Origen Prayer Teaching
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30. Origen Prayer Teaching

Early Church Manuscript

OrigenThe Origen prayer teaching was written at Caesarea in North West Israel about the year 236 AD. It was part of the Early Church manuscript called "The Apostolic Fathers." Origen Adamantius (184-253 AD), born and grew up in Alexandria to become a Hellenistic scholar, ascetic, and early Christian theologian, describes in one part of this book 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 CandlesIn "The First Advance, Church History 1, AD 29-500," John Foster wrote, "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." 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 knelt and prayed, giving thanks to his God, as he had done before." We should always pray 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 presented like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice." 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 as 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's prayer teaching and 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. When there is no general 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 conclude 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 aged bishop, Polycarp, (69-155 AD) in the Smyrna house church. In his boyhood, Irenaeus had heard Polycarp preach, and this 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." John Foster adds about Polycarp, "He used to talk of his being with John and others who had seen the Lord, about their sayings which he had heard from them about the Lord's mighty acts and 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 © 2021

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