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pray_hands.GIF (680 bytes) Prayer & Spirituality
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The Great Lent- An Opportunity for Us to Cleanse Our Mind, Body and Soul

By Saji. M. Idicula, St. Gregorious Orthodox Society

The Great Lent begins with the Shub'khono service on the first day. It is the day for seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, not just with God, but with our brethren, friends and other fellow men too. The seeking of forgiveness is needed -not only with whom, we have sinned, but also with anyone, whom we feel that we have caused a pain in their hearts, knowingly or unknowingly. While confessing, repenting and seeking forgiveness, we too should prepare ourselves to forgive others and then only, the real reconciliation happens. In that way, let us get rid of all the ill-feelings from our mind and purify it, so that the heavenly peace can enter our hearts and stimulate us, to lead a true Christian life.

How To Cleanse Our Body, Mind, and Soul During the Great Lent
By Thomas P. John, Kottarakara

We are at the doorsteps of our Great lent, which are the most important days in the cycle of events in Christian faith. It is one of the main keys to the Kingdom Of God.

Lent describes the complete dedication of our body, soul & mind. Fasting is for the body; repentance & confession for the mind; and all the three including prayers are for the soul. 

We have to be very cautious about our life for which we are obliged to God’s grace. Our Soul is to be bound by a wall, which is destroyed through the years of our life span. What is the wall? How can we re-construct the wall? We have to discuss the matter in detail, which may help us to make a good start for our Lent days. 

The Psalms of David, which we are use as one of the main prayers for repentance  in our Liturgy describes about the wall of Jerusalem.“ Oh God be kind to Zion and help her, rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.” Psalms 51:18.

The Book of Nehemiah describes the burden of Nehemiah to build the wall of the temple of Jerusalem. The temple of Jerusalem was built by the people of Israel under the leadership of Ezra, the Rabbi after the return from captivity of Babylon (538 B.C). But the wall was not constructed. The Emperor of Persia appointed Nehemiah as the Governor of Judah. Prior to that he was the wine steward of the Emperor. Nehemiah came to Jerusalem for reconstructing the wall (444 B.C). He had a crushing sense of burden in his mind that made him to take this task.

Nehemiah 1:4, "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven."

In order to rebuild the destroyed wall and fortify our soul we have to adopt the methods of Nehemiah. Nehemiah built the wall in 52 days. We can rebuild the destroyed wall, which we have constructed through our baptism and sacraments by this 50 days lent.

Nehemiah sat down and wept, and mourned

The great concern for Jerusalem crushed his soul and he wept. Should we have any concern of our Jerusalem, which is our soul? The wall, which was constructed through the baptism, has to be renovated. So we have to weep for our sins. 

Sin is the problem with this world. The world is full of problems because of sin. We, the new generation, go to counselors to get our problems smoothed over when we really need to be facing our sin squarely. Otherwise we accept the sin like Saul (1 Samuel 15:31), "I have sinned," he said to the prophet. "But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel" He admitted that he had sinned, but his motives were only to save his own reputation and position of power. 

Nehemiah wept because of his real agony about the destroyed wall and the way to reconstruct it. We have to think whether we should have any real worry about our sins and a real concern to get rid of that by repentance. Our Church has given us so many ways to go through the lent. The special prayers written by the Holy fathers are of real agony. We have to read them and cry for the forgiveness from God. While the people of Israel, came together to hear the Law of Moses, read by Nehemiah they cried. “ When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry” (Nehemiah 8:9). Do we have internal agony while we are uttering the prayers or reading the Holy Scripture? If not, this lent season is the best time to change our patterns and life style according to God’s will.

Nehemiah Fasted

The key of fasting has nearly been lost to the modern church. Some say that it was only for apostolic fathers, monastic people and early day Christians. 

What is fasting? It is another means by which we can suffer for the Lord, through the voluntary abstinence from eating. Fasting is an important key to getting the victory over hard situations that do not seem to respond to normal prayer. 

Isaiah 58:6 gives us light on this purpose of fasting: "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” 

Let us look at this issue little closer:

We should have a crushing sense of burden about our faith, which we inherited and have a strong obligation of love towards the teachings of the holy fathers and saints. Nehemiah refers his burden of the tombs of his fathers, which is equivalent to the faith of our holy fathers. (Nehemiah 2:3) “ Why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers remains waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire”. The burden of the fathers’ tomb gave him the real spirit of fasting & prayers. 

Do we have it? Is the burden of the forefathers' faith haunting us? Do we have any obligation of love towards our inherited faith? Today, God is looking for people who are willing to take the same kind of burdens in the Spirit. Travail and fasting work in the Spirit. God is looking for laborers who are ready to go to work for Him. Fasting is also one of these labors. It is a form of afflicting our soul. 

Isaiah 58:3, "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou sees not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takes no knowledge?" By afflicting our soul, we say to our flesh, "Flesh, you are demanding to eat, but Christ is stronger than the desires of my body. My spirit shall rule my soul, and my soul shall not have dominion over me." 

Numerous individuals today are in bondage to their appetites because they have never denied themselves anything. The Lord wants us to be ruled by the Spirit, not by the flesh. Fasting brings the flesh unto subjection of the Spirit.

Nehemiah Prayed

Nehemiah’s Prayer was after realizing his negligence of rebuilding the wall. He mourned and felt that he was the person chosen by God to collect the people. So he prayed again.” Look at me Lord and hear my prayer, as I pray day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess that we, the people of Israel have sinned…. (Neh 1:5). 

Here Nehemiah points out the need of confession before the prayer. 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." In order to look to the Face of God and Worship Him, we have to confess our sins. This is the first step before prayer.

In 2 Chronicles 7:14-15, God said to Solomon “ If they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in Heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again.” With a clear mind & body we can have real conversation with God. We then allow the Holy Spirit to move into our soul so that our faith might grow in Him. 

During lent we are told to pray and to make intercession for all men. The invocation of the saints strengthens our prayers. In Passion Week, we are concentrating on the Suffering of Jesus Christ. Meditation and contemplation renews the body, mind & soul. After all, we have firmness in our goal to achieve. 

When we start the rebuilding through our prayers, so many difficulties will arise. Nehemiah 4:1, “When Sanballath heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he became furious and began to ridicule.” Indignation, ridicule, conspiracy, discouragement of friends had given Nehemiah more burden in heart, but his soul overcome all by rebuilding the wall in 52 days with the people of Israel.

Here we are to start our rebuilding of the wall for our soul in 50 days. We can say as like the people of Israel, “ The God of Heaven will give us success. We are his servants, and we are going to start the building.” (Nehemiah 2:20). Pray for each other to rebuild the destroyed wall of our Souls. 

May God bless us.

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