I Don’t Know How to Pray: A post about prayer that’s actually about journaling

I Don’t Know How to Pray: A post about prayer that’s actually about journaling

People pray, sometimes. A few people pray, often. Most people feel that they don’t know how to pray at all. We read, listen, think, debate, and ask about it. We try learning to pray. But prayer is tough!

In Psalm 46 we hear “Be still, and know that I am God.” 

St. Paul calls for us to “Pray without ceasing.”

St. Seraphim of Sarov says “Acquire a spirit of peace, and a thousand souls around you will be saved.”

 

These quotes are instructive reminders that can help our prayer take shape. These are just some of the lessons I have taken from these quotes: 

  1. Turn off your phone and be quiet. Move away from distractions. Relax, breathe, and try to be still.
  2. Remember that you are a human being, not a human doing. Take a moment to acknowledge your existence. Try saying the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
  3. Reflect on your existence and acquire a spirit of peace.

Reflect on my existence?! Acquire a spirit of peace?! That sounds really hard.

Sometimes, trying to pray feels like trying to draw the rest of the owl (refer to the image at the top of this post). Luckily, there’s a great tool to help you move forward: journaling!

Many people use journaling as a means of self-reflection. Writing down my thoughts helps me “be still” while still allowing my mind to flow. You may find this to be helpful as well. 

If you like, begin your entry with the date and a prayer of thanksgiving. God, I am thankful for this. God, I am thankful for that. Also thank you for my friends. Etc., etc., et. al. This helps you begin with a good mindset.

As I continue writing, I think about things that have happened to me recently. I think about the things I did (or didn’t do) all day, my friends, and my family. You can do this, too. Think about the good things that happened to you, and the bad things. Think about how they made you feel. Write it down as if you’re telling a friend, or future you, or God.

After that, I take it a step deeper. I ask myself why I did the things I did or felt the way I felt. Do likewise; think about your goals. What did you want to accomplish today? Think about your values. Write everything down! Perfection is not the aim, so if you’re struggling to keep up with your thoughts, think slower (or write faster).

Finally, as you finish, look toward the future. What are you going to do differently tomorrow? This week? This year? What are you going to do the same? Write it all down. If you run out of paper, buy another notebook. 🙂

I like to close by writing down the prayer of St. Ephrem:

Lord and Master of my life, cast away from me the spirit of laziness, idle curiosity, love of power & vain talk.

But grant me, Your servant, the spirit of moderation, humility, patience, and love.

Yes, Lord and King! Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brothers and sisters.

For You are blessed forever. Amen.

I had no idea what I was doing when I started journaling months ago. I held close the spirit of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s words: “When you fall, get up immediately and start over.” Or, as Alfred said to Batman: “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Journaling helped me persevere through tough times and celebrate great times. Pausing to “be still” reminded me to glorify God, give thanks to Him, and face towards Christ once again.

As we remember this year’s Lenten season and celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, reflection becomes crucial if we want to move forward in our faith. We must look back and carefully consider our failures and successes. Then, tomorrow will be better than yesterday, and next year will be better than the last.

Andrew Gluntz

George Powell

OCF Northeast Regional Student Leader

George Powell 

George Powell is from Tyngsborough MA, or Boston if you have never heard of Tyngsborough. A sophomore at Wentworth Institute of Technology, he studies Computer Science with a minor in Writing, Editing, and Publishing. He humbly served as the Northeast Regional Student Leader for OCF in 2020-2021. His favorite hobbies include sleeping and playing Chess, but not at the same time. He dreams of one day being fluent in Spanish. Talk to him on Discord: https://discord.gg/uWT4eqd

OCF April 2021 Highlights

Christ is Risen!

Brand New!

Holistic Living Guide

A guide for Orthodox Christian College students to live better in body, mind, community, and spirit. The Holistic Living Guide includes articles, journal topics, and activities students can explore on their own or as a chapter!

we’ve got Good news…

we’re hiring!

OCF has launched a national search for two new positions within our organization: a Communications Manager and a Ministry Coordinator. These additions to our team will allow us to reach and serve more college students, offering them those most important opportunities to be close to Christ during their time in school.

v

real break now Testimonials

What Students are Saying

During the Real Break Now program, participants discussed the barriers to serving, how service is about people instead of projects, and decompartmentalizing service.

One of the questions covered was, “What are your thoughts on this quote from John Chrysostom: ‘Need alone is a poor man’s worthiness’?”

“This quote boils down all of the societal dynamics around service and giving to its key component: meet a need. No other factor should matter. We should not appoint ourselves judge over a poor man to try and determine whether or not his needs meet our standards. There is only one judge, God, and He is the only one who should judge. If a beggar is lying or deceitful about his need, then God will judge him, but if we don’t show him love and service, God will judge us. We must multiply the mercy God gives us constantly.” -Chase

“This quote perfectly anticipates the response of a hardened heart. Living in a big city, it is easy to become numb or even blind to the poverty and suffering around you. I could easily pass the same homeless man under the same bridge every day and think nothing of it. I love how, in the video and this quote, there is a focus on the softening of the heart and coming to realize our mutual humanity and share in the responsibility of clothing and feeding the poor. I also struggle with making excuses like “there are shelters for that” or “maybe it’s not safe.” But this is indicative of a hardened heart-this shrugs responsibility and places blame on others, caring only for oneself. This quote is humbling in just the right way.” – Cassidy

Follow us to stay up-to-date on all OCF happenings!

OCF March 2021 Highlights

march 2021

OCF is here

providing college students with more opportunities to encounter Jesus Christ through programs, resources, and fellowship with one another.

Presenting

Spiritual Wake-Up

Launched on March 16th, the new Spiritual Wake-Up program creates a community of prayer within OCF where students can grow and learn together throughout the Lenten season. 

Throughout Lent, registered students will wake up to a text containing a prayer, quote, or journaling prompt which 100 other students, any number of miles away, also receive! Students are also paired up with prayer partners for the duration of the program. 

The goal of the program is to connect students to each other and Christ with resources for growth, reflection, and a purposeful wake-up each day throughout the Lenten season.

applications are open for the

OCF STUDENT LEADERSHIP BOARD

Every year, OCF is led by a team of talented students who take on leadership positions in Orthodox campus ministry. The SLB works with staff and clergy volunteers to implement the programs of OCF, advise and inspire their peers on campuses, and develop new resources and programs for college students.

Why Apply?

Peggy

Peggy

Rice University

“I had no idea what this year would look like due to the pandemic, but I am so glad I took the leap and applied for my position. Joining the SLB helped me experience love and support in more ways than I knew existed. My experience with OCF has been amazing so far, and I hope others can benefit from this organization as much as I have. APPLY!!!”

Remy

Remy

Rutgers University

“SLB has made me a better student, friend, Orthodox Christian, and individual! Serving on the student leadership board has strengthened my time management and communication skills! I find it much easier to stay on top of my responsibilities as a student and EMT as I’ve learned to maximize my time to ensure everything gets done immediately!” 

Anna

Anna

Kansas State University

“The SLB is an answer to praying in bringing me a community who supports me in my work and who I can be my authentic self around. I know I could call up anyone on the board, and they would be there for me to listen or help in any way. I love everyone I have met so much, and I know these people care about me deeply! Every person puts their whole heart into their work and wants to create a beautiful experience for their fellow students.”

OCF March 2021 Blogs

College Student Sunday scheduled for October 3, 2021

College Student Sunday scheduled for October 3, 2021

BROOKLINE, MA - The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America has designated October 3, 2021 as College Student Sunday. On this day, Orthodox parishes recognize and honor their Orthodox College Students and take a special collection to...

April District Retreats

Students coming together with their peers for a day of fellowship, learning, service, and prayer. 

chicago

columbus to lexington

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Ask yourself: what brings me peace?

Ask yourself: what brings me peace?

“Peace begins with a smile.” I still remember hearing that quote by Mother Teresa from a friend one summer at church camp. Honestly, I didn’t think it was true. It sounded too simple. This may have been because growing up I heard phrases like “world peace” or the Bible verse “a peace that surpasses all understanding.” Peace seemed so big, like an immense undertaking or something to accomplish.

However, I was wrong. Peace is right in front of us. It’s inside of us and it’s a gift from God. One way to seek peace, then, is to turn inward. Ask yourself: what brings me peace?

For me, stillness is often the answer. Psalm 46:10 tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” There is so much external noise and there always will be. Stillness provides a refuge from the noise and the distraction. Because we are all created uniquely, stillness can look different for each one of us. A priest once told me, “Do what brings you closer to God.” He didn’t give me a recipe with all the ingredients and measurements. Instead, he encouraged me to listen to my heart and to trust myself. I mentioned to him that I love journaling at the beach to which he replied, “Great! Do THAT!” Naturally, I listed off a whole bunch of other activities in which I feel close to God: surfing, baking, reading books, talking with friends. He smiled at me and nodded his head. As I was listing these things it occurred to me that I was drawing near to God during these activities because I felt at peace doing them. They are stress relievers and they calm my heart and my mind, allowing me to be still (even if I am not physically “still”), be at peace, and be with God.

Something I have to remind myself of, something I think is important to remember, is that we have an external environment–what others say and do, what’s going on in the world–that we cannot control. However, we have an internal environment–our soul, our relationship with Christ–that we can control.

When the internal environment is at peace, things happening in the external environment are easier to handle. Internal peace provides stability, a foundation for us to act from. That foundation is Christ, who is goodness and life. St. Philaret of Moscow prays, “Teach me to treat all that come to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that Thy will governs all.” This prayer reflects the difficulty we can undergo in dealing with our external environment and encourages us to take care of our internal environment through Christ.

Another aspect of peace I like to remember is that peace is powerful. St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “Acquire a spirit of peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” Peace is contagious! Just looking at someone in church who is deep in prayer, or gazing at the icons, or smiling as they cross themselves I feel at peace. They aren’t doing anything crazy like finding a cure to world hunger. They’re doing simple acts that stem from a spirit of peace. Seeing them helps me refocus inwardly, to block out the noise and return to myself and Christ in me. And it gives me peace.

The Prodigal Son struggled with noise and the temptations of his external environment. In Luke 15:17 it reads that he eventually turns inward, “But when he came to himself…” realizing his need for his father, to be in relationship with him and to be in his house. Always return to yourself, to Christ. Surround yourself with people who refocus you when the noise grows louder and becomes distracting.

This week we enter into the Lenten season. I don’t know about you, but being a vegan for forty days doesn’t bring me immediate peace. In fact, it stresses me out. Yet, in the Prayer Before The Icon of Christ (found in our little red prayer book) it says, “We cry aloud unto thee: thou hast filled all things with joy, O our Savior, for thou didst come to save the world.” There is profound peace knowing Christ has filled all things with joy, even suffering. We can think about the martyrs who had peace and joy in their suffering, in their death. I know that if the martyrs experienced peace and joy in death, I can experience Christ’s peace and joy in ‘little deaths’ to meat and cheese. We are being called to partake in Christ’s suffering for these next 40 days, but we are also being called to partake in His peace and His joy. In dying to ourselves we will experience life, just as the martyrs’ death brought them to be in paradise with their holy King, and be in a place where there is only “a peace that surpasses all understanding.” Doesn’t sound as daunting anymore, does it?

Peace be with you, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Andrew Gluntz

Tatiana Speier

Hello everyone! I’m Tati. I was raised in the Orthodox Church with both my grandfathers being parish priests here at St. Athanasius in Santa Barbara, CA. I have been a camp counselor at Camp St. Nicholas and have served as a leader for Youth Equipped to Serve.

Some things I love to do in my free time are trying a new recipe, going to the beach (I just learned how to surf! I’m terrible, but I enjoy it), and spending time with my nieces and nephew.

In December I graduated from nursing school and I just got hired by the local hospital to work in the oncology unit. I recently learned the term “oncology” comes from the Greek word Onkos which means burden; the illness was imagined to be a burden carried by the body.

Our faith teaches us to carry our cross, our burdens, something we know we can’t do without our Savior and without each other. I feel blessed to serve those struggling with the weight of cancer.

OCF February 2021 Highlights

february 2021

OCF's Spring Semester is well underway!

real break now

 

The newly launched Real Break Now program is in session! This year, Real Break is being offered as a virtual course on how to be the Church in the world. Students will grow in community with like-minded peers while learning from incredible examples of the Orthodox Christian faith. Upon completion of the program, students will have an opportunity to apply for a $1000 grant to impact their community!

spiritual wake up

 

New program alert!

Spiritual Wake-Up aims to create a community of prayer within OCF where students can grow and learn together throughout the Lenten season. This program will create the opportunity for an entire community to participate in the same activities on the same days and sometimes even at the same time, while each student is still completely immersed in their own environment!

Registration is still open for Spiritual Wake Up. Share the link below with a college student you know!

 

The Byzantine Chant Appreciation video series continued in February with Plagal First Tone.

February featured two student-submitted blog posts centered on the theme of “hope.”

Small Groups

February 1-April 11, 2021

Virtual small groups provide an intimate setting for students to connect with each other, check in, reflect, and be a source of Christ’s comfort and love. Groups of 4-7 students are facilitated virtually by trained OCF Student Leadership Board alumni and gather weekly.

District Day Retreats

Spring 2021

In-person District Retreats are happening this spring! Each District Retreat is a day long schedule including learning, fellowship, and discussion. COVID guidelines are followed at each gathering.

OCF’s very own Director of Ministries, Christina Andresen hosts a weekly podcast, “Sirach, Meech, & Teens” on Ancient Faith Radio. 

Christina Andresen (Teens) and Dimitri (Meech) Gagianas reflect on living the wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach. Students can listen in on their walk to class, morning drive, or a Bible study with their OCF. This podcast offers practical advice for being faithful to God in any situation.

spots are still available for…

Day of Prayer

March 14-15, 2021

Students can join OCF for a 24-hour prayer marathon to kick of Great Lent! Starting at 6pm on Forgiveness Sunday and culminating at 6pm on Clean Monday, OCF chapters across the nation will live stream their chapters praying the hours and commemorating all OCFers across the country.

Follow us to stay up-to-date on all OCF happenings!