How Do the Russian Orthodox Pray?

Prayer is an important part of daily life for Russian Orthodox Christians.
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The Russian Orthodox Church is one of a group of Eastern Orthodox churches that split with the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. Though the differences in beliefs between Orthodox Christians and Catholics are very small, their ways of life and manners of worship vary more noticeably. Russian Orthodox adherents are expected to pray regularly and have many rituals involving praying during the day and for specific events.

1 Prayer Book

Orthodox believers often look to a semi-standard prayer book for advice on which prayers to say at what times. The prayer book not only contains the prayers said during church services, but prayers for various special occasions and recommended prayers for daily life. In addition to printing the actual words of the prayers, it also may include notes on when to say them, what manner to say them in and whether they are to be accompanied by specific gestures or positions. For example, one prayer might be preceded by kissing a cross and another might be best spoken while facing toward a specific object or location.

2 Prayer Rules

For Russian Orthodox adherents, a "prayer rule" refers to a person's plan or commitment regarding which prayers to say regularly during the day. The church does not require its followers to say any particular combination of prayers, though they are obligated to pray at least three times per day. Orthodox Christians consider this basic rule of praying at least three times daily to be a tradition passed down from early Christianity. Though the most basic prayer rule involves closely following the recommendations in the prayer book, practice is flexible, and it may be recommended that each believer find his or her own prayer rule to best communicate with God.

3 Morning and Evening Prayers

Russian Orthodox Christians say a particular set of morning and evening prayers outlined in the prayer book. Morning prayers are to be said just after rising from bed and involve several short opening prayers, a series of 10 or 11 longer prayers and then a group of closing prayers. The evening prayers follow a similar pattern and end with prayer surrendering the believer into the hands of God for sleep. This tradition emerged relatively recently, over the last 200 years, but has become so standard that many adherents mistakenly believe it is considered a sin to break from the rule.

4 The Jesus Prayer

Another important prayer in the daily life of Orthodox Christians is the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Believers are taught that they should repeat this line over and over again throughout the day, when eating, sitting, traveling or doing just about anything. This is meant as a form of meditation to help them focus on their relationship with God and achieve joy and purity of thought.

Evan Centanni specializes in world cultures and human geography. He grew up in Oregon, but has since lived in two other countries and traveled to many more. Centanni is editor of Political Geography Now at He holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and linguistics from the University of Oregon.