is the biblical bases of these liturgical prayers?
Let us go to the Book of Revelation:
Rev. 7:11 “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.”
Rev. 11:16 “And the twenty‐four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God.”
– The Book of Revelation tells us about the type of worship that goes in heavens, i.e. worship of angels.
– And we always read that it is just: Praises and Prostrations.
– From Heb 1: 14 ” Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” we read about 2 types of Angelic services:
a. Litrogia (In Greek) -> for God
b. Diakonia (in Greek) -> for people
* The first word (according to Greek) is the type of service they offer to God in worshiping Him. And it means (according to lexicons) that they are not changeable words; always the same words repeated. God is not interested in words but in hearts! (1 Sam 16:7).
* While the second word(diakonia), according to Greek, is the type of service offered to people when they are sent by God to convey a message to them. Here we find that the words are changeable according to many factors: the people, the type of the message, the time of the message, the circumstances etc…
– Therefore, the Early Church, being oriented about these differences loved so much to imitate angels in their worship (Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: Lord’s Prayer).
– Thus, they used to use the book of psalms as a source of worshiping God with praises. And with Psalms they prostrated giving glory to God as the Angels do!
– This is also the idea behind the liturgies used in old traditional churches where we find that the words are not changed from week to week, and they convey their faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
1) In Egypt, by the 4th Century, there were 2 main groups of worshipers ‐ in addition to other hundreds of worshipers who went to the desert to live a solitary worshipping life ‐ but these were the gathered groups.
a. Wadi Natroun group(North): Used to pray 150 psalms every day in addition to praying the Scriptures and they did this regimen of prayer with fasting during their daily work (making simple artifacts, tending gardens and the like to make their living).
b. St. Pakhoum group( South): Had a revelation where an angel delivered him some instructions concerning his community (beginners, converted from heathen backgrounds). Among the regulations he received was the book of Agpeya. (Agpeya is a Coptic word means “book of hours”) used until now in the Coptic Church).
2) So, the worshippers in the Early Church used either to pray all the Psalms (150) every day OR to pray half of the Book 75 Psalms on divided periods. They usually used to pray 7 “hours” according to Ps 119: 164 “Seven times a day I praise You.” Remembering what the Psalmist said in Ps 109: 4 ” I give myself to prayer” (NKJV) OR “I am a man of prayer” (NIV). & “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not to lose heart” Luke 18: 1 (NKJV). & Paul saying in 1Tess 5: 17 “Praying without ceasing.” The “hours” of prayer were arranged in a way to remind the worshipper of the acts of Salvation.
– 1st hour (6 am): Resurrection of Christ: New life in Christ
– 3rd hour (9 am): Pouring of Holy Spirit. We need new refreshed anointing with the beginning of a day to be enabled to walk in Spirit.
– 6th hour (12midday): Crucifixion. We need the Power of the Cross to put to death all our passions that may hinder us during the day.
– 9th hour (3 pm): Hour of Victory. Jesus accomplished His work. Let us complete our daily tasks.
– 11th hour (5 pm): Jesus was taken down from the Cross, anointed with spices, and wrapped in linen. -> The hour of the end of daily tasks -> Rest.
– 12th hour (6 pm): Jesus was put in the tomb -> Remembering the end of our life (sometimes called “the small death”) -> but get resurrected again next morning! Usually, they loved to hold a cross in their hands to honor the Crucified One and repeatedly kissing their cross and giving thanks to Jesus, the Crucified.
Now what was in their mind when they prayed Psalms?
“The benefit of this practice”
1. Obeying the agreement made by the church leaders in Early Centuries (before any division). It is well documented that one of the Canons of the ecumenical gathering in Nicea 325 a.d. was to ask the believers to pray the psalms every day.
2. It is a tool and not an object.
3. It helps to wash the mind of all the activity of the flesh.
4. It cleanses the soul from the dirt of the world that sneaks in during the day.
5. It activates the Spirit so that they can begin praying their own personal prayers. Being in the Spirit ‐ with the aid of this Psalm Prayer‐ they know that they now can get into a real dialogue with God and be able to receive prophetic impressions without being confused or defiled with emotions or their own thoughts.
6. A tool helps a believer to get in touch with Salvific actions day after day(According to the regulations of the hours of prayer). 7. After all, it is a way to be filled with the Word of God having in mind that this tool brings together 3 main spiritual activities namely: Prayer, Word of God and Prostration!
II. Praying with the Scriptures OR Praying Scriptures:
They used to read the Scriptures in a prayerful way. They read the verses and reread them repeatedly. They ruminate the verses so that they sink down into their inner man and release their manifold actions. They also have the conviction that reading the: – Prophetic books release a prophetic anointing. – Gospels release apostolic anointing. – Historical Books release the Wisdom of God, and teaches His ways. – Poetic Books (especially Song of Songs) release Bridal Love and again God’s Wisdom.
III. Unveiled Face Prayer:
– The term is taken from 2 Cor 3: 18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” – After reading and praying with Psalms and Scriptures, they now ready to deliver their own prayers, which are inspired by the Holy Spirit whether they are petitions, intercessions or whatever. – Thus, they consider praying with Psalms and Scriptures as a preparatory sanctifying phase of prayer, which is now followed by the free prophetic prayers!
– Another form of prayers, which was common and has its different fruits. Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” – It is taken from Luke 18:13 “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” – Asking God’s mercy, in their understanding, is for deeper cleaning of the soul and receiving divine enlightenment to be transformed in His Likeness.
There are common sayings: “Prayer is the perfect teacher that can help you learn more and pray more.” Again, “Prayer is a shortcut towards real infilling of Holy Spirit.” Prayer