ON PRAYER (De Oratione)

This is a treatise addressed to his friend Ambrose and an unknown lady, Tatiana, perhaps the sister of Ambrose, written in 233 or 234 A.D. Origen wrote this work, which is the oldest scientific discussion of Christian prayer in existence. It is a gem among the writings of Origen. This treatise was written after a long period of peace, and contains many allusions to martyrdom, and his enthusiasm glows in it so brightly that we are tempted to believe it was written in the period when the persecution was raging.

1. John J. O’Meara says that, it is not merely a treatise on prayer; it is a prayer in itself. For the spirit of Origen which, as Erasmus says, is everywhere aflame, is burning here with such intensity as to make it impossible for the reader to remain untouched. A glance at the Table of Contents will tell the reader of the topics treated; but he must read the text itself to feel its power and the irresistible charm of Origen's use of Holy Writ. J.W. Trigg says, "It is the first clear and thoroughgoing exposition, within the Christian tradition, of prayer as the contemplation of God rather than as a means of achieving material benefits."

2. It reveals more clearly than any of his other writings the depth and warmth of Origen's religious life. The ideas of this treatise have had a far-reaching effect in the history of spirituality. Origen's writings were read by some early monks of Egypt.

3. In it, Job is held up as "the athlete of virtue."

4. Origen gives a beautiful interpretation of the opening address "Our Father, who art in heaven." He points out that the Old Testament does not know the name 'Father' as an alternative for God in the Christian sense of a steady and changeless adoption. Only those who have received this spirit of adoption and prove that they are children and images of God by their actions can recite the prayer rightly. Our entire life should say: 'Our Father who art in heaven,' because our conduct should be heavenly, not worldly.

5. The advice which he gives in the first part of his treatise, not to ask for things of this earth but for supernatural treasures explains his interpretation of the fourth petition: "Since some are of the opinion that this must be understood as if we should ask for bread for our body, it will be worth to refute their wrong idea and find out the truth about the daily bread. One ought to tell such people how is it possible that He, who demands that one ought to pray for heavenly and great things, could forget His own teaching, according to their opinion, and order them to ask the Father for a worldly and small cause." The food is the Logos, who calls Himself 'the Bread of life.'

6. Origen took this word, epiousios, as cognate to ousia, the philosophical term for the substance of things, incorporeal in itself, that makes possible whatever attributes they have. The term also refers to the future. The bread we request in the Lord’s Prayer can thus be the bread of the Word of God, which is Wisdom and Truth.

Since this is the case, and the difference between nourishments is as we have said, the supersubstantial bread which is unique and above all those that are mentioned. We must pray to be made worthy of it, and to be nourished by the Word of God, which was in the beginning with God, so that we may be made divine...

Some state that the term epiousios is formed from the verb epienai: that is to say, that we are bidden to ask for the bread that properly belongs to the age that is to come.

7. Origen explains Forgiving our debtors, mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer, saying:

But towards ourselves also we have debts: we must use our body in such a way as not to waste its substance in our love of pleasure; and we owe it to our soul to look after it carefully, to provide that the mind retain its keenness, and that our speech may never be barbed, but always helpful, and never given to vain talk. And again, if we do not discharge our debts towards ourselves, our debt becomes all the heavier.

8. Origen tried to define prayer and argued with those who denied freedom of will, and who gave the following objections to prayer:

a. First, if God foresees everything that will happen, and these things must happen, prayer is useless.

b. Second, if everything happens according to the will of God, and His decisions are firm, and nothing that He wills can be changed, prayer is useless.

c. What is the use of praying to Him who knows what we need even before we pray?

For them, either our prayer is superfluous because God has already determined to grant our request, or it is vain because God has determined not to grant it. Either God has predestined us to salvation, in which case it is unnecessary to pray for salvation or to receive the Holy Spirit, or God has predestined us for damnation, in which case such prayer is futile.

If we are satisfied about our freedom of will, which manifests innumerable tendencies to virtue or vice, or again to one’s duty or the opposite of one’s duty, it follows that God necessarily knew what form it would take before it took that form along with all the other things that were to be from the creation and foundation of the world (Rom. 1:20; Matt. 25:34). And in all the things which God prearranges according as He has foreseen each of our free actions, He prearranged according to the requirements of each of our free actions both that which was to happen as a result of His Providence and that which was to happen in the sequence of events that were to be. Yet the foreknowledge of God is not a cause of everything that is to be and of the effects of our free actions resulting from our own impulses.

Origen argues in such a way as to insure both human freedom and divine providence; for divine foreknowledge is not the cause of man’s actions, which he performs in freedom and for which he is accountable.

Origen rejected the opinion of those who said that temptations to sin could not be resisted. Refuting various Greek doctrines about the cyclical nature of history, he asserted the Christian teaching "that the universe is cared for by God in accordance with the conditions of the free will of each man, and that as far as possible it is always being led on to be better, and ... that the nature of our free will is to admit various possibilities."

If then God knows the free will of every man, therefore, since He foresees it, He arranges by His Providence what is fair according to the deserts of each, and provides what he may pray for, the disposition of such and such thus showing his faith and object of his desire.

9. Origen’s On Prayer provides us with a number of insights, unusual in his work, into the conventional religious practices of Christians in his day.



Its contents

The introduction opens with the statement that what is impossible for human nature becomes possible by the grace of God and the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our prayers and lives. Such is the case with prayer. We pray to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

The treatise consists of two parts:

The first part (Chs. 3-I7) deals with prayer in general.

The second part (Chs. I8-30) deals with the Lord's Prayer in particular.

An appendix (Chs. 3I-33), which makes additions to the first section, deals with the attitude of the body and soul, gestures, the place and the direction of prayer, and finally the different kinds of prayer.

At the end, Origen begs Ambrose and Tatiana to be content with the present writing for the time being until he could offer something better, more beautiful and more precise. Apparently Origen was never able to fulfill this promise.




Since then to expound prayer is such a difficult task that one needs the Father to shed light upon it and the Word Himself, the firstborn, to teach it, and the Spirit to work within us that we may understand and speak worthily of so great a theme, I beseech the Spirit, praying as a man (for I do not lay to my own credit the capacity for prayer), before I begin to speak of prayer, that it may be granted me to speak fully and spiritually (etc.) .


St. Clement and his disciple, Origen, as preachers and teachers at the same time, look up to the Savior as the "Teacher" who grants us Himself "the Truth." He is the Medicine for ignorance and grief. Therefore St. Clement calls our Savior the "New Hymn," while Origen calls the new life in Christ "prayer." St. Clement considers Christ the source of joy, for in Him we attain knowledge and are healed from any serious sickness, ignorance, or any other source of inner grief. Origen believes that the Christian life is a prayer, or a close contact with Christ, the Source of sweetness arising from true Knowledge.

In other words, the two deans of the School of Alexandria have the same insights towards divine knowledge. St. Clement states that Christ changes everything in a believer’s life into a constant feast, in which he has no other hymn to sing except that of Christ Himself. Origen expresses the same feeling when he describes his entire life as a prayer, and stresses that Christ alone is the source of an unceasing stream of knowledge.

According to Origen, prayer is not just a part of communal and personal worship that we have to exercise. A Christian’s entire life is a prayer in which the exercise commonly called prayer is only a part.

Rather, if we understand the earlier discussion of praying "constantly" (1 Thess. 5:17), then let our whole life be a constant prayer in which we say "Our Father who art in heaven," and let us keep our commonwealth (Phil. 3:20) not in any way on earth, but in every way in heaven, the throne of God, because the kingdom of God is established in all those who bear the image of the Man from heaven (1 Cor. 15:49) and have thus become heavenly.

We are on the road to perfection, if straining forward to what lies ahead we forget what lies behind. The kingdom of God will be established for us when the Apostle’s word is fulfilled, when Christ with all His enemies made subject to Him will deliver "the kingdom to God the Father.... "constantly"(1 Thess. 5:17) with a character being divinized by the Word, and let us say to our Father in heaven, "hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come."

Origen asks us to pray without ceasing to sanctify the whole cycle of the day, by practicing good deeds, considering them as prayer.

It is only in this way that we can understand the injunction "to pray without ceasing" as some thing that we can carry out all the time. We can say so if we regard the whole life of a saint as one great continuous prayer. What is usually termed "prayer" is but a part of this prayer, and it should be performed not less than three times each day.

Although Origen considered a virtuous life one unbroken prayer, he recommended specifically praying to God at least three times a day: in the morning, at noon, and in the evening.







For what better gift can a rational being send up to God than the fragrant word of prayer, when it is offered from a conscience untainted with the foul smell of sin?


1. Origen, depending on the holy Scriptures, states that prayer is the act of lifting up unceasingly the soul to attain a vision of divine beauty and majesty. We attain the open gates of heaven, or we have their keys: "Again, Elijah, when the heavens had been closed to the impious for three years and six months, they were later opened by the word of God, (1 King. 17, 18). This can always be brought about by anyone who receives rain upon his soul through prayer, whereas formerly because of sin he was deprived of it."

2. The utility and advantage of prayer is that it enables us to enter into a union with the Spirit of the Lord, who fills heaven and earth. Repeated conversation with God has a sanctifying effect on the believer’s entire existence. Prayer’s real purpose is not to ask advantages from God or to influence Him but to share in His life, and to communicate with heaven. Origen admonishes those who long for a spiritual being in Christ but ask for small and worldly things in their intercourse with God rather than for great and heavenly values. The best example is given by Christ, our High-Priest. He offers up our worship together with that of the angels and the souls of the deceased, especially the guardian angels, who carry our invocations to God.

3. Through prayer we enjoy the Presence of God. "It is evident that the man who prays thus, even while he is still speaking and contemplating the power of Him who is listening to him, will hear the words:` Behold, I am here’ ."

4. Through prayer we ask God that we, together with our brothers, might be changed from earth into heaven.

If then we are "earth" because of sin, let us pray that also for us God’s will may be disposed for correction, just as it overtook those before us who became or were "heaven." And if we are reckoned by God not "earth" but "heaven," let us ask that the will of God may be fulfilled on earth as in heaven, I mean for the baser people so that they may, so to speak, make earth heaven with the result that there will no longer be any earth, but all will become heaven. For if the will of God is done on earth as in heaven, understood as I have said above, then earth does not remain earth. Let me put it more clearly by using another example.

"Your will be done on earth as in heaven"... And those who come after us "on earth" will pray to be made like us who have come to be "in heaven."

5. Through prayer we are surrounded by angels of God who do their best for our progress: "At the time of prayer itself the angels are reminded by him who is praying of the things which he needs, and they do what they can for him acting according to the general injunction which they receive."

6. In this work, as in all his works, especially his Homilies on Leviticus, Origen explains the advantages of temptation.

The use of temptation is as follows. What our soul has received is unknown to all save God - is unknown even to ourselves; but it is manifested by means of temptations: so that it may be no longer unknown what kind of persons we are, but rather that we should also know ourselves and be aware, if we will, of our faults and give thanks for the good results manifested to us of temptations.

He also gives an answer to the question: Why do we pray to God that we may not enter in a temptation, if it is useful to our spirituality? Origen says that when we pray that God may not lead us into temptation, this must really mean that we pray that God will enable us to overcome temptation when it comes and allow us to profit by the experience.

Prayer fortifies the soul against temptations and drives evil spirits away. By prayer we close the mouths of lions, or of evil spirits. For this reason we should engage in it at certain times during the day. Through prayer we discover our Lord who went into the nets of temptation by His own will for our sake to deliver us from them.

The whole life of man on earth is, then, as has been said, temptation. Accordingly, let us pray to be delivered from temptation, not that we should not be tempted - which is impossible, especially for those on earth - but that we may not yield when we are tempted. He who yields to temptation enters, I believe, into temptation because he is entangled in its nets. Our Savior, going into these nets on behalf of those who had been caught in them before, and looking through the nets, as is said in the Canticle of Canticles (2:9 LXX), speaks to those who have been previously caught by them and have entered into temptation, saying to them as to His bride: Arise, come, my neighbor, my beautiful one, my dove.

7. By prayer we attain purity:

Those who give themselves continually to prayer know by experience that through this frequent practice they avoid innumerable sins and are led to perform many good deeds.

And to this the Savior said, teaching us that absolute chastity is a gift given by God, and not merely the fruit of training, but given by God with prayer, "All men cannot receive this gift, but they to whom it is given."

Through the very act of prayer, the soul becomes more spiritual. It separates itself from bodily concerns, and turns entirely to spiritual things. Origen presented prayer thus, not as a duty we owe to God, but as an exercise conductive to the transformation of the entire personality.

8. Origen gives many examples of the power of prayer:

Hannah gave birth to Samuel, who was reckoned with Moses, because when she was barren she prayed to the Lord with faith (1 Sam. 1; Jer. 15:1; Ps. 99:6).

And Hezekiah, being still childless and having learned from Isaiah that he was about to die, prayed and was included in the genealogy of the Savior (Matt. 1:9-10;2 Kings 20:1ff; Isaiah 38:1ff).

Again, when, as a result of a single order arising from the intrigues of Haman, the people were about to be destroyed, the prayer and fasting of Mordecai and Esther were heard, and hence there arose, in addition to the feasts ordained by Moses, the festival of Mordecai for the people (Esther 3:6,7; 4:16,17; 9:26-28).

And Judith , too, having offered holy prayer, overcame Holofernes with the help of God, and so a single woman of the Hebrews brought shame to the house of Nebuchadnezzar (Judith 13:4-9).

Further, Ananias and Azarias and Misael became worthy to be heard and to be protected by the blowing of a wind bringing dew, which prevented the flame of the fire from being effective (Song of Three Children 27).

And the lions in the den of the Babylonians were muzzled through the prayers of Daniel.

And Jonah, too, not having despaired of being heard from out of the belly of the whale that had swallowed him, escaped from the belly of the whale and thus fulfilled the remainder of his prophetical mission to the men of Niniveh.

9. Besides the material benefits which we may attain through prayer there are spiritual ones, which are more important.

And so it was more the soul of Hannah that was cured of barrenness and bore fruit than her body when she conceived Samuel.

Hezechiah begot divine children of the mind rather than such as are born of the body from the seed of the body.

Esther and Mordecai and the people were delivered even more from spiritual attacks than from Haman and the conspirators.

Judith cut off the power of the prince who wanted to destroy her soul rather than the head of Holofernes.

And who will not admit that on Ananias and his companions descended the spiritual benediction that is granted to all the saints and is spoken of by Isaac when he says to Jacob:` God give you the dew of heaven’, rather than the physical dew which quenched that flame of Nebuchadnazar?

And they were invisible lions that were muzzled for the prophet Daniel so that they could do no hurt to his soul, rather than the lions that were seen and to whom we all referred the passage when we met it in the Scriptures.

And who has escaped from the belly of that beast subdued by Jesus our Savior and that swallows down everyone that flies from God, as had Jonah, who as a holy man was receptive of the Holy Spirit?.

10. Through constant prayers God establishes His temple in us

I believe that anyone among you who is a "living stones," is able to be a temple. He cares with prayer, offering his supplications at night and day, and offers the sacrifice of his petitions. Thus God builds His temple."


1. God who watches over our salvation may postpone or prevent certain material benefits, which are the shadow of spiritual ones, so that we may not be absorbed in earthly things.

As he, then, who seeks the rays of the sun neither rejoices nor grieves whether the shadow of bodies be present or absent, seeing that he has what is most necessary as long as he receives the light, whether there is no shadow or more or less of it, so if we be given spiritual gifts and receive illumination from God are in full possession of the things that are truly good, we shall not waste word over such an insignificant thing as a shadow.

We must pray for the essentially and truly great and heavenly things, and leave to God what is concerned with the shadows that accompany the essential gifts, He understands what is needful for us, because of our mortal body, before we ask Him (Matt. 6:8).

(God in His dealings with us works slowly but surely. Just as the wise farmer will not value rocky ground and quick results that won’t last) even so the great Farmer of all nature delays the blessing which might be expected sooner, for fear it prove superficial.

2. If we want to find a heavenly response to our prayers we must know what we ought to pray for.

And he (St. Paul) confessed that he did not know how to pray "as we ought." For he says, "what we ought to pray for as we ought we do not know" (Rom. 8:26). It is necessary not only to pray, but also to pray "as we ought" and to pray for what we ought.

And it is useful to know what it is to ask, and what it is to receive, and what is meant by "Every one that asks, receives," and by "I say unto you though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will arise and give him as many as he needs."

3. The effects of prayer depend on our interior preparation. The better the soul is prepared the sooner its petitions will be answered by God and the more will it benefit from the dialogue with Him.

4. God hears the voice of the believer who prays with his whole soul:

God therefore will give the good gift, perfect purity in celibacy and chastity, to those who ask Him with the whole soul, and with faith, and in prayers without ceasing.

5. Quoting the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:19, Origen states that our harmony and agreement with each other is a secure way of having our prayers answered, for through unity and love Christ Himself dwells in us.

Origen notices that the Greek word which is translated "agree" in this verse (Matt. 18:19) is symphonsusin. It means that Christ asks us to be united together in harmony so that we may be considered as a symphony which delights God Himself. Origen gives an interpretation of the verse on three levels:

a. Church symphony, when the members of the church become one in mind and one in spirit, therefore Christ dwells among them. The two who are one in symphony are the divine and spiritual.

In his speech on the power of harmony in relation to prayer he comments on the words, "Again I say unto you that if two of you shall agree (be in symphony) on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them" (Matt. 18:19).

The word symphony is strictly applied to the harmonies of sounds in music. And there are indeed among musical sounds some accordant and others discordant. But the Evangelic Scripture is familiar with the name as applied to musical matters in the passage, "He heard a symphony and dancing" (Luke 15:25). For it was fitting that when the son who had been lost and found came by penitence into concord with his father a symphony should be heard on the occasion of the joyous mirth of the house. But the wicked Laban was not acquainted with the word symphony in his saying to Jacob, "And if you had told me I would have sent you away with mirth and with music and with drums and a harp" (Gen. 31:27). But akin to the symphony of this nature is that which is written in the second Book of Kings when "the brethren of Aminadab went before the ark, and David and his son played before the Lord on instruments artistically fitted with might and with songs" (2 Sam. 6:4, 5); for the instruments thus fitted with might and with songs, had in themselves the musical symphony which is so powerful that when two only, bring along with the symphony which has relation to the music that is divine and spiritual, a request to the Father in heaven about anything whatsoever, the Father grants the request to those who ask along with the symphony on earth,- which is most miraculous, - those things which those who have made the symphony spoken of may have asked. So also I understand the apostolic saying "Defraud you not one the other except it be by agreement for a season that you may give yourselves unto prayer" (1 Cor. 7:5). For since the word harmony is applied to those who marry according to God in the passage from Proverbs which is as follows: "Fathers will divide their house and substance to their sons, but from God the woman is married to the man," it is a logical consequence of the harmony being from God, that the name and the deed should enjoy the agreement with a view to prayer, as is indicated in the word, "unless it be by agreement" (Matt. 18:20)...

But if you wish still further to see those who are making symphony on earth look to those who heard the exhortation, "that you may be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10), and who strove after the goal, "the soul and the heart of all the believers were one" (Acts 4:32), who have become such, if it be possible for such a condition to be found in more than two or three, that there is no discord between them. just as there is no discord between the strings of the ten-stringed psaltery with each other.

b. Family symphony, when a husband and his wife are living in harmony in their spiritual life.

Let us also touch upon another interpretation which was uttered by some one of our predecessors, exhorting those who were married to sanctity and purity; for by the two, he says, whom the Word desires to agree on earth, we must understand the husband and wife, who by agreement defraud each other of bodily intercourse that they may give themselves unto prayer (1 Cor. 7:5); when if they pray for anything whatever that they shall ask, they shall receive it, the request being granted to them by the Father in heaven on the ground of such agreement.

c. Personal symphony, when the spirit and the body of the believer are working together in harmony under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Christ dwells in this believer as if He is the Third.

In the wicked, sin reigns over the soul, being settled as on its own throne in this mortal body, so that the soul obeys the lusts thereof; but in the case of those, who have stirred up the sin which formerly reigned over the body as from a throne and who are in conflict with it, "the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh;" but in the case of those who have now become perfected, the spirit has gained the mastery and put to death the deeds of the body, and imparts to the body of its own life, so that already this is fulfilled, "He shall quicken also your mortal bodies because of His Spirit that dwells in you;" and there arises a concord of the two, body and spirit, on the earth, on the successful accomplishment of which there is sent up a harmonious prayer also of him who "with the heart believes unto righteousness, but with the mouth makes confession unto salvation," so that the heart is no longer far from God, and along with this the righteous man draws nigh to God with his own lips and mouth. But still more blessed is it if the three be gathered together in the name of Jesus that this may be fulfilled, "May God sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." But some one may inquire with regard to the concord of spirit and body spoken of, if it is possible for these to be at concord without the third being so,- I mean the soul,- and whether it does not follow from the concord of these on the earth after the two have been gathered together in the name of Christ, that the three also are already gathered together in His name, in the midst of whom comes the Son of God as all are dedicated to Him,- I mean the three, and no one is opposed to Him, there being no antagonism not only on the part of the spirit, but not even of the soul, nor further of the body.

Besides these three levels, Origen speaks of the harmony of the two covenants (the New and the Old Testaments), as if they were two and the Holy Spirit who united them is the Third. In many occasions Origen assures the unity of the Scriptures, if we understand them spiritually, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

And likewise it is a pleasant thing to endeavor to understand and exhibit the fact of the concord of the two covenants, of the one before the bodily advent of the Savior and of the new covenant; for among those things in which the two covenants are at concord so that there is no discord between them would be found prayers, to the effect that about anything whatever they shall ask it shall be done to them from the Father in heaven. And if also you desire the third that unites the two, do not hesitate to say that it is the Holy Spirit, since "the words of the wise," whether they be of those before the advent, or at the time of the advent, or after it, "are as goads, and as nails firmly fixed, which were given by agreement from one shepherd." And do not let this also pass unobserved, that He did not say, where two or three are gathered together in My name, there "shall I be" in the midst of them, but "there am I." not going to be, not delaying, but at the very moment of the concord being Himself found, and being in the midst of them.



According to the words of St. Paul (1 Tim. 2:1), Origen sees that there are four kinds of prayers: supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving:

I believe that supplication is offered by one who needs something, beseeching that he receive that thing; prayer is offered in conjunction with praise of God by one who asks in a more solemn manner for greater things; intercession is the request to God for certain things made by one who has greater confidence ; and thanksgiving is the prayer with acknowledgment to God for the favors received from God: either the one who acknowledges and understands the greatness of the favor done him, or he who has received it attaches such greatness to it.


The constant prayer and the abundant tears attract God towards mercy!

Weeping alone guides to the blessed laughing.

Jesus Christ desired to reveal all blessedness in Himself. He says, "Blessed are those who weep", and He Himself to put a base on this blessedness well!


"We must then seek the favor of the one God over all and pray that He may be gracious, seeking His favor by piety and every virtue.


How does Moses cry out (Exod. 14:15)?

No sound of his cry is heard and yet God says to him: "Why do you cry out to Me?

I should like to know how the saints cry out without a sound. The apostle teaches, "God has given the Spirit of His Son in our hearts crying: Abba, Father!" (Gal. 4:6) and he adds, "The Spirit Himself interceded for us with indescribable groans" and again "he who searches the heart knows what the Spirit desires because He pleads for the saints according to God" (Rom. 8:27). So therefore, when the Holy Spirit interceded with God the cry of the saints is heard through silence.




1. As our entire life should be a prayer, we must prepare ourselves to prayer by the purity of our inner life in Christ so that it might be powerful and acceptable. We must turn away from all disturbing impressions and thoughts, whether they have their cause in the surrounding world or in ourselves. There cannot be any true worship unless a continuous war against sin is waged in order to cleanse the heart, and to free the spirit of disordered affections, with a struggle against all passions. This preparation itself has its sweetness.

2. Commenting on Matthew 5:22, Origen makes it clear that only those who are entirely reconciled with their neighbors are able to converse with God.

Nor can one think of devoting time to prayer unless one is purified. For he who prays will not obtain remission of his sins unless he forgive from his heart his brother who has offended him and ask for his pardon (Matt. 6:12; Luke 11:4).

I wonder why anyone should doubt that when she (the soul) so prepares herself for prayer she is happy in the very preparation itself.

3. Origen states that prayer is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who prays in us and leads us in prayer.

4. Origen as a man of the holy Bible acknowledges that there is no separation between prayer, reading the Scriptures, and exercising one’s daily life. In a fragment from a letter written by Ambrose to Origen from Athens and quoted by St. Jerome in Letter 43 to Marcella the writer reports "that he never took a meal in Origen’s presence without reading: that he never went to bed before one of the brethren had read aloud the sacred writings: that it went on like this day and night, so that reading followed prayer and prayer followed reading."

5. Origen notes that the posture of the body images the qualities of the soul in prayer, and he says that standing with hands extended and eyes elevated is by far the best way to offer prayer. He could approve of prayer while sitting or even lying down if a believer was sick.

For under certain circumstances it is allowed to pray properly sometimes sitting down because of some disease of the feet that cannot be disregarded or even lying down because of fever or some such sickness. And because of circumstances, for example, if we are at sea or if affairs do not permit us to withdraw to offer the prayer that is owed, it is right to pray acting as though we were not doing it.

6. For prayer, Origen recommends a special corner in one's own house that could serve as a sanctuary. At the same time he writes:

Now concerning the place, let it be known that every place is suitable for prayer if a person prays well. For "in every place you offer incense to me..... says the Lord", (Mal. 1:11); and "I desire then that in every place men should pray" (1 Tim. 2:8). But everyone may have, if I may put it this way, a holy place set aside and chosen in his own house, if possible, for accomplishing his prayers in quietness and without distraction. In addition to the general considerations he will use in assessing such a place, he should examine whether any transgression or anything contrary to right reason has been done in the particular place where he prays.

7. Origen who concentrates on the personal contact between the believer’s soul and her Heavenly Groom believes that the best place to pray is "where the faithful meet together." He also assures that a believer can practice communal prayers even in his private room. There the spirits of the departed believers as well as the guardian angels of those who are present gather. It is an assembly whose prayers are all the more effective for their being so numerous.

8. Origen asks us to pray in spirit:

This is how he should come to prayer, stretching out his soul, as it were, instead of his hands, straining his mind toward God instead of his eyes, raising his governing reason from the ground and setting it before the Lord of all instead of standing. All malice toward any one of those who seem to have wronged him he should put away as far as any one would wish God to put away His malice toward him, if he had wronged and sinned against many of his neighbors or had done anything whatever he was conscious of as being against right reason.

9. Besides praying in spirit we have to pray also in mind, as St. Paul said. When we pray with understanding we shoot the Devil as with a fiery arrow:

In addition, I believe that the words of a saint’s prayers are filled with power, especially as praying with the mind is like light rising from the understanding of the one who prays (cf. Ps. 96: 11; Is. 58:10; Rom. 3:13; Jas. 3:8)...

For it goes forth from the soul of the one praying like an arrow shot from the saint by knowledge and reason and faith; and it wounds the spirits hostile to God to destroy and over throw them when they wish to hurl round us the bonds of sin (cf. Ps. 8:3; Prov. 5:22) .

10. In speaking about attitudes during prayer, Origen states that all worship should be directed towards the East, in order to indicate that the soul is looking towards the dawn of the true Light, the Sun of justice and of salvation, Christ.

Now concerning the direction in which one ought to look when he prays, a few things must be said. Since there are four directions, north, south, west, and east, who would not immediately acknowledge that it is perfectly clear we should make our prayers facing east, since this is a symbolic expression of the soul’s looking for the rising of the true Light. But suppose someone wishes instead to offer intercessions in whatever direction the doors of the house face according to the opening of the house, saying that having a view into heaven is more inviting than looking at a wall; and suppose it should happen that the opening of the house is not toward the east. In this case let the person be told that the buildings of men arbitrarily face in certain directions or have openings in certain directions, but by nature the east is preferred over the other directions, and what is by nature must be ranked ahead of what is arbitrary.



According to Origen, a believer should begin and end one’s prayer glorifying God; in between one should in turn give thanks for God’s blessings. Origen comments on the song which Moses sang with the people and Mariam (Exodus 15), saying:

It is the custom of the saints to offer a hymn of thanks to God when an adversary is conquered, as men who know the victory came about not by their own power but by the grace of God.

Thanksgiving is realized not only through words and hymns, but also through an inner life and behavior, it must be brought about by our own hands.

I believe that one to be he who praises God in all his actions and fulfills through him what our Lord and Savior says: "That men may see your good works and praise your Father who is in heaven." Therefore, this one offered "a sacrifice of praise" for whose deeds, doctrine, words, habits, and discipline, God is praised and blessed...

His hands will bring an offering to the Lord." Does the Lawgiver evidently not say that it is not a person who brings an offering but "his hands" (Lev. 5:30). that is, his works? For truly, it is works that commend an offering to God. For if your hand was closed to giving and opened to receiving, your leprosy is still within you and you cannot bring "an offering of salvation."



And he (the angel) prays with us and does all he can to work with us for what we pray.


the contemplative life and the active life

For Origen the word "contemplation" means religious knowledge, the interpretation of difficult texts of Holy Scripture, and the theological conclusions that flow therefrom, all of which things are acquired only after much effort and are granted to the virtuous man exclusively. Although contemplation, like activity, is a matter of effort, yet the two are divine gifts. We are in need of the grace of God to contemplate as well as to behave as children of God who have the image of God and become in His likeness.

Origen believes in the oneness of the new life in Christ, which is expressed by action and contemplation without separation. He recognizes no boundary between contemplation and action. Holy reflections have their own work, a ceaseless inquiry in which the sense of their visible world is sharpened and without which the soul’s grasp of God’s truth becomes weaker and weaker. "But his will is the law of the Lord, and on His law he shall meditate day and night."

An action is born of every genuine thought. "The soul that meditates on the law of the Lord is not a soul that undertakes to review in memory the words of the law apart from the works of righteousness which are in agreement with the law; but it is the soul that succeeds in doing the works of righteousness from continually meditating on them. By reason of this continual meditation on the works prescribed by the law, the soul acquires a certain facility in fulfilling all the obligations that can bind the man who lives perfectly according to the law. This is the way the soul becomes capable of meditating on the law of the Lord day and night."

Origen is the first to identify this unity of contemplation and action with the story of Martha and Mary. The apostolic life of the preacher and teacher only has value if its aim is contemplation; and contemplation blossoms into apostolic action. To see our Lord Jesus transfigured on the mountain, and thus to contemplate the divinity of the Word seen through his humanity - the Transfiguration is the symbol of the highest knowledge of God in his Son which is possible here below- one must, with the three apostles, make the ascent of the mountain, symbolizing the spiritual ascent. Those who remain in the plain see Jesus "with no form nor comeliness" (Isa. 53:2), even if they believe in his divinity: for these spiritual invalids He is simply the Doctor who cares for them. Or to use another image from the Gospels Jesus speaks to the people in parables out of doors; He explains them to the disciples indoors: so one must go into the house in order to begin to understand.

Origen as a man of the Bible spent almost all his life contemplating on it, considering that the most valuable divine gift to the soul, as the bride of the Heavenly Groom, is to be lifted up by the Holy Spirit and to enter in His chamber and receive His divine knowledge. This is the pledge of eternal glory. But we must beware of supposing that he gives priority to the contemplative over the active life. For him, even the contemplation of prayer includes "deeds of virtue," and one can say "our Father" or "Jesus is Lord" only if actions as well as words make the affirmations. Moses and Aaron symbolize the one "hand," which includes faith and knowledge of the law together with works. From one point of view the active life prepares the soul for the contemplation of God. But from another point of view contemplation empowers the soul to act. Like Plato's philosopher, the soul that has glimpsed God must return to the cave and work.

Cadiou says,

Clement’s ideal of the perfect Christian as one who is both active and contemplative was now being taught to the students at the Academy in a new way. The Christian Gnostic of the Stromata had been a man utterly devoted to prayer, unblemished in all his thoughts and actions, sharing in some measure the mind of God. In Origen’s hands, that lofty ideal was transformed, being fashioned into something real and concrete; the Gnostic became the ascetic and the contemplative, the first model of what was later to be the Christian monk...

When we meditate on the law of God we must not forget the different applications to that holy law. In the same spirit we must not neglect prayer on special occasion, because prayer, like meditation, consists of fulfilling the law of the Lord in everything.

In Origen’s view, the contemplative prays at the rising of the sun, and before retiring to rest at night he examines his conscience."



"Diligently apply yourself to the reading of the Sacred Scriptures," Origen said to Gregory Thaumaturgus, "with faithful pre-judgments such as are well pleasing to God. Prayer is of all things indispensable to the knowledge of the things of God."




According to Origen, reading the Bible and interpreting it is a sacramental act in which God answers man’s prayer. The preacher and congregation have to seek after the voice of God through mutual prayers. They pray together for the Holy Spirit to give them understanding. Accordingly, Origen sometimes pauses in a homily to invite the community to join with him in prayer that the Holy Spirit might enlighten him:

On that question, if the Lord in answer to your prayers grants me understanding, and if at least we are worthy to receive the Lord’s meaning, then I shall say to you a few words...

This act of praying while preaching expresses the very heart of Origen’s thought and occurs again and again throughout his homilies:

No one can find it easy to discover all the allegories contained in this story of Abimelech and Sara. All the same we must pray that the veil covering our hearts (as they strive to turn to the Lord) may be removed by the Spirit. We must pray Him to lift from us the veil of the letter and show us the brightness of His Spirit.

Through prayer our Lord Jesus Christ Himself becomes present among His people, reads and interprets the word of God.

We shall understand the meaning of the Law if it is Jesus who reads it to us and makes its spiritual significance clear. Do you not believe that in this way the meaning was grasped by those who said: did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us along the way and while He opened to us the Scriptures?

No wonder then that at times during the homily Origen pauses to pray:

O Lord Jesus come again to explain these things to me and to those who are here in quest of spiritual nourishment.