Origen Prayer Teaching
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Origen Prayer Teaching
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Early Church Manuscript

OrigenThe Origen prayer teaching was written at Caesarea in North West Israel about the year 236 AD and was recorded as part of the Early Church manuscript called "The Apostolic Fathers." In one part of this book, Origen Adamantius (184-253 AD) who was born and grew up in Alexandria to become a Hellenistic scholar, ascetic and early Christian theologian describes how to pray. He writes, "Settle your mind. Put yourself in God's presence and act as though God were there, looking at you. Then you will hear the Lord's reply as in Isaiah 58.9, 'Here I am.'"

Presence of God

Prayer CandlesJohn Foster wrote in "The First Advance, Church History 1, A.D. 29-500," "This is the greatest answer to prayer, to know the presence of God. You do not pray alone. Christ prays with you, and the angels, who rejoice over one sinner who turns to God, pray with you."

When to Pray

We are also instructed by Daniel 6.10 when to pray. "Daniel went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." We should pray always because the good life is a prayer. Prayer should be at least three times each day, morning, noon and evening. In Psalm 5.3 we read, "In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly." Saint Peter prayed at noon in Acts 10.9, "About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray." We should also pray in the evening as in Psalm 141.2 "May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice."

Stand Sit or Kneel?

Then the question arises, "Should you stand, kneel or sit to pray?" The best position according to Origen is, "to stand, with hands held out, and eyes looking up, even as you want to lift your soul, and raise your mind to God." The Origen prayer teaching continues, "Kneeling is right when you are asking God's forgiveness. But you may pray sitting if your feet ache, or even lying down if you have a fever. Sometimes, for example at sea, or in a crowd, you must not bother about the position at all."

A Place to Pray

Origen continues in his prayer teaching, "As for the place of prayer, any place can be the right place. A place becomes the right place when you pray in it. In your own home, choose a quiet clean and good place which can be made your holy place. There is one place where we most expect the presence of angels, the power of the Lord himself, and the spirits of holy men, both those still living and those passed on. I mean the place where the congregation and the faithful meet." The question for Christians today is, What can we learn from the New Testament and Early Church Christians like Origen about prayer?

Hippolytus Prayer Teaching

HippolytusHippolytus prayer teaching, as well as those of his mentor Polycarp, describe the right way to pray. Hippolytus (c170-235 AD) prayer teaching advises Christians living at home to pray upon rising, then at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, before going to bed, and even at midnight. On days when there is no common meeting for religious instruction, the faithful are to read a "holy book" at home. With the rise of Christian art, new domestic forms arose for expressing faith in the form of amulets, religious symbols, and clothing with illustrated Gospel stories on them. Carolyn Osiek and David L. Balch add in "Families in the New Testament World - Households and House Churches" "They appear like painted walls. In doing this they consider themselves to be religious and to be wearing clothes that are agreeable to God."

Lasting Impression

PolycarpSaint Irenaeus (c130-202 AD) Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (modern-day Lyon in France) adds some words on the same theme. He was Bishop from 177 to 200 AD and wrote about the preaching of the aged bishop, Polycarp, (69-155 AD) in the house church at Smyrna. Irenaeus in his boyhood had heard Polycarp preach, and this preaching made a lasting impression upon him. "Lessons received as a boy, make an impression which becomes part of the mind, and the impression remains, growing as the mind grows. So I can tell the very place where the blessed Polycarp, sitting down, used to preach, his comings out and goings in, his bodily appearance and the talks which he used to make for the congregation."

Polycarp

John Foster in "The First Advance - Church History 1: AD 29-500" adds about Polycarp, "He used to talk of his going about with John, and with the others who had seen the Lord, about their sayings, this and that which he had heard from them about the Lord, about his mighty acts and his teaching. And because Polycarp had received it from eyewitnesses of the Word of life, Polycarp used to tell everything just as it is in the Scriptures. Even then, the mercy of God was upon me, and I used to listen eagerly, noting these things, not on paper, but in my heart."

"Origen Prayer Teaching"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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