Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

Morning and Evening Prayer Rules in the Russian Orthodox Tradition

Posted in Practical Matters by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 22 December 2009

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Introduction

My interest in the history of the Morning and Evening Prayer Rules came from a somewhat unusual source: in more than seven years of serving as a parish priest, I have regularly heard it confessed by a large number of people that they fail to complete all of their daily prayers.  What is meant by these confessions is that some penitents regularly cut short the Rules contained in the Orthodox Prayer Book.  It must be noted, however, that there appear to be no standard rubrics for the composition or length of Morning and Evening Rules, nor is there a mention of the “sin of the shortening of the Prayer Rule” either in the daily confession of sins contained at the end of evening prayers, or in the Rite of Confession contained in the Book of Needs.  To be sure, one of the prayers in the evening rule does mention being “neglectful of prayer,” but this likely refers to one’s general attitude toward prayer, rather than to a modification of the Prayer Rule, although there can certainly exist a causal relationship between the two.  At least two issues immediately arise from this situation: 1) whether shortening the generally prescribed Prayer Rule should be viewed as a confessional issue; and 2) by whom and when the Prayer Rules were compiled.

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CONTENTS:

Composition of Modern Russian Prayer Rules

–The “Main Groups”

–The “Beginning Prayers”

–The “Ending Prayers”

Earliest Mentions of Christian Private Prayer

Development of Daily Cycles of Services

Possible Ways to Understand the Development of the Prayer Rules

Western Influence

Alternate Prayer Rules

Conclusion

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