The Didache 24 – Pray This Way

Posted: July 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever..

Pray this three times each day.

Once again, we see the Jewish influence in the Teaching. Set prayers three times a day were and remain an important feature of Jewish daily life. Those who attempted to trap Daniel knew he faithfully prayed three times each day. The Amidah is the prayer used today and when possible it is said communally (in groups of at least ten men), but can be prayed individually. We see this rhythm of set prayers repeatedly in the Gospels and Acts. The above is the prayer Jesus gave his followers when they asked him to give them a prayer like John the Baptist gave his followers prayers.

The Christian practice of set prayers is a rich and deep tradition that began centered on the prayer above and probably the Shema as Jesus changed it. As a rule, Christians faced East to pray. (Satan and evil were associated with the west while Jesus was associated with the east.) Churches tended to be built with the altar in the east. The tradition of prayer has not yet declined as much as fasting has, but in the West at least it has become a shadow of what it once was. Most people seem to only know of intercessory prayer, which while part of the reason and purpose for prayer, has traditionally only been a small part. And people seem to take Paul’s admonition to pray without ceasing as hyperbole rather than something we should actually work to accomplish.

Prayer is a mystery of communion with God. When we pray, we are mystically connected to God whether we “feel” anything or not. The rhythm of prayer is for our healing so that we come again and again to God, shaping ourselves into people who seek God, until one day we find that we do not desire to depart. That is, of course, what it means to pray without ceasing. Throughout the course of our day, we do not turn from God. We are continually aware of his presence with us.

But this is hard to do. And I would say impossible if we do not establish rhythms of prayer in our life. I know that I’m not very good at this at all. But I’ve had a thirst to become someone who prays for a long time now. The Orthodox have a saying. One who prays is a theologian and a theologian is one who prays. I reflect on that and it seems to me there is a lot of truth in it. What better way is there to learn to know God (for is that not the goal of the theologian?) than to stand with him and commune with him?


4 Comments on “The Didache 24 – Pray This Way”

  1. 1 ChristSpeak said at 12:42 pm on July 4th, 2009:

    Interesting, I never knew about the old tradition of praying eastward for Christians. It makes sense, given the west/east connection found in the OT quite a few times. Did this practice begin before or after the rise of the Muslims? If before, did it start to die out because to avoid affiliation with their same style of prayer?

  2. 2 Scott said at 1:17 pm on July 4th, 2009:

    Muslims actually pray toward Mecca. Jews pray toward Jerusalem. Both only seem “east” to us because of geography. The Christian tradition arose in the first century, very early on and well before the rise of Islam. Part of it was imagery from Daniel with the Son of Man shining like the sun, so the association of Jesus with the east, where the sun rises. Actually, the tradition only “died down” very recently in modern times. Probably up to the last few decades, most Anglican churches for example were constructed along east/west lines with the altar in the east. Where possible, Orthodox churches are constructed the same way. I’m not sure if Roman Catholic churches still are or not. But the tradition of prayer and church construction facing east only very recently died down. It’s old, but it’s a tradition that endured for centuries and still endures in significant parts of Christendom.

    Iconoclasm was the primary influence of Islam upon Christianity. And we still see that heresy affecting large swaths of Protestantism today. Even though I’ve been Southern Baptist for the entire fifteen years or so that I’ve been a Christian, it was only a few years ago that I discovered that Southern Baptists refer to themselves as the “People of the Book”, a description which comes straight out of Islam, and which I had never dreamed a Christian group would use.

  3. 3 Scott said at 1:23 pm on July 4th, 2009:

    Hmmm. Actually, I think Anglican churches also still tend to be built with east/west orientation where possible. I just remembered an N.T. Wright sermon or lecture in which at some point he mentioned that he didn’t know which direction was east because it wasn’t an Anglican church in which he was speaking. If Anglicans and Orthodox have retained the practice at least to some extent, Roman Catholics probably have as well. I guess I could ask my mother. Or search for the answer online. If all three do still retain the practice to some extent, that’s the vast majority of Christians worldwide right there.

  4. 4 mike said at 12:13 am on July 5th, 2009:

    ….about a year and a half ago i began using a different approach to praying from what i had previously done…the results have been astounding in my life…i rarely “ask” God for anything in prayer now…i simply sit quietly in contemplation…meditate…and listen..God is in the silence……