Liturgical Prayer

Prepared by Fr. Seraphim & Ann Johnson, March 2007

The word “liturgy” means “the work of the people”. Thus, liturgical prayer is essentially corporate prayer practised by the people. It would be a mistake to believe that it is prayer as practised by the clergy and listened to by the people. Liturgical prayer is done jointly by all and for all, and is the ultimate expression of the oneness of church life, one not only in the sense of the group of people who are praying together, but one also with all other believers who are praying elsewhere. Liturgical prayer is also the expression of prayer which joins believers with all the saints and believers of all ages.

In Orthodox worship, liturgy and theology are not seen as separate entities. Orthodox Christians worship and learn about their faith simultaneously. At any of the great feasts, for example, believers will pray during the Vigil and at the same time learn about the deep meaning of the feast from the words of the service. Orthodox worship is “multi-sensory”. We experience worship through our minds, hearts, ears, eyes and bodies.

There are daily, weekly and annual liturgical cycles in our Church life. An Orthodox Christian reckons time as far as possible by the liturgical calendar. Important feasts are planned for in all sorts of ways, both spiritual and practical. Holidays are planned around the feasts. Daily life revolves around times of prayer both at home and in church. The Saturday evening Vigil and the Sunday morning liturgy are the focal points of the week.

Liturgical worship incorporates both essential elements of preparation and fulfilment. All of life should be a preparation for Heaven, for life with God.

Liturgical prayer is both a preparation for Heaven and a foretaste of the life to come. As such, it requires a lifetime of practice and study; liturgical prayer is a joy, and a joy that deepens with experience.