Prayers of the Desert
The original monks of the Egyptian desert have left us tremendous treasures that speak to us across the centuries. Their survival is a testament to the Spirit of God which inspired them, and their words have much to offer us today.
The Rule of Saint Pachomios was revealed to the saint by an angel. After receiving this prayer rule, he maintained it faithfully throughout his life, reciting it at every hour of the day and night. It is a simple prayer rule and ideal for memorization, which can be said in any place or at any time.
The Service of the Twelve Psalms developed out of the early monastic services, which featured the structured reading of the entire Psalter each day. Over time, other hymns and prayers came to be added to the daily services; but at the same time, the simpler Twelve Psalms service remained as a substitute for Matins, Vespers, and the Lesser Hours. It was prayed especially in small monasteries, or sketes, where the proper liturgical resources were not available, or monks did not have the skill or ability to perform the standard services. Note that the Twelve Psalms are not meant to replace the regular prayer rule, but to compliment it, as church services compliment our daily prayers.
In today’s world, we see how easily our access to the Church’s divine services can be cut off, whether due to pandemic, civil unrest, or violence. God forbid, but we cannot take for granted that we will always be able to attend Church when we desire it. To remain in the life of the Church, we may be required to take on the responsibility of prayer ourselves. In this, we can look to our spiritual ancestors of the desert, who became like angels in their simple lives of constant prayer.
Whether prevented from attending Church due to illness, travel, or other circumstances, or if one simply desires to observe the Church’s cycle of prayer in an uncomplicated way, these time-tested prayers have led countless souls on the road to salvation.
- Dimensions: 4 x 5.75 inches
- Cover: Softcover
- Pages: 48
- Language: English (modern formal)
- Published by Saint Ignatius Orthodox Press in partnership with Legacy Icons
This is a highly recommended volume. I don't normally talk about personal prayer rules unless I'm seeking help from fellow Orthodox, but I want to make an exception in this case.
After using all five sections (plus a small prayer service for praying to the Saints and our Lord as depicted in my icons, and one at night for examination of conscience and protection - yay for seven!) for almost the 40-day period of Christmas fasting, I asked to make this my full prayer rule after searching for a long time.
I'm happy to say that I now use the St. Pachomius prayer rule in the mornings; one (for non-fasting days) or all (for fasting days) of the first three services of the Twelve Psalms during the day, with an allowance to exchange the three sets of triple Psalms with the three parts of a Kathisma; and, lastly, the final, fourth, longer prayer for a night service, with the option to change Psalm 101 with any of the six other Penitential Psalms (6, 31, 37, 50, 129, 142). If you are new to prayer, you will probably not be given such abilities to adjust. Such a Rule as mine gives me some hope for growth, as a handy schedule is given in this prayerbook both for Lent and non-Lenten times and represents a consistent, rigorous prayer goal toward which a layperson like me can, with guidance from a spiritual director and God's Grace, work toward in time.
I personally add a small service for the living and dead and to reverencing my Holy Icons, with morning and weekday/holiday Troparions, and another with the Examination of Conscience from Jordanville (as Manasseh is powerful, but not the explicit list I personally need), a small protection prayer (e.g. Let God Arise) and evening Troparion. I also read the Lectionary and Saint(s) for the day.
These additional, very short prayers are just to supplement this book with other common prayers to form my own personal prayer rule, servicing just my needs from the stance of my particular spiritual director. Always please ask your spiritual director or Priest before engaging in a rule.
These two Rules in this book have carried millions of Orthodox Christians - including, according to the narrative for the 12 Psalms rule, traveling monks - on their own for centuries and centuries for a reason. If you, like me, have been searching for a Prayer Rule for a long time and have been too short, too long or too unfocused in prayer (or like me, all three) consider bringing one or both of these rules in this book before your Spiritual Father as a rule of your own.
Lastly, a word about the translation: it will be jolting for a few people, especially in the States, to see adjustments to common prayers made in here. For instance, the Trisagion is said as "Holy God, Holy Strong, Holy Immortal ..." The Our Father, usually from the King James for Orthodox services in English, flows far more fluidly in the way it is written in here. And the translations for the Psalms are fantastic, aimed at that perfect boundary between the worlds of translating for liturgical pacing versus for clarity and exactness of meaning. In here, just like the light blue-covered Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians sold here at Legacy, the Psalms favor less archaic wording clarifying the sometimes dense theology in the Psalms, while still retaining both a liturgical character and that reverent Middle English feel, without all the Middle English vocabulary.
This represents a modernization that lacks modern*ism* and that we need so badly today. With so many translations in English, we can go through services that end up with two or more (!) translations of the Psalms, varying according to which manual or printout the particular chanter picked up today. All English-speaking diocese from all jurisdictions should come together and settle the matter to one and only one translation for liturgical use, in my opinion, and if that becomes a reality, I hope the translator of this piece could be employed toward such a cause.
A wonderful little book to get you started on a rich prayer life. The rule is simple to follow and easy to memorize. Highly recommended
Prayers of the Desert is a beautiful gem. This little prayer book was my introduction to St. Pachomios and his contributions to early monasticism. sThe simplicity of the Rule of St. Pachomios and the Service of the Twelve Psalms makes maintaining a prayer rule easy when time constraints and the demands of daily life prohibit keeping the entire Horologion. Following the Rule of St. Pachomios allows one to be united in common prayer with not only the early Christians and monks who continue to pray with the angels, but also with contemporary Christians worldwide who follow a daily Rule of Prayer. In my home I keep this prayer book at my side and I purchased a second copy to carry in my purse so that I can take comfort in the psalms and pray at all times and in all places. Prayers of the Desert is truly a blessing in my life. I believe it will be a blessing in yours, too.
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