After their fall into sin mankind had an even greater obligation to pray to God, beseeching Him for salvation. In addition to prayer to the Lord as divine service, mankind established the practice of sacrificial offerings. Sacrifice expresses the thought that all which we possess is not ours but is God’s. The combination of prayer with sacrificial offerings serves to remind humanity that God receives its prayers because of the sacrifice which was later offered for all mankind by the Savior of the world, the Son of God come to earth.
Originally divine services occurred freely in open places. There were neither holy temples nor ordained priests. People offered sacrifices to God wherever they desired and prayed with words of prayer suggested to them by their own feelings and attitudes.
At the command of God, in the time of the Prophet Moses, the Tabernacle was constructed (the first Old Testament Temple to the One True God). Consecrated persons were selected, the high priest, other priests, and Levites. Specific sacrifices for various situations were instituted, and feasts were ordained such as Passover, Pentecost, the New Year and the Day of Purification.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, He taught us to worship the Heavenly Father in every place. Nevertheless, He often visited the Old Testament Temple in Jerusalem as a place with the special grace-filled presence of God. He was concerned for the order of the Temple and preached in it. His holy Apostles regarded it in the same way until the time of the open persecutions, which were instigated against Christians on the part of the Jews. In the Apostolic period, as the Acts of the Apostles describe, there were special places for the gathering of the faithful and for the accomplishment of the Mystery of Communion. These places were called churches and there divine services were celebrated by bishops, priests, and deacons, who were consecrated to this duty by the laying on of hands in the Mystery of Ordination.
The order of Christian divine service was established by the successors of the Apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and following the apostolic command given to them, Let all things be done decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40). This ordained order of divine services is strictly preserved in our holy Church of Christ.
Christian ecclesiastical divine service means the office or service to God composed of readings and chanting of prayers, the reading of the Word of God, and the performance of sacred ritual, accomplished according to a definite order, as headed by clergy (a bishop or priest).
Ecclesiastical divine service is distinguished from private prayer in that it is served by clergy, lawfully ordained to this service through the Mystery of Ordination, and is performed primarily in church.
Christian public worship has as its purpose the edification of the faithful by setting forth the true doctrines of Christ through readings and chanting, and to dispose them towards prayer and repentance. The services represent the most important events from sacred history accomplished for our salvation both before the birth of Christ and after. They inspire the faithful to give thanks to God for all the benefits received from Him, they intensify the supplications for further mercies upon us from Him, and help us to acquire peace in our souls.
The most important aspect is that through divine services the Christian enters into a mystical union with God through the Mysteries celebrated in divine worship, especially the Mystery of Holy Communion, and thus receives from God the powers of Divine Grace with which to live a righteous life.
A PRAYER BEFORE THE DIVINE LITURGY (by Saint John Chrysostom)
O God, loose, remit, and forgive my sins against you. Whether in word, or in deed, or in thought, willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly committed, forgive them all; for you are good and love mankind. And through the prayers of your most holy Mother, of your heavenly servants and holy powers, and of all the saints who have found favour in your sight, enable me to receive without condemnation your holy and immaculate body and your precious blood, to the healing of my soul and body, and to the driving away of all evil imaginations; for yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, now and forever, and to ages of ages. Amen.