Prayer and its Merit

Prayer is elevating the mind to the Almighty God and confiding with Him in spiritual utterances. Through prayer we worship and thank Him and lay before Him our needs.

Prayer is not only an obligatory duty, but the first and the most beneficial one. We were lead to it by natural instinct which guided us to approach our God, may He be exalted. Moreover, God instructed us regarding prayer through children of Israel. He taught them the principles of His worship in the elementary school of prophets until the time came when He sent His beloved Son, the Divine Teacher, who taught the world the perfect Law and true worship.

The effect of prayer is really mighty, as the Apostle points out: “Great is the power of prayer of a righteous man” (James 5:16), especially the perfect prayer of spiritual elders through which they receive divine gifts and see miraculous visions.

On this matter, they have experiences and stories that call for wonder, and that cannot come by except by total devotional effort. In this connection, Yohanna Abu-Al-dawaly the Elder says: “whoever wants to devour the sweetness of Christ, let him labor to devote himself to prayer which draws one near to God more than any other spiritual exercise. For with it, the mind associates itself with God and takes His likeness, gains His gifts, and becomes the fountain of His secret mysteries.

Through prayer, he opens His treasuries and apportions His treasures; he becomes worthy to see His glory and wanders in the clouds of the lights of His Majesty where the hosts of the Most High dwell. He is then taken over by silence and bewilderment, stunned by the brilliant light rays shining on him. Such is the life of spiritual men and their utmost pleasure”.

The honor of prayer is so great that it can hardly be spoken of. It is more sublime than the honor of all other virtues and worthy actions, for the latter can only attain perfection through prayer.

As for the benefits of prayer, they are beyond demonstration or reckoning. For, if those who sit with the learned and philosophers gain knowledge and understanding, what then can we say about those who confide with the Lord of both wisdom and the wise, and the Creator of knowledge and the learned?

Let us ask Speaker of God (Moses) about the benefits of prayer. His answer would be that through prayer he saved the people of God from many enemies, braided for them crowns of victory in many wars and received for them many graces. Indeed, prayer is a weapon before which fail all war machines, a weapon that makes the valor of heroes void and puts legions to rout.

Was it not prayer that quenched the burning fire heated seven times in the Babylonian furnace? Was it not prayer that shut the mouths of savage and ravenous beasts in the den of loins? Did it not prolong the life of Hezekiah the king fifteen years and rendered him victorious over his enemies? Did it not bless the barren Hanna with Samuel, the chosen of the Lord, who was found to have no peer? Did it not crown Prophet David with the crowns of victory in his repeated grievous wars? Did it not become a haven of salvation from the surging waves of divine wrath? Did it not confer upon Zacharia the priest with a fruit whose equal has never been seen among those born of women? Did it not open the prison doors before the Apostle Peter? Did it not bring the light of faith to Cornilius?

And what shall I say of the blessed Apostle Paul whose thirst for persistent prayer, while guiding many peoples to truth, was never quenched. He realized that to pray, himself, was much more effective than commanding people to persistently do so. This is just as true of all the rest of the Apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, pastors, teachers, monks, solitarians and holy fathers. Prayer was their perseverance and ultimate aim. They turned to prayer to enlighten and guide the world.

What other work then, I wonder, is more venerable, beneficial, honorable, and wiser than this praiseworthy work. Said one of the Saints: “Prayer is wings by which we fly up high to God, and a ladder by which we ascend to Heaven. It is a means of becoming partners with Angels, an unfailing hope, and a treasure that does not become exhausted or reached by moth or trees. It is a sea that never dries up. It is like trees that never wither and a trade that never loses.

Prayer is the origin of righteousness and the foundation of all virtues. Moreover, prayer is the support that helps to stay firm in true faith and a reliable aid for honest work. Blessed and happy are, therefore, those who make it their companion day and night. For, in prayer, there exist happiness, joy, delight and benefit that can only be felt by those who have experienced them.

Make use of it, O’ Christian, for it is the aid for success for all works, for heaven has a door and a key. Blessed be God who hears prayers and answers petitions.

— Patriarch Mor Ignatius Ephrem Barsoum