Types of Prayer in the Early Church

Feb 8, 2023 | Blog Articles

Researching the origins of Christianity is an opportunity to recover the meaning of life from the roots that hold us together in faith. If we look at the prayer life of the early Church, we find that it can be split-up into various types of prayer: the prayer of Jesus, the liturgical dimension of the early Christian community, and the unity of the Church around its bishop. Even today these dimensions of our Christian life are found in the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

The first treatises on prayer (from Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian), were written in a period in which the Church suffered great persecution. Yet, in these writings the authors do not lose hope of a renewed world in the coming of the glory of the Lord. In today’s world, we too live in a time where the culture does not speak the language of Jesus and often persecutes Christians for their different way of life. Prayer can help us stay faithful to Christ’s example in such a tumultuous time, with our eyes always upon him. As Tertullian says, in the second century, “When we pray, we confess Christ who is our model for living.” (cf. De oratione 14, 1).

When we pray, our gaze is centered on Christ, as Cyprian of Carthage says, “Since Christ is the true Sun and the true Day, when we pray until sunset, asking that the light rise again upon us, we are in reality imploring the advent of Christ, who will bring us the grace of eternal light” (De domenica oratione, 35). In the different daily proposals of Click To Pray, in the morning, afternoon and evening, our prayer produces a dynamic of faith in all the hours of the day, similar to Christians in the first centuries.

Finally, the ecclesiological dimension of prayer is maintained even when Christians pray alone. This is what we do when we pray for the Pope’s prayer intentions. When we pray, we take the whole Church with us, as St. Ignatius of Antioch says at the beginning of the second century, “If the prayer of one or two has much force, how much more then that of the bishop and of the whole Church” (Eph. Ep. 5, 2).Fr. Antonio

S’Antana, SJ
National Director
(Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – Portugal)

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