During Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy, we pray the Litany of Fervent Supplication, also called the Augmented Litany. The main feature of this Litany calls upon us to pray for the particular needs of the local church community. We respond to these petitions by singing “Lord have mercy” three times. This Litany is done usually after the Gospel Reading and Sermon at the Liturgy, after the Evening Prokeimenon at Great Vespers, and at the end of Matins, after the Great Doxology. The fact that we call this Litany “fervent” does not imply that the priest or deacon breaks down in tears when they chant this litany, nor does it indicate the presence of any other kind of visible emotional reactions. So why do we call it “fervent?” What is fervency in prayer?
Webster’s Dictionary defines fervent as “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling, zealous.” By this definition it would seem that fervent prayer could be emotional and full of feeling. So we shouldn’t feel bad if we do experience emotions as prayers are offered. But whether our prayers are effective or not have nothing to do with how emotional we are. Are they offered in faith with the expectation that God will act on our petitions in accordance with His will? To me, fervent prayer means we continue to offer our prayers whether we feel like it or not.
When I think of the many meals I have taken, I know I have enjoyed more meals than others. But I cannot say, “Oh, that Thanksgiving meal I had in 1992 made me feel so great” or “the dinner I had in Chicago’s Greek Town four months ago was a real winner.” Meals are important for our health and well-being. We eat those meals whether we enjoyed one more than the other. As with meals, so it is with the prayers we offer. We don’t need to deny our emotions, but they are not indicators of our spiritual health.
I raised a question a few weeks ago on how Sesame Street culture has impacted our learning. Is the goal to learn, or do we focus on how we learn as being more important? In other words, if learning isn’t fun, why bother learning? If the answer to this question is yes, then we need to wean ourselves from this habit. This is why church can’t be — nor should be — fun.
Christ is born!
The blessing of the Lord be upon you,
The unworthy +Paul
The Right Reverend Bishop Paul:
Thank you for speaking on this topic. I am moving away from many decades of Protestantism toward Holy Orthodoxy and this subject comes to my mind often. I very much enjoy the solemnity of the Divine Liturgy but family members feel there is not enough “emotion”. Some would even call the Liturgy “dead.” However, your thoughts above and elsewhere put this accusation to rest and help me understand the context of our Orthodox worship better. I do appreciate you.
You are welcome Brian. I pray and hope some of your family members would be open to looking at liturgy in a different context. Thanks for submitting your comment. God bless you, +Paul