St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church
Prayer Rules - Ignatii Brianchaninov

The soul that begins its path to God is submerged in a profound ignorance of everything divine and spiritual, though it be rich in the wisdom of this world. Because of this ignorance, it cannot know how much and how it must  pray. To help the soul of the beginner in prayer, the Holy Church has established prayer rules. The prayer rule is a collection of several prayers, composed by divinely inspired Holy Fathers, which are appropriate for specific circumstances and times. The purpose of a prayer rule is to give the soul the prayerful thoughts and emotions that it lacks. Not just any such thoughts, or emotions, but only the proper, holy, definitively God-pleasing thoughts and emotions. Such thoughts and emotions fill the grace-filled prayers of the Holy Fathers.

For exercise in prayer in the morning, there is a special collection of payers that is called the "morning rule of prayer." There is another collection of prayers that is called "prayer for the coming night" or "the evening rule." There is also a prayer rule for those who are preparing to commune the Holy Mysteries of Christ. This is called the "rule of preparation for Holy Communion." Others read several kathismas of Psalms per day, several chapters from the New Testament, and make  prostrations. All this is part of the prayer rule.

Rule! This is an exact name taken from the very action that is effected on the person by prayers. The prayer rule directs the soul in a correct and holy way, teaching it to worship God in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23). On the contrary, the soul that is left to itself cannot walk the correct path of prayer. Because of its damage and darkness by sin, it constantly deviates from the path and sometimes falls into pits by the side of the road — distraction, reverie, and various empty and delusive fantasies of exalted prayerful states invented by vanity and self-love.

The prayer rules preserve the praying man in a salvific disposition of humility and repentance, teaching him to constantly condemn himself, feeding him with compunction, strengthening him with hope in the all-good and all-merciful God, giving him joy in the peace of Christ, love for God and fellow man.

It is better to read fewer prayers and do fewer prostrations, but with attention, than to pray much and do many prostrations in a distracted manner.

Choose a rule for yourself in accordance with your own strength. What the Lord said concerning the Sabbath ("The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27)) can and must be understood to refer to all pious labors, among them the prayer rule.

The prayer rule is for the man, not the man for the prayer rule. It must be appropriate to the strength of a person, for the purpose of helping him progress spiritually. It should not be a burden that cannot be borne, that breaks the body's strength, and that disturbs the soul. All the more so, it should not be a cause of prideful and pernicious self-conceit, harmful condemnation and demeaning of one's fellow man.

A wisely chosen prayer rule that accords to a person's strength and manner of life is a wonderful means for the person who labors for his own salvation. Doing it daily, in the allotted time, makes it habitual, and soon prayer becomes an essential requirement of every day. Whoever has acquired this blessed habit only needs to approach the usual place where he prays his rule, and immediately his soul fills with prayerful disposition. No sooner has he uttered the first word of prayer than his heart is filled with compunction and his mind plunges deep into the inner room of secret prayer.