GNOSTIC PRAYER AND RITUAL
On the Path to Revelation
Over the course of its history, Gnosticism has produced some beautiful prayers and rituals to guide the spiritual life of the individual and community. Although much of Gnostic devotional literature has been lost, there are many surviving examples - linked below - which can still serve their original purpose, or inspire new prayers:
Sethian voces mysticae - ritual chants.
Also see the Sethian liturgical hymns of the Three Steles of Seth, the prayer to Yesseus Mazareus Yessedekeus, the 'living water' at the end of The Holy Book of The Great Invisible Spirit, and the 'Pronnoia Hymn' at the end of the Apocryphon of John (see the Ancient Gnostic Scriptures page for all of the above)
The Lyons Ritual
Odes of Solomon (attributed to Bardaisan)
Rituals and prayers in the Acts of Thomas and the Acts of John suggest a strong Gnostic influence on the text and likely represent genuine records of historical liturgies.
Modern Gnostic Devotions:
old French Gnostic Catechism, prayers in chapter VII.
Gnostic prayer life today
The list above is by no means exhaustive of the prayers preserved in Gnostic literature, theologically adjacent apocryphal writings, and heresiological sources - if one were to collect them all in one place, that would be quite a rich prayerbook. So if you want to pray like the ancient Gnostics did, there's plenty there to guide your devotion (with a bit of personal research initiative).
As you can see from the section on modern ritual, Gnostic prayer and liturgy doesn't have to (and doesn't) end there. From Jules Doinel's French Gnostic Church, to 21st century Modern Gnostic Churches, to individual Gnostic writers today - new prayers and rituals have been written, old ones reconstructed or rewritten, non-Gnostic prayer forms appropriated for our use, as theological concerns and spiritual insight guided. You can find some of them by following the links above and those on our Online Resources page.
And if you feel so moved, there's absolutely no reason why you couldn't join the ranks of modern Gnostic liturgists and write your own reconstructions or original prayers. Essentially all you need for that is a general understanding of the place of prayer in Gnosticism (preferably based on both personal and some scholarly engagement with the surviving literature) and a creative impulse guided by your own prayer life. Hymns, prayers, rituals - they're art at its most salutary, they're expressions of heart and insight, they're a way to experience the poetic dimension of spirituality in community with others. Modern Gnosticism needs more of them and your creativity would be very appreciated!
So if you feel that some of the fragmentary Gnostic prayers speak to you, and that you have an idea for how to breathe new life into them - write it down. If you feel that modern Gnostic spirituality is missing some prayers that would focus our attention in an important but neglected direction - write it down. If your spiritual explorations fill you with a sense of beauty, love, gratitude, hope, joy, intimacy, and peace that call out to the Pleroma, and if you want to share this with others - you guessed it, write it down. Ancient Gnosticism was very creative (much to heresiologists' dismay), and there's every reason for us to carry this tradition of creativity forward.
There is plenty of liturgical prayers to work with, but because the majority of Gnostic traditions have been historically interrupted, what many feel missing from today's Gnosticism is a more explicit guidance on more contemplative forms of prayer. It's hard to tell how much was lost and how much was never actually developed - even the popular forms of Catholic and Orthodox contemplative/mystical spirituality, although rooted in Antiquity, are more of Medieval and Renaissance developments. So how can modern Gnostics engage contemplative spirituality?
One very accessible way to do that would be to learn from the ecumenical ways that it has been taught in the past decades. Practices such as the Centering Prayer, the Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, Practice of the Presence of God, Recollection, Imaginative Meditation, and others have been taught across denominational boundaries, because they are effective ways to connect with God above our theological differences. Many of these are very easily applicable within the Gnostic context (with just a bit of theological and spiritual imagination), and the same principle applies to interfaith and esoteric spiritual practices as well. (This approach is already being taken to some extent by modern Gnostic Churches in their own methods of spiritual formation.)
Another way, a bit more research-intensive, would be to look to the Platonist roots of Gnosticism and trace the various ways in which Platonist-influenced contemplative spiritualities developed in non-Gnostic contexts. Because of that shared Platonist heritage, Gnositicism arguably has an in-built affinity with traditions such as apophatic mysticism, philosophy as a spiritual practice, contemplation of spiritual beauty, mysticism of spiritual love, or kataphatic contemplation of symbolism. Again, with a bit of imagination many of such contemplative methods are quite straightforwardly applicable to Gnosticism. (Some recent Neopagan revivals are illustrative in terms of how reconstructions like this can work; otherwise, Eastern Orthodox mysticism is a good example of the depth of Platonist influence on Christian contemplative spirituality. Just like Middle Platonism, it's all quite "Gnosticizable".)