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How to set up a traditional Orthodox prayer corner

Jan 4th 2022

We have often heard from customers, "How do I set up a prayer corner?" We are going to explain the idea of the home prayer corner, the meaning behind each element, and how to get started if you don't have one yet.

Location

The Prayer Corner can be located in any convenient place in your home. The best place is a prominent wall or corner of your main living room, where the family can gather each day to pray. As Christians throughout history have traditionally prayed facing towards the East, an eastern wall or corner is ideal, if possible.

Instead (or in addition), a prayer corner may be located in a private space such as a bedroom, or even a closet. This is ideal for personal prayer and spiritual reading in a quiet environment, away from household distractions.

Some families will even dedicate an entire spare room to prayer, making it a home chapel. A few elaborate examples may be furnished as beautifully as an actual church! This is absolutely not necessary, but for those who have the means, it can be a special place to host prayer groups and weekday reader's services.

Icons

The most fundamental element of the Prayer Corner is the Icon of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Icons help us give focus to our prayers, as we are able to direct our eyes to His face. Icons make spiritual realities present to us in a tangible way.

In the theology of Orthodox iconography, the prayers and veneration directed to the Icons are passed on to the prototype—the person depicted in the image. For, as St. John of Damascus wrote: we do not worship paint or wood, we do not worship matter; we worship the God who created matter, who became matter (flesh) for our sake.

To the icon of the Lord Jesus, we most often add the icon of His Mother, the Holy Virgin Mary. This is to honor her as the "highly favored one" (Lk. 1:28) who was chosen by God from all generations to give birth to God Incarnate: Jesus Christ.

As the Queen Mother, she stands at his right hand (Ps. 44:8), so her icon is placed at the right (viewer's left) of the Christ icon. She is the holiest of saints, and her requests are heard by her Son (Jn. 2).

Legacy Icons offers a number of matching icon sets of Christ and the Virgin Mary (Theotokos, "God-bearer") that are sure to be stunning centerpieces to your home prayer corner, and museum quality heirlooms that will be passed on for generations.

In addition to the icons of the Lord Jesus and the Virgin Mary, we will often add icons that have personal significance to us.

In historic Christian tradition, we receive a Christian name at baptism. This is the name of a Saint, whom we will have a special relationship with for our entire life. The Church feast day of our name-saint becomes our own personal holiday called a Name Day (also called an Angel Day or Slava), much like a birthday, but more important as a spiritual day. We keep an icon of the Patron Saint to remind us of him or her, and make him or her present to our physical senses through the image that we can see.

Each person also has a Guardian Angel who watches over our life, praying for us, prompting us to prayer and good works, protecting us from the demons, and caring for our soul immediately after death. As with our Patron Saint, our relationship with our Guardian Angel is important, and it is common to have his icon in our prayer corner.

We may also develop close relationships with other Saints. Perhaps their lives inspire us in special ways, becoming role models we identify with in the ways they overcame the passions to follow Christ. We can keep these icons in our prayer corner as well, as they pray for us in God's heavenly kingdom.

Finally, we may want to keep icons from special events in the Church year, such as the Great Feasts, Lent, Pascha, or other events. These icons help keep us connected to the rhythms of the Church's life, and they are excellent teaching tools for young and old alike.

And if you are interested in icons as teaching tools, don't miss our Legacy Learning Icon Cards, which are perfect for all ages!

Candles & Lamps

From the earliest days, Light has been a part of Christian worship. This is not merely to give a beautiful and calming ambience; it took on a theological significance with Christ as the Light of the World.

Christians used lamps and candles liturgically, as the Jews did before them. The ancient hymn Phos Hilarion ("O Gladsome Light") was sung at the hour of lamp-lighting, and it is still a prominent part of the Orthodox Vespers service today.

You can bring this "Gladsome Light" into your own home prayer corner with beautiful oil lamps and candles from Legacy Icons.

They serve the practical purpose of shedding a gentle light on your prayer corner and books as you pray, and they symbolize Christ as the Light. But in addition, the work of maintaining the lights in a prayerful way can become a sort of prayerful liturgy unto itself.

Books

Home prayer is a highly personal matter of choice, discipline, and spiritual maturity and strength. In Church we join ourselves to the work of a common prayer (a liturgy), but at home we find a personal expression of our faith within the Church's guidance.

We offer a selection of books specially curated for home prayer that we think will appeal to Christians at all stages of their growth.

Devotional Items

The rich spirituality of Orthodox Christianity includes a variety of spiritual aids and reminders that may find a place in your home prayer corner. The most well-known of these is the Prayer Rope.