You might have heard that there are two kinds of prayer: Corporate Prayer and Personal Prayer. Corporate Prayer is when we are in services together, as in Vespers, Liturgy, Paraklesis…where two or more are gathered praying for the same things. Private Prayer is when you are alone in your “closet”, praying for personal things. The Orthodox Faith teaches that healthy souls need both, a time to pray privately and a time to pray corporately. A time to work on our intimate relationship with God and a time to live in the reality that we were created to live in a community and are not alone in our spiritual struggles and joys. When we only participate in one or the other…or worse, neither…it’s like skipping “leg day” at the gym. We find ourselves unbalanced. And when we skip the gym altogether, we are out of shape and unhealthy.
All are welcome… sort of.
Many of our young families are struggling to find support in Church when it comes to Corporate Prayer. Parents, single and paired, are stressed, rushing to bring their families to church and then after getting settled, are told to leave. Well, not really leave, but go to a separate room until services are over because the children were too much of a distraction for the adults.
It’s frustrating, lonely, demoralizing, exhausting but worse, leaves parents unbalanced. The very people who need to be in church praying — repenting and working on their salvation so that they might be better caregivers to the impressionable souls in their homes — are left feeling uncomfortable and unwelcomed. And too often, they give up on ever attending church as a family until the kids are older. Eventually, they forget to come back, having established other Sunday habits that are more welcoming.
Why are families with children isolated during the services?
Most complaints are that the children are a distraction. For example, a cry for attention, a small giggle, or an experiment in the way sound echoes from the church’s dome is too distracting for the adults in the pews. Have you ever really paid attention to an Orthodox service? There is movement on the soleia and behind the altar. There is constant singing from the choir and the priest. There is even fire, smoke, and bells throughout the experience. How does anyone expect a child to sit still within all the commotion?
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Corinthians 13.
While the child’s behavior reflects their age-appropriate response to being in church, I’d like to challenge the adults in the room. Is our behavior age-appropriate — age-appropriate being the operative word.
Is our attention span age-appropriate?
After a week of multi-tasking, working while the radio or TV is on in the background, or with other co-workers and customers, are we truly unable to pay attention to a 15- or 30-minute sermon, or do we have the attention of a five-year-old?
Have we made an age-appropriate offering?
What did we offer that morning in church? The children offer their voices, their giggles, their struggles, and their love. Do we sit in the pews with the same joy and desire to be interactive in the Liturgical experience, or do we feel obligated to be in church and find ourselves in the pews with a chip on our shoulder?
Is our participation age-appropriate?
Are we following along in the service, bowing our head when instructed to bow and lifting our hearts when it is time to give thanks? Or are we in our own thoughts, unaware of the activity around us? Or worse, looking at the other people in church and at what they are wearing and noticing when they arrived?
Have we made age-appropriate preparations to receive the gifts?
A child wakes up, gets dressed, has a light breakfast and then comes to church to receive communion. An adult prepares to receive communion. We fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. We confess our sins. We look deep into our hearts and work on those things that need to change. We approach the Chalice with an empty stomach and with “the fear of God, with faith and with love.”
Do we have age-appropriate manners?
Did you remember to say please and thank you? The Holy Spirit isn’t obligated to come to change the gifts of bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ. This is a gift. Are we old enough to remember to say please and thank you without being reminded?
It’s not all about you.
Many of us want to have a deep and meaningful experience during the services. We look forward to sitting in the pew and bringing our needs before God. Although most prayer services have a prayer or two for this, the time to sit quietly in prayer or meditation isn’t during the Corporate Prayer services. What you are looking for sounds more like Personal Prayer. If this is what you need, go to church early and pray before the service starts or offer these prayers at home. The services of the Church are for everyone and the whole Church needs to be present for them to be authentic.
It’s important to always act your age.
Children need to be in church with their parents. Parents need to be in church with their children. It’s the best way we know to have a balanced spiritual life because we are a Church who understands the importance of Corporate Prayer and Private Prayer. All I ask is that before we look at the fussy child or experimental toddler with the expectation that they act his or her age, I hope that we are doing a better job acting our own age.
ABOUT THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN NETWORK
The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Bishops of the United States of America, originally commissioned by SCOBA to create a national, sustainable, and effective media witness for Orthodox Christianity and seekers around the world through media ministry. CLICK HERE to download our brochure.
This 501(c)3 is recognized as a leader in the Orthodox Media field and has sustained consistent growth over twenty years. OCN shares the timeless faith of Orthodoxy with the contemporary world through modern media. We are on a mission to inspire Orthodox Christians Worldwide. We have reached 5.7 Million People in One Week. Much like public radio, the Orthodox Christian Network relies on the support of our listeners, readers, and fans. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can send your gift by direct mail, over the phone, or on our website. Your gift will ensure that OCN may continue to offer free, high-quality, Orthodox media.
Do you find it hard to keep focused on Christ when you’re on the go? OCN makes it easy! Give today to help you and your Orthodox community stay connected no matter the location.
Spark OCN app is an Orthodox Christian News portal that allows you to take action. Spark provides daily devotions, live Bible study, and you can read and learn about events going on in the Orthodox Christian world, especially those concerning persecuted Christians. In addition to making it easy to share news and articles with friends, Spark allows you make prayer requests for those who are suffering.
Orthodox Prayer Book is the ultimate prayer assistant for Orthodox Christians. Not only does it allow you to carry your prayers around, it was designed from the ground-up for the iPhone to allow you to pray in the least distracting manner possible. Carry all the prayers, information about daily saints and fasting schedules with you throughout your day. Keep a list of people you want to pray for and have them automatically embedded into the prayers.
Click here to download the Spark OCN and Orthodox Prayer Book.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. OCN is on Social Media! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,