Lengthening our presence before God
Our own prayers will not be long enough to enjoy our existence before God, while the Agpeya prayers elongate this precious time to enjoy it, as the Psalmist says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4). Many of us remember God only at the beginning and end of the day, while they are busy during the day, but these prayers give us the opportunity to remember Him and His redeeming and saving events all the day. This way, we could sanctify our time, purify our thoughts, and preserve ourselves from devilish trials.
Dialogue with God
It is a privilege to stand before the Lord of lords, and talk to Him; and it is more of a privilege to hear Him talking to you personally. Your own prayer is directed from you to God, while the Psalm is a dialogue between you and God. The Psalm, in general, starts by a request; and when the psalmist feels the divine acceptance, he concludes with thanksgiving. In some Psalms, you may find God is replying or promising the psalmist at the end of the Psalm. For example:
· Psalm 3: Starts with, “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God’” and is ended by, “I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill. I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.”
· Psalm 6: Starts with, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure” and when the psalmist felt the acceptance of his prayer, he says, “Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication.”
· Psalm 84: The psalmist says, “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause Your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?” and suddenly he says, “I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him.”
· Psalm 91: the Psalmist says, “I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust” and the Lord replied saying, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”
· Psalm 22: It is one of the Psalms in which the words of the Lord are coming to you, “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you; may He send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion; may He remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice. May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose...”
Includes all Factors of Prayer
Our own prayers may include only the factor of asking for our needs; but the Agpeya prayers include all factors of prayer: thanksgiving, praise and glorification, repentance and humbling ourselves before God, besides asking for our needs. This fulfills St. Paul’s advice, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1Timothy 2:1).
· Thanksgiving: The Agpeya prayers speak about the salvation which the crucified Christ had fulfilled for our sake, and He is worthy for thanksgiving. We start our prayers with the thanksgiving prayer besides many expressions in the psalms of every hour e.g. “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:12).
· Praise: The book of Psalms is called the book of rejoicing because the Psalms were used to sing to the Lord with joy. Praise is the summit of prayer and expression of rejoicing because it is the language of heavenly choirs; and when we praise the Lord, we are considered members of the heavenly choir which expands from the church to the heaven. Many Psalms encourage us to praise with joy e.g. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1, 2), “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:1-3).
· Repentance: At the beginning of every hour, we pray Psalm 50 (51) saying, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving-kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Many Psalms express our humbleness and repentance asking for God’s mercy e.g. “O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak” (Psalm 6:1, 2), and “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. I am a reproach among all my enemies” (Psalm 31:9-11).
· Asking for our needs: The Agpeya prayers cover all our needs, both physical and spiritual, under different circumstances. The two main requests are asking for forgiveness and for support. For example, we ask God to forgive us our sins, iniquities and trespasses which are hidden or manifest, whether committed knowingly or unknowingly by deed, thought, words or by any of the other senses. We pray also asking for support by saying, “Save us from the trickeries of the adversary and abolish all the snares which are set against us,” and “Receive from us our prayers in this hour and in every hour. Ease our life and guide us to fulfill Your commandments. Sanctify our spirits. Cleanse our bodies. Conduct our thoughts. Purify our intensions. Heal our diseases. Forgive our sins. Deliver us from every evil grief and distress of heart. Surround us by Your holy angels, that, by their camp, we may be guarded and guided, and attain the unity of faith.”
Observes the Holy Commemorations
The Agpeya brings the life of the Lord Christ before us every day to contemplate and learn from it and to be able to imitate Him:
· In matins prayer we remember the eternal birth of Christ from the Father before all ages, as well as His birth from the Virgin Mary to shine upon us who are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death to enlighten our life. We also remember His glorious resurrection early Sunday morning, letting the light of His resurrection shine instead of the darkness of death.
· In the third hour prayer we remember the unjust trial of our Lord Jesus which ended by the verdict of death by crucifixion, to encourage us to persevere in our tribulations. We also remember His ascension to the heavens and His sitting at the right hand of His Father, considering His promise that says, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). We also remember the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the church, asking Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit for the heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Luke 11:13).
· In the sixth hour we remember the great love of the Lord Jesus (John 3:16) and the marvelous salvation achieved on the cross to express our love to Him who loved us first.
· In the ninth hour we remember Christ’s death as a sacrifice of love because “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). So we imitate the repentant thief in his repentance, offering our thanks to the suffering Christ for our sake.
· In the Vesper prayer (eleventh hour) we remember the descent of Christ’s body for burial to offer our tears of repentance as fragrant oil for His burial (Mark 14:8, 9). We also remember the eleventh hour laborers who received a full wage for their labor (Matthew 20:12) so that we may have hope for the mercy of God.
· In the Compline prayer (twelfth hour) we remember the entombment of Christ’s body, to be ready for our moment in which we’ll leave this world.
· In the first watch of midnight prayer we remember the second coming of our Lord Christ to prepare ourselves with watching and striving to receive Him joyfully like the wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).
· In the second watch of midnight prayer we remember the repentant woman who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, asking Him to give us fountains of tears for repentance to receive our forgiveness.
· In the third watch of midnight prayer we remember the faithful steward who heard the divine voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Asking for Mercy Diligently
We pray in every hour the very effective prayer “Lord have mercy” for 41 times to remember 39 lashes on the back of our Savior besides the crown of thorns and the spear. So we ask Him for His mercy persistently for the sake of His life-giving sufferings. The persistence in prayer is evaluated by the Lord as He taught us (Luke 18:1-7; 11:8-10). We could pray this prayer by saying, “O You who was scourged for my sake, have mercy on me… O You who was crowned with thorns for my sake, have mercy on me…” or “Lord have mercy on me and save me from my evil thoughts… Lord have mercy on me and save me from my iniquities…”
According to the will of God
St. James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). These prayers are considered according to the will of God because each hour consists of Psalms and Gospel passages inspired by the Holy Spirit besides some supplications. Therefore they will be acceptable for the divine promise is faithful, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1John 5:14). Then “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you; may He send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion; may He remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice. May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose” (Psalms 20:1-4).
Contemplation and exhortation
The Agpeya prayers provide us with very rich materials for our daily contemplation and exhortation, to be able to implement St. Paul’s advice, “Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). For example, we have a spiritual plan at the beginning of every day, in matins prayer, to follow, as St. Paul tells us, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). This message is completed by the first Psalm, which warns us from the counsel of the ungodly and the path of sinners and the scornful; encouraging us to meditate day and night in the word of God to be prosperous. Psalm 19 teaches us about the word of God, by saying, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.” Other Psalms in the same hour exhort us like Psalm 15. Psalms 24 in the third hour teaches us saying, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalm 41 is considered as a great sermon about the blessings of merciful deeds, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness; You will sustain him on his sickbed.”
The other prayers are not excluded from the factor of contemplation and exhortation. For example, the Gospel of the sixth hour is reminding us with the beatitudes for the poor in spirit (the humble), the mourners for their sins, the meek, those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace makers, and the persecuted for righteousness and truth. The litanies of each hour are also very useful if we pray it with contemplation.
Let us pray our Agpeya regularly and continuously as much as we can to receive these blessings and more than that to be connected with the loving Christ every day and all the day.