Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Some thoughts on praying the Jesus Prayer

Praying the Jesus Prayer is so challenging. I use the full form of the Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" and saying it with the prayer rope I usually find it falls, for me, naturally into two parts:

First: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God" is the first part, which is when I find my self 'looking' at Jesus. When I say 'looking' I mean that as I try to put my attention on addressing the words to Him I am aware that my eyes, if I were to open them as I say the words, would  be looking up, somewhere towards the ceiling. This is not conscious, in fact I remember somewhere being told that usually the Prayer is said, in it's entirety, with your chin on your chest. I have tried this but it does not seem 'natural' to me.

I have thought about this and the 'feeling' I experience - which is why I sometimes finish the prayer with tears in my eyes - is one of a kind of yearning directed at Jesus.

Of course this is not felt consistently throughout the prayer. My mind flits. One moment it stays on the phrase, then jumps to whatever is to hand - forthcoming events, decisions etc - then jumps back to it and to Jesus again. (This is true of the whole prayer and not just to the first part). Sometimes I am able to go through several repeats before this happens. Other times it seems like every other time I say it.

The second phrase is: "have mercy on me a sinner". Here I am still 'looking' at Jesus - sort of - but also I am aware of myself and my own sinfulness. In fact I find that the Prayer seems to have the ability to strip away the layers of my heart or soul, enabling me to see that there is another layer beneath. And as I continue to use the Prayer it peels off more layers revealing a part of me or an aspect of me that I didn't know before. Prior to my starting to use the Prayer I was only aware of sins I committed. As a good evangelical I would confess these daily always attempting to "keep short accounts with God" as I was taught. However praying the Prayer has taken me beyond that and much deeper. Now I am able to see why I committed those sins. And as another layers are stripped away I am able to understand and recognise who it was/is that commits such sins. Each layer seems to be taking me down and down the various layers and revealing more and more of myself to me. And it is very revealing, if not a little shocking. I am left wondering what will be exposed next!

One of the side effect of this is that I am much more tolerant of others as I see aspects of them in me. In fact I wonder sometimes how there is not much much more evil in the world given some of the things that are buried deep down in each one of us! Of course we are not all darkness, there are yet glimmers of light. But there is more darkness than I ever imagined, which is why we desperately need the grace and mercy of God.

So the second phrase takes on a sort of pleading for Jesus to have mercy on me because of who it is I am recognising for the first time. It also takes on a wider diemnsion as I pray that, somehow, for the world too.

And yet it is not a bad experience. It's a kind of - to borrow Shakespeare's phrase - a "sweet sorrow" accompanied by a sort of soft pressure or pain which you suspect can only be brought out or dealt with by a good cry. As if there is a dam holding something back which is slowly being eroded by the Prayer.

I realise that a lot of the above is describing feelings, and we are to be beware of feelings, at least as accurate indicators of truth and reality. But as we are beings with an emotional component to our makeup - which is what being fully human and fully alive is - then surely emotions of some kind are bound to be present. I am guessing that the Fathers were only wary of them because thy should not become the ruling force that discerns whether a thing is genuine or not.

Anyhow I was just wondering if I have got this all wrong, or am heading in the completely wrong direction or something. Should I 'break' the Prayer in two? Should I ignore feelings? This stripping of layers, is it good or bad or too introspective? Should I be looking up or down? Am I being too analytical?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

On the Jesus Prayer

Some advice on saying the Jesus Prayer:

Saint Isaac the Syrian says:
God's grace comes of itself without any ambitious striving on our part.  It will only come to the heart that is pure.... Should the apple of thine eye be unclean, dare not to raise it; attempt not to gaze at the ball of the sun; lest they temerity deprive thee even of the limited sight, acquired through simple faith, humility, penance, and other lowly acts and works; lest thy temerity be punished and thou fall headlong into the outer darkness.

Elder Macarius writes in one of his letters the following:
"It was a mistake for you to practice mental prayer and prayer of the heart.  All this is beyond your strength, outside the scope of your capacities, incompatible with your circumstances.  Such practices exact the strictest purity of intention towards God, men, and even things. Instead, read or recite––under the direction of your confessor––psalms, penitential canons, litanies and so on.  Go to church as frequently as possible; live humbly, according to the admonitions of your conscience; and carefully, according to the commandments of our Lord.  In other words, lead the life of an ordinary, God-fearing member of the Christian laity.

Callistus and Ignatius write:
Many paths may lead either to salvation or perdition.  But one there is which securely leads us heavenward: a life lived according to our Lord's commandments.

Our task is to "constantly practice humility, love and charity" elder Macarius reminds us.

I guess the advice that is outlined above amounts to this:
1. The Jesus Prayer is gift and grace.
2. We cannot pray it under our own strength but always rely on the help of the Holy Spirit.
3. It should not be practiced outside of or without the other disciplines of the Christian life like attending the Liturgy/going to church, reading the Scriptures etc.
4. Keep the comandments.
5. Be humble, love God and one another, remember the poor.

In other words the Jesus Prayer must have a context. In isolation it can be dangerous and introspective. Within and with the Church it finds balance and equilibrium. Outside there are no checks and balances, there is no accountability and we are in danger of becoming every bit as individualistic as the society we are called witness to. Unless we are called - and therefore equipped - like Anthony etc, to be a hermit.

Thoughts, thinking and the Jesus Prayer

I have written in other posts about the 'problem' of thoughts or thinking when I use the Jesus Prayer. What do you think about? Or better still, perhaps, do I think? This is what Bishop Kallistos Ware says in his brilliant book "The Orthodox Way" which is what started my love of Orthodoxy:

"But how are we to stop talking and to start listening? Of all the lessons in prayer, this is the hardest to learn. There is little profit in saying to ourselves, 'Do not think', for suspension of discursive thought is not something that we can achieve merely through an exertion of will-power. The ever-restless mind demands from us some task, so as to satisfy its constant need to be active. If our spiritual strategy is entirely negative - if we try to eliminate all conscious thinking without offering our mind any alternatives activity - we are likely to end up with vague day-dreaming. The mind needs some task which will keep it busy, and yet enable it to reach out beyond itself into stillness. In the Orthodox hesychast tradition, the work which is usually assigned to it is the frequent repetition of some short 'arrow prayer', most commonly the Jesus Prayer...

We are taught, when reciting the Jesus Prayer, to avoid so fas as is possible any specific image or picture. In the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, 'The Bridegroom is present, but he is not seen." The Jesus Prayer is not a form of imaginative meditation upon different incidents in the life of Christ. But, while turning aside from images, we are to concentrate our full attention upon, or rather within, the words. The Jesus Prayer is not just a hypnotic incantation but a meaningful phrase, an invocation addressed to another Person. Its object is not relaxation but alertness, not waking slumber but living prayer. And so the Jesus Prayer is not to be said mechanically but with inward purpose; yet at the same time the words should be pronounced without tension, violence, or undue emphasis. The string round the spiritual parcel should not be drawn so tight as to cut into the edges of the package."
Bishop Kallistos Ware: The Orthodox Way (pp.163-164)
I love that phrase where Bishop Kallistos tells us to concentrate our full attention not so much upon, but rather within, the words. Images then are ignored and thought which wander or stray outside of the words themselves are brought firmly and continually back 'indoors' so that they focus within, or are drawn around, the words like a string around a spiritual parcel - to use the Bishop's illustration. But not with such violence or wrenching that they cut into the parcel itself.

Discipline

"A person who resolves to begin regular morning exercises usually does so not because he already has physical fitness but in order to get something he does not have. Once one has something he can be anxious to keep it; previous to that, he is anxious to get it. Therefore, begin your practice without expecting anything of yourself..."
Tito Colliander: The Way of the Ascetics

The work of prayer

"The brethren asked Abba Agathon: 'Amongst all our different activities, father, which is the virtue that requires the greatest effort? He answered: 'Forgive me, but I think there is no labour greater than praying to God. For every time a man wants to pray, his enemies the demons try to prevent him; for they know that nothing obstructs them so much as prayer to God. In everything else that a man undertakes, if he perseveres, he will attain rest. But in order to pray a man must struggle to his last breath."
The Sayings of the Desrte Fathers quoted in the Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware
Anyone who has tried to pray the Jesus Prayer will tell you how hard it is. One lady who started to pray it in my parish gave up after a few attempts saying it was too much of a struggle. I know myself that it is not just saying the prayer that is hard, but actually getting to the place where I can say it is so fraught with distractions, pressures and conflicting demands that it is like having to cut through and overgrown jungle to find a way through.

We must not be surprised by this. Jesus shows us that if we want to spend time with God there is another who will try hard to prevent us (Matthew 4:1-11). No wonder he told a parable that said we "should pray and not give up" (Luke 18:1-6).

So anyone wanting to learn to pray the Jesus Prayer - like any other prayer - must always be on the alert as our "adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion". We must go into prayer ready to "resist him firm in the faith." (1 Peter 5:18)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Keeping in touch with God

One of the things that brought me to the Jesus Prayer was the desire and longing to have more, much more of God. Having a time of prayer first thing in the morning is one thing, but then going out, getting caught up in the busyness of work, it's all too easy to forget about God. The intimacy I experience - sometimes, not always - in the morning disappears all too quickly and has be sought again the next time I stop for prayer. So my relationship with God is stop-start, stop-start, all the time. I miss Him, this 'connection we have', even if it is largely devoid of 'feeling'. You can't live on feelings, but you can't live without connection, and it's that disconnection which is most of each day, which I have always struggled with to a greater or lesser degree.

So for me, the discovery of the Jesus Prayer addresses those concerns, and gives me a wonderul means of staying in tough with God, and keeping connected throughout the day.

In "Living the Jesus Prayer" it seems that Irma Zalewski has been there before me. This is what she says about desiring the presence of God:

"The desire ceaseless prayer is really the desire to experience the presence of God, a longing to know that, in Jesus, God truly lives in us, is always there for us. One of the great tragedies of our lives, and the lives of so many Christians, is not to experience that presence. That is why, so often, our faith does not become truly real for us. We do what is required of us, but our hearts are not touched, we do not know the joy of it.

And yet, this is why God became incarnate in Christ, why he suffered, died and rose again, why he sent us the Holy Spirit - to  be always present with us. This is the meaning of the mystery of his mystical Body, the Church. This is the meaning of the sacraments, the meaning of our salvation in Jesus, of teh coming of the Kingdom, of the promise of heaven. Our religion surely does not make sense unless it opens us to this immense, glorious mystery of God's presence in the world, and in our own deepest self, unless it offers us the way to enter this mystery and experience it every moment of our lives.

How can this desire for the presence of God be fulfilled? Only through prayer..(the Jesus Prayer) is a simple way of being in the presence of God....we can practise it anywhere, at any time."
"Living the Jesus Prayer: Irma Zaleski (pages 28-29)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Praying the Jesus Prayer with inward purpose

"We are taught, when reciting the Jesus Prayer, to avoid so far as possible any specific image or picture....The Jesus Prayer is not a form of imaginative meditation upon different incidents in the life of Christ. But, while turning aside frm images, we are to concentrate our full attention upon, or rather within, the words. The Jesus Prayer is not just a hypnotic incantation but a meaningful phrase, an invocation addressed to another Person.....And so the Jesus Prayer should not be said mechanically, but with inward purpose; yet at the same time the words should be pronounced without tension, violence, or undue emphasis...."
Bishop Kallistos Ware: The Orthodox Way

Worry, distractions and the Jesus Prayer

I referred in an earlier post to my many questions about what happens when I say the Jesus Prayer. Those questions were not just about distractions but about what do you do with your mind as you say the words and whether you just say the words or accompany those words with any thoughts as to their meaning etc. Well below is a very helpful extract from a book I recommended earlier called "Living the Jesus Prayer" by Irma Zaleski. She is talking about distractions, but what she says also touches on some of my questions about the words, thoughts, and what it is I must think about when praying the Prayer:

"Distractions, it has been said, rather than being obstacles to our practice of prayer, can become a powerful instrument of our growth in our practice. Our inattention may become the means of calling us to attention - of reminding ourselves, moment by moment, of the real meaning of the words we are trying to say, the means of our moment-by-moment conversion: of our turning away from ourselves and re-turning to God. Each time we return to the prayer, each time we become aware of how we "failed" in it, we become more aware of our weakness and of our need for God's love and mercy. We must never worry about whether we are saying the prayer well or not so well, attentively or distractedly, with energy or half-asleep. Often after what we might consider a completely unsuccessful period of prayer, we find ourselves most at peace and closest to God. The Prayer of Jesus is always God's work in us. We just say the prayer and stay as quiet and as open as we can." (Page 22)"  Living the Jesus Prayer: Irma Zaleski

Several things struck me about Irma's wise words:
First, there is nothing bad about our praying the prayer that cannot be turned to good. Even inattention can "become the means of reminding ourselves...of the real meaning of the words."
Second, there will be a struggle because we are, while saying the prayer, in the process of conversion, "turning away from ourselves and re-turning to God." To expect instant results or an easy ride in praying the prayer is to forget that we are sinful human beings, riddled with wrong thoughts, scarred by wrong actions, and full of ingrained habits and thought patterns that need to be dealt with as we draw nearer God. Conversion involves applying the cross to our lives as a scalpel that will bring healing, but neverless still has to cut.
Third, Irma calls for us not to worry, which is itself a distraction. "Never worry about whether we are saying the prayer well or not so well, attentively or distractedly, with energy or half-asleep". I think we sometimes separate out Jesus' teaching about prayer from his other teachings as if they don't immediately relate to one another but I think that is a mistake. In Matthew 6:25-33 is a passage about worry. This is a passage so relevant to prayer that I don't know how I missed it for so long. Here Jesus tells us not only not to worry, but how to deal with it's destructive dominance over our lives: "Seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness" (Verse 33). If you are focussing and concentrating on one thing, it will tune out the others. To focus on the words of the Jesus prayer only, you will not worry or be distracted about things that threaten to tear your eyes off God.
Lastly, it is good to be reminded that:  "The Prayer of Jesus is always God's work in us", so we should "just say the prayer and stay as quiet and as open as we can." That puts our praying and our living the Christian life in the proper perspective. Prayer - like our service - is not a means of earning God's love or favour - grace is gift not reward - but a co-operating with Him in the work that He is already doing in us as we serve and pray.

So many thanks Irma. I feel I can go back to my praying the Jesus with a whole new attitude.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom: The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

Those who have read The way of a Pilgrim are familiar with the expression 'The Jesus Prayer'. It refers to a short prayer the words of which are: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner' constantly repeated. The Way of a Pilgrim is the story of a man who wanted to learn to pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As the man whose experience is being related is a pilgrim, a great many of his psychological characteristics, and the way in which he learned and applied the prayer, were conditioned by the fact that he lived in a certain way, which makes the book less universally applicable than it could be; and yet it is the best possible introduction to this prayer, which is one of the greatest treasures of the Orthodox Church.

The prayer is profoundly rooted in the spirit of the gospel, and it is not in vain that the great teachers of Orthodoxy have always insisted on the fact that the Jesus Prayer sums up the whole of the gospel. This is why the Jesus Prayer can only be used in its fullest sense if the person who uses it belongs to the gospel, is a member of the Church of Christ.

All the messages of the gospel, and more than the messages, the reality of the gospel, is contained in the name, in the Person of Jesus. If you take the first half of the prayer you will see how it expresses our faith in the Lord: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.' At the heart we find the name of Jesus; it is the name before whom every knee shall bow (Isaiah 45:3), and when we pronounce it we affirm the historical event of the incarnation. We affirm that God, the Word of God, co-eternal with the father, became man, and that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in our midst (Colossians 2:9) bodily in his Person.

To see in the man of Galilee, in the prophet of Israel, the incarnate Word of God, God become man, we must be guided by the spirit, because it is the spirit of God who reveals to us both the incarnation and the lordship of Christ. We call him Christ, and we affirm thereby that in him were fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. To affirm that Jesus is the Christ implies that the whole history of the Old Testament is ours, that we accept it as the truth of God. We call him Son of God, because we know that the Messiah expected by the Jews, the man who was called 'Son of David' by Bartimaeus, is the incarnate Son of God. These words sum up all we know, all we believe about Jesus Christ, from the Old Testament to the New, and from the experience of the Church through the ages. In these few words we make a complete and perfect profession of faith.

But it is not enough to make this profession of faith; it is not enough to believe. The devils also believe and tremble (James 2:19). Faith is not sufficient to work salvation, it must lead to the right relationship with God; and so, having professed, in its integrity, sharply and clearly, our faith in the Lordship and in the Person, in the historicity and in the divinity of Christ, we put ourselves face to face with Him, in the right state of mind: 'Have mercy on me, a sinner'.

These words 'have mercy' are used in all the Christian Churches and, in Orthodoxy, they are the response of the people to all the petitions suggested by the priest. Our modern translation 'have mercy' is a limited and insufficient one. The Greek word which we find in the gospel and in the early liturgies is eleison. Eleison is of the same root as elaion, which means olive tree and the oil from it. If we look up the Old and New Testament in search of the passages connected with this basic idea, we will find it described in a variety of parables and events which allow us to form a complete idea of the meaning of the word. We find the image of the olive tree in Genesis. After the flood Noah sends birds, one after the other, to find out whether there is any dry land or not, and one of them, a dove - and it is significant that it is a dove - brings back a small twig of olive. This twig conveys to Noah and to all with him in the ark the news that the wrath of God has ceased, that God is now offering man a fresh opportunity. All those who are in the ark will be able to settle again on firm ground and make an attempt to live, and never more perhaps, if they can help it, undergo the wrath of God.

In the New Testament, in the parable of the good Samaritan, olive oil is poured to soothe and to heal. In the anointing of kings and priests in the Old Testament, it is again oil that is poured on the head as an image of the grace of God that comes down and flows on them (Ps 133:2) giving them new power to fulfil what is beyond human capabilities. The king is to stand on the threshold, between the will of men and the will of God, and he is called to lead his people to the fulfilment of God's will; the priest also stands on that threshold, to proclaim the will of God and to do even more: to act for God, to pronounce God's decrees and to apply God's decision.

The oil speaks first of all of the end of the wrath of God, of the peace which God offers to the people who have offended against him; further it speaks of God healing us in order that we should be able to live and become what we are called to be; and as he knows that we are not capable with our own strength of fulfilling either his will or the laws of our own created nature, he pours his grace abundantly on us (Rom 5:20). He gives us power to do what we could not otherwise do.

The words milost and pomiluy in Slavonic have the same root as those which express tenderness, endearing, and when we use the words eleison, 'have mercy on us', pomiluy, we are not just asking God to save us from His wrath - we are asking for love.

If we turn back to the words of the Jesus Prayer, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner', we see that the first words express with exactness and integrity the gospel faith in Christ, the historical incarnation of the Word of God; and the end of the prayer expresses all the complex rich relationships of love that exist between God and his creatures.

The Jesus Prayer is known to innumerable Orthodox, either as a rule of prayer or in addition to it, as a form of devotion, a short focal point that can be used at any moment, whatever the situation.

Numerous writers have mentioned the physical aspects of the prayer, the breathing exercises, the attention which is paid to the beating of the heart and a number of other minor features. The Philokalia is full of detailed instructions about the prayer of the heart, even with references to the Sufi technique. Ancient and modern Fathers have dealt with the subject, always coming to the same conclusion: never to attempt the physical exercises without strict guidance by a spiritual father.

What is of general use, and God given, is the actual praying, the repetition of the words, without any physical endeavour - not even movements of the tongue - and which can be used systematically to achieve an inner transformation. More than any other prayer, the Jesus Prayer aims at bringing us to stand in God's presence with no other thought but the miracle of our standing there and God with us, because in the use of the Jesus Prayer there is nothing and no one except God and us.

The use of the prayer is dual, it is an act of worship as is every prayer, and on the ascetical level, it is a focus that allows us to keep our attention still in the presence of God.

It is a very companionable prayer, a friendly one, always at hand and very individual in spite of its monotonous repetitions. Whether in joy or in sorrow, it is, when it has become habitual, a quickening of the soul, a response to any call of God. The words of St Symeon, the New Theologian, apply to all its possible effects on us: 'Do not worry about what will come next, you will discover it when it comes'.

Saying the Jesus Prayer - Albert S Rossi

Which Words
The classical form of the Jesus Prayer is,

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

The actual words of our short prayers can vary. We might say the classic version of the Jesus Prayer, or we might say, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." We may say, "Lord Jesus, have mercy." Or, we might say a Psalm verse, or a Bible quote, or some other prayer.

Monks of old said, "Lord, make haste to help me. Lord, make speed to save me," all day long.

The history of the Jesus Prayer goes back, as far as we know, to the early sixth century, with Diadochos, who taught that repetition of the prayer leads to inner stillness. Even earlier John Cassian recommended this type of prayer. In the fourth century Egypt, in Nitria, short "arrow" prayers were practiced.

Abba Macarius of Egypt said there is no need to waste time with words. It is enough to hold out your hands and say, "Lord, according to your desire and your wisdom, have mercy." If pressed in the struggle, say, "Lord, save me!" or say, "Lord." He knows what is best for us, and will have mercy upon us.
       
Pray Ceaselessly          
We are all called to pray without ceasing, says St. Paul in 1 Thess 5:17. The real questions is, how.

The Jesus Prayer provides one good way to pray constantly. In fact, the Jesus Prayer is the most widespread and most specifically Orthodox spiritual prayer, according to Metropolitan Corneanu.

Our task is to draw nearer to God. St. Isaac of Syria says that it is impossible to draw near to God by any means other than increasing prayer.
The Power of the Name        

Biblically, knowing a person's name gave power over that person. Name was linked with being. In the Old Testament, God would not disclose His name. In the New Testament, Jesus explicitly gives us God's name, Father, and tells us to use the name in prayer. Jesus gives us access to the Godhead through the name.

Jesus told His Apostles that they hadn't really used His Name in prayer enough. "Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name; ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn 16:23).
Hidden Martyrdom          

Trying to pray repetitively is an inner asceticism. According to St Ignatius Brianchaninov, trying to pray without ceasing is a "hidden martyrdom."

A casual, but profound, example of this came to a small group of high school students. They were visiting a home for unwed mothers. The woman who directs the home spoke to them for a half hour. Because the woman sensed that the students were wondering about her own faith commitment, she said, "Well, you have been here 30 minutes and I have prayed 15 times." She hadn't been out of their sight, nor out of their conversation. Yet, during the active interchange, this woman found the desire, attention, and time, to shoot 15 "arrow" prayers to God. That's keen vigilance. That's a hidden martyrdom, especially when attempted all day long.

Prayer requires super-human courage, given the atmosphere of the world today. The whole ensemble of natural energies is in opposition. So says Sophrony.

Lions may not eat us for the sake of the Gospel. Rather, our call to martyrdom takes the form of being attentive to the present moment, relying upon God's power always, and doing His will. Our call to martyrdom may not be any easier than death by violence.

Who can Say the Prayer        
Clearly, the Jesus Prayer is not only for monks. We are told that the prayer is for cab drivers, social workers, business persons, teachers, professional baseball players (not necessarily used to win a game), psychiatrists. We use the Jesus Prayer to do God's will, not our own bidding. Anyone, everyone can say the Jesus Prayer. There are no prerequisites for saying the Jesus Prayer.  We are all sinners and need to pray, always.  We try to keep the Commandments, be living members of His Body on earth, and try to find a guide.

Bishop Kallistos Ware has sound advice for those who simply can't find a suitable guide. "But those who have no personal contact with starets may still practice the Prayer without any fear, so long as they do so only for limited periods - initially, for no more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time - and so long as they make no attempt to interfere with the body's natural rhythms."
When to Pray          

The Jesus Prayer is recommended in the morning, following our prayer rule, for some period of time, perhaps 10 or 15 minutes. If that is impossible, then sometime before noon, or in the evening. This might be called "formal" use of the prayer. The second form of the Jesus Prayer is the "free" use of the prayer. This means at any and all other times of the day, or night. This is especially true for the semi-automatic tasks such as driving, doing dishes, walking, being unable to sleep, etc. The Jesus Prayer is notably useful in time of extreme concern or upset.

When alone, we might find it helpful to pray the Jesus Prayer, out loud. This can help lower the distraction level.

Prayer of the Heart        
The Jesus Prayer is also called the Prayer of the Heart. In Orthodoxy, the mind and heart are to be used as one. St Theophan tells us to keep our "mind in the heart" at all times. Heart means the physical muscle pumping blood, and emotions/feelings, and the innermost core of the person, the spirit. Heart is associated with the physical organ, but not identical with it. Heart means our innermost chamber, our secret dwelling place where God lives.

"The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms. There likewise is God, there are the angles, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace; all things are there." So says St. Macarius.

Someone said the heart is a dimension of interior consciousness, awareness, where we come in touch with an inner space, a space of no dimensions. This consciousness is timeless, the place where tears reside and deep contact with the present moment abide, and from which restful movement comes. Acting out of our heart means to act lightly, with vigor and enthusiasm. When not in that inner awareness, we are restless, agitated and self-concerned.

There is within us a space, a field of the heart, in which we find a Divine Reality, and from which we are called to live. The mind, then, is to descend into that inner sanctuary, by means of the Jesus Prayer or wordless contemplation, and to stay there throughout our active day, and evening. We descend with our mind into our heart, and we live there.

The heart is Christ's palace. There, Christ the King comes to take His rest.

The photo at the top of the page is a seventeen year old girl [Bethany] who said that, when this was taken, she felt like she was walking "into the silence of the hills." To reach the field of the heart we need outer, and inner, silence, rather like one might experience while gazing upon this scene.

Silence           Silence is a choice. We choose the things we want to do. These things, then, order and measure our lives. Someone said that Christians "order and measure" their lives from communion to communion. We might also say the Christians "order and measure" their lives from silence to silence.

Silence, at its best, is God-awareness. We quiet down our outer and inner lives, and listen to God speak. Someone said that when God speaks, His words are like the sound of a flutter of a bird's wings. We need to be attentive if we are to hear anything.

Outer silence is a choice. When my son, in his teen years, rode with me in the family car, we cut a deal. He had the car radio half the time, and I had the car radio half the time. He always chose his half at the beginning of the trip. Like most teens, he wanted his jollies up front. For my half of the ride, I sometimes chose silence, because I like silence. I really didn't do it to cause him pain. He, however, did sometimes have a restless and difficult time of it. Later he did tell me that he enjoyed our quiet evening rides together.

Outer silence calms the senses. By contrast, sensory overload and excitement can be addictive.

Inner silence can usually be achieved only by substituting one thought for another. Hence, the Jesus Prayer overrides our usual compulsive stream of consciousness about our own anxieties. Beginning with this form of prayer, then we might be led to deeper inner stillness, prayer without words. The caution here is that prayer without words is not heaviness, semi-sleep dullness. Rather, wordless prayer is alive, vigorous God-awareness.

A seventeen year old said she learned recently that, "Silence is my friend."

Abba Pastor tells us that any trial which comes to us can by conquered by silence.

Contemplation    
   
Contemplation has been described as clear awareness without words. Contemplation is a "seeing clearly." We lay aside thoughts, not to lead to a vacuum or drowsiness, but to inner plenitude. We deny to affirm. Wordless contemplation is not an absence, but a presence, a God-awareness. The aim is to bring us into a direct meeting with a personal God, on God's terms.

Inner silence, inner stillness, called hesychia, is experienced by wordless sitting, imageless contemplation. When consciousness strays, a phrase like "Lord Jesus" can be used to bring the mind back, and then the person sits quietly in the presence of the Lord. The desire of wordless sitting awareness is to open oneself to God, to listen to God.

Some teachers suggest that if we are able, we spend a half hour of wordless sitting, begun by asking God to teach us to pray, or a Bible quote. Usually this is best done in the morning, upon rising or before noon. If the person is able, a block of the some quiet time is also recommended for the evening. Hopefully, all this is worked out with the direction of a spiritual guide.

Both the Jesus Prayer and contemplation make us single-centered, concentrating upon the here and now, focused, one-pointed. The point is God.
Changing the Universe          

Every prayer changes the entire universe. Our every prayer, each prayer, actually changes history, the way God created the world, and all else. God is outside time. God is not "waiting up there" for our prayer, and then He acts. All has already occurred in God.

Intercessory Prayer        
St Therese, a Roman Catholic saint, had difficulty knowing that God heard her prayers for others. As a youth, she decided to put God "to the test" once and for all. Perhaps only a saint can "test" God. She prayed fervently for the salvation of a callused serial killer of women, Henri Pranzini. Pranzini was caught, found guilty and sentenced to the guillotine. During this time, Therese prayed that he be saved, and that she be given a sign that a conversion took place. Pranzini became more arrogant. Therese persisted. On the execution day, Pranzini walked up the steps, put his head onto the block, still jeering. Then, unexpectedly, he lifted up, grabbed the crucifix hanging from the side of the nearby priest, and Pranzini kissed the feet of Christ three times. Pranzini publicly repented. He then put his head back down onto the block, and the guillotine fell. Therese claimed that her prayers were answered. She claimed that her intercessory prayers saved a hardened criminal.

Is this really the way intercessory prayer works? In a word, yes. How? The answer to that rests somewhere in God's mysterious ways. What we do know, for certain, is that every prayer for someone else is heard, and in God's goodness, answered, for the other person's good. Every single prayer for another helps that other person, and helps us.

The lives of the saints are replete with examples. St Monica, mother of St Augustine, prayed day and night for her son when he was living a wild life. Augustine had, among other activities, fathered a child out of wedlock. Monica was told by her Bishop that "no child of so many tears (prayers) could be lost." Monica's prayers were instrumental in saving Augustine.

We are each called to pray, ardently, for our children, family, priest, the Church, country, world. We have a noble and royal vocation, to pray and make an untold difference in the entire cosmos.
How Does It Work?          

Like swimming, we are to "jump in" and just begin. There is a world of difference between thinking, or talking, about quiet prayer, and actually praying. Like beginning swimmers , we only learn by getting wet.

The Fathers tell us that, often, the first thing that happens is an experience of darkness and resistance. Then, when we persist, peace begins to replace the darkness. The temptations may become more severe, even temptations to stop the praying, but we sin less. The Fathers tell us that, as we continue to pray and live the commandments, go to Church and listen to our spiritual Father, we can expect to become freed from indecision, upset and hesitation. Our will becomes stronger. We can expect to be available to others in ways we otherwise would not have been, and we will become more effective and creative.

Bishop Kallistos Ware says that by spending only a few moments invoking the Divine Name each day, we actually transform all the other remaining moments of the day.

In the beginning, there may be no new insights and no pleasant feelings. Was it a waste of time? Not necessarily. By faith, the Christian believes that spending time wanting to pray, and actually praying, does touch a Merciful God. God hears. And, in turn, Divine Truth is known through direct experience, sometimes called intuition. Something is happening, and changing at a deeper level of consciousness, unnoticed.

We can expect invisible, subtle snares, sent from Satan, precisely because we have upscaled our efforts, and are turning to God. In a sense, we rouse the enemy to action. St. John Chrysostom says that when we begin to pray we stir the snake (living within us) to action, and that prayer can lay the snake low.

There is no ascetic effort more difficult, more painful, than the effort to draw close to God, Sophrony tells us.

When we begin to pray, we expend desire and effort. The results are up to God. Real prayer is a gift from God, not the payment for our perspiration.

Prayer works in the Unseen Warfare as a power/gift from Jesus, given as a function of our ability to receive it. We increase our ability to receive by asking for the increase, and God grants it as He sees fit, in His tender, all sweet and merciful manner.

Not Yoga        
Sitting, saying the Jesus Prayer, or in wordless contemplation, is not Yoga or any far Eastern practice. The difference is the Christian encounter with the living God, Jesus.

The postures, techniques and outer form may be similar, but the content is unique in Christian prayer. The content of Christian prayer is Jesus.

Sometimes the difference is likened to a priceless painting. We might admire the exquisite frame of the painting, and rightly so. But the frame is not the masterpiece. The similarities of Eastern Yoga and Sufi practice in prayer are the frame, but Christ is the masterpiece, the insides, of the prayer of the Christian. And, that is all the difference in the world.
Techniques & Psychosomatic Issues          

The Orthodox understanding of the role of the body in prayer rests upon a sound anthropology. The body, soul and spirit act as a single unit, not divided or split up. Therefore, the body has a role in prayer.

How we involve the body can be understood in three ways. Sometimes this is called psychotechniques. 1. Breathing, 2. Inner Exploration, and 3. Posture. Across the centuries, these issues have been explosive.

Breathing. Bishop Kallistos Ware says that if we pray the Jesus Prayer for short periods, ten or fifteen minutes at the beginning, then there is no problem matching the words of the prayer to our breath. We are to breath naturally, without playing with the rhythm of the breath. On the inhale, we can say, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God." On the exhale, we can say, "have mercy on me, a sinner." We are to breath and pray slowly and reverently and attentively.

Inner Exploration. Inner exploration usually means following our breath into the nostrils, down into the lungs, around the insides, and out. This is unquestioningly, forbidden. The dangers involved in all this cannot be exaggerated.

Posture. The usual position, as recommended by Bishop Kallistos Ware, is a comfortable sitting position in a chair. Sometimes standing is recommended. Usually the eyes are kept closed. Posture can take many forms, as long as the postures are reverent.

Modern serious and enlightened authors, such as Bishop Ware, St Igantius Brianchaninov and Sophrony all agree that "the fullness of the Jesus Prayer can by practiced without any physical methods at all."

In summary, it can be said that physical methods are optional and not at all necessary. Physical techniques are more suitable for beginners, says St Gregory Palamas. Physical techniques are potentially dangerous, and not to be used without a guide. St Theophan suggests, "Make a habit of having the intellect stand in the heart, but not in a physical way."

Prayer Rope        
Orthodox prayer ropes are usually soft and made of wool. The purpose is to help us concentrate, not necessarily to count. In the famous book, The Way of the Pilgrim, the pilgrim said the prayer 2,000, then 6,000, then 12,000 times. Is 12,000 Jesus Prayers better than 2,000? Absolutely not. Quantity has nothing to do with love, and a living relationship with Jesus. The pilgrim did 12,000, no more and no less, as an act of obedience to his spiritual father, not because he was "making progress." He also prayed much because that was his "heart's desire." Every prayer is an act of love, made to the Author of Love, Who is waiting expectantly for our desire, and our acceptance of His Love.
The Jesus Prayer as Psychotherapy          

As medicine, the Jesus Prayer is destructive of the passions and altering of conduct. Just as a doctor places a dressing on a patient's wound, and the dressing works without the patient's knowing how, calling on the Name of God "removes the passions" without our knowing how and why, according to Barsanupius and John.

The Holy Name, when repeated quietly, penetrates the soul rather like a drop of oil, spreading out and impregnating a cloth.

Our modern translation of "mercy" is limited and insufficient. "Mercy" comes from the Greek eleison. Eleison has the same root as elaion which means olive and olive oil. In the Middle East, olive oil provides physical healing for many sicknesses, particularly respiratory. "Have mercy" means to have "healing oil" on my soul.

The Fathers tell us that praying the Sacred Name changes our personality, from overstrain to joy. "Hitherto you have asked nothing in my Name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full" (Jn 16:24).

The Jesus Prayer functions as therapy, much like healing oil, transforming our personality from overstrain to joy, and by continuing to pray, these changes become permanent.

Results of Prayer        
We don't say the Jesus Prayer, or enter wordless contemplation, to get "some benefit." We don't pray to reduce our stress, or strengthen our immune system, or lose weight, or add years to our life. On the contrary, we enter prayer to follow Christ, to become open to Him. His way is the Way of the Cross.

The Jesus Prayer - Practical Advice (Fr James Coles)

What is the Jesus Prayer?
Is there anything as difficult as prayer? What does Saint Paul mean by, and is it even possible to, “Pray without ceasing?” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). According to St Ignatius Brianchaninov, trying to pray without ceasing is a “hidden martyrdom.” Archimandrite SOPHRONY said, “Lions may not eat us for the sake of the Gospel. Rather, our call to martyrdom takes the form of being attentive to the present moment, relying upon God’s power always, and doing His will. Our call to martyrdom may not be any easier than death by violence.” The quest to pray without ceasing, has led to some interesting monastic experiments including, as only one example, monks praying in shifts.  But from very early on we have a prayer tool that the Eastern Orthodox Church refers to as The Jesus Prayer or Prayer of the Heart.

The words are not uniform but are most often prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This short prayer is prayed repeatedly. Scripturally it references the parable Jesus told of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee stands and prays to himself, “Thank you Lord that I am not like other men.” The Publican stands on the back praying in humility, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:10-14).

The Jesus Prayer enjoys a long history in the Eastern Orthodox Church beginning in the deserts of Egypt in the 4th century. The Philokalia, the five volume collection of varied saints teachings on prayer spans from the 4th to the 14th century, is mostly concerned with the Jesus Prayer. The Ladder of Divine Ascent written in the 6th century by Saint John Climacus recommends the use of the Jesus Prayer. To this day the Jesus Prayer continues to hold a special place in Orthodoxy. It should also be noted that Mount Athos and her monks are especially important to the use of The Prayer. Today, there is scarcely an Orthodox who has not prayed and reflected on the use of The Jesus Prayer.

The focus of Scholé is the virtuous use of time for prayer, worship and study, etc. The Jesus Prayer is the prime example of redeeming time from distraction and sloth by giving the mind and the heart a simple tool to call on the Name of the Lord. It can be prayed during a “formal” prayer time or “freely” while employed in other activities. The Jesus Prayer, as an example, is easy to pray while running, hiking or driving.
In this and the entries that follow I claim no special expertise or even original thought. I am attempting to avoid plagiarism but have been collecting and lecturing this material for a while and fear that not everything is properly footnoted. I will publish both an annotated bibliography and links to online articles and reference as an entry in this series. But let’s start out by saying that I rely heavily on Bishop KALLISTOS Ware’s lectures and books on the subject and Dr. Al Rossi’s excellent paper “Saying the Jesus Prayer.” One word of caution before we begin: while the Jesus Prayer is simple it is powerful and the Church has advised users against special techniques or visualization of any kind. One should not attempt extended use of the Jesus Prayer without a father confessor. Taking the warning into account, give The Jesus Prayer some effort today and let me know your experience; past and present.

The Jesus Prayer: St. Theophan the Recluse on the Prayer of the Heart
St. THEOPHAN the Recluse, 1815–1894 a well-known monk and saint in the Orthodox Church, said, “The principal thing is to stand before God with the mind in the heart and to go on standing before him unceasingly day and night until the end of life.” To pray is to stand before God. It is not necessary to always be asking for things or to always be using words. Deep prayer is contemplative. Deep prayer is to wait on God. Deep prayer is to listen to God. Prayer may be a request at times but at its deepest it is a relationship. “To pray is to stand before God with the mind in the heart.”

In Orthodoxy, the mind and heart are to be used as one. St Theophan tells us to keep our “mind in the heart” at all times. The heart is the physical muscle pumping blood, and our emotions/feelings, and the innermost core of the person, the spirit. Heart is associated with the physical muscle, but not identical with it. Heart means our innermost chamber, our secret dwelling place where God abides in us.

St. Macarius says, “The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms. There likewise is God, there are the angels, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace; all things are there.”
There is within us a space, a field of the heart, in which we find a Divine Reality, and from which we are called to live. The mind then is to descend into that inner sanctuary, by means of the Jesus Prayer, and to stay there throughout our active day and evening. We descend with our mind into our heart, and we live there. The heart is Christ’s palace. There, Christ the King comes to take His rest.

Then Bishop Theophan said a third thing, “to go on standing before him unceasingly day and night until the end of life.” Here St. Theophan is thinking of the words of St. Paul in 1 Thess 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” He does not just say pray morning and evening or 7 times a day but pray without ceasing. This text from Paul has played a very important part in the spirituality of the Christian East. From the fourth century onwards, the idea has been firmly established in the monastic tradition of the East that prayer is not merely an activity restricted to certain moments of the day, but something that should continue uninterrupted for the life of the monk or nun. The point is briefly expressed in one of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers: “A monk who prays only when he stands up for prayer is not really praying at all.” (Anonymous) With the same idea in mind a Palestinian monk of the seventh century, Antiochus of the Monastery of St. Sabbas, alludes to the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1-7: “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… a time to weep, and a time to laugh.. a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” And Antiochus comments, “There is a proper time for everything except prayer: as for prayer, its proper time is always.”

There were a group of monks called the Messalians, (in Greek, Euchite – meaning “praying ones”) a movement widespread in the Syria during the 4th and 5th centuries, who interpreted St. Paul’s injunction with uncompromising literalness. They did nothing but pray. They thought that to pray was to say prayers so they did not cook, garden, wash up, clean their room or answer letters.

It is pretty impossible to do nothing but say prayers all the time. There was a monastery in Constantinople called the “Sleepless Ones” who prayed in shifts. But these examples are departures from the normal flow of Orthodoxy and did not last long. Clearly there was a need for balance and diversity in the program of a monk’s daily life. Abba Anthony fell into discouragement and a great darkening of thoughts, he said to God, “Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?” A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, “Do this and you will be saved.” At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved.”

The pilgrim in the Way of the Pilgrim begins his search to discover what this means to pray without ceasing and finds no acceptable answer until he is taught the Jesus Prayer. St. Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus) said, “remember God more often then you breathe.” Prayer is to be as natural to us as breathing, or thinking, or speaking. Sometimes people talk about having a prayer life but Bishop KALLISTOS Ware says that nobody talks of having a breathing life distinct from the rest of what we do. Prayer is to be not merely one activity among others but THE activity of our life – present in everything we do. And not merely something we do but something we are. St. Issac the Syrian of the 7th century says that the saints even when asleep have not stopped praying. Because even when asleep the Spirit is praying within them.

This is our aim. It is not enough to be a person who says prayers from time to time but to be a person who is prayer all the time. St. Theophan sets before us a high aim – but how is this possible? How can we enter into the mystery of prayer as Bishop THEOPHAN describes it?

The Jesus Prayer and Silence
Mother Teresa was once asked by a reporter, “When you pray to God what do you say?” to which she responded, “I don’t say anything, I listen.” The reporter lost no time turning the question around and asked; “When you pray to God what does He say?” Mother Teresa matter-of-factly answered, “He doesn’t say anything, He listens.”[1] Mother Teresa’s experience of listening to God and Him listening back has a sure foundation in scripture. Two of the most prominent scriptural passages vividly portraying listening to God are the stories of Samuel who, as a young boy, heard the voice of God and Elijah in the cave on Mount Horeb.

First, the story about Samuel;
Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. At that time Eli, who’s eyesight had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see, was laying down in his own place; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was laying down within the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the Lord came and stood forth, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for they servant hears.” Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel, at which the two ears of every one that hears it will tingle.[2]

There are many important considerations from the story of Samuel’s listening. Samuel was removed from outward distractions, ready to receive whatever message God might send. Although the text says that Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nevertheless, the Scriptures also conclude that Samuel was listening to the voice of God.

The story of Elijah, found in 1 Kings, teaches that listening to the voice of the Lord is how one is ushered into the presence of the Lord. And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?[3] The New Revised Standard Translation renders, “a still small voice” as “the sound of sheer silence.” The Hebrew could also be translated as, “a sound of gentle stillness.”[4] It was not in the noise and power that the divine Presence was made real but rather in the silence of a “still small voice.” That quiet voice required the great prophet to listen and be quiet himself and only then did the divine question come, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Silence is a choice. We choose the things we want to do. These things, then, order and measure our lives. Someone said that Christians “order and measure” their lives from communion to communion. We might also say the Christians “order and measure” their lives from silence to silence.

Silence, at its best, is God-awareness. We quiet down our outer and inner lives, and listen to God speak. Someone said that when God speaks, His words are like the sound of a flutter of a bird’s wings. We need to be attentive if we are to hear anything. Outer silence is a choice. Outer silence calms the senses. By contrast, sensory overload and excitement can be addictive.

Inner silence can usually be achieved only by substituting one thought for another. Hence, the Jesus Prayer overrides our usual compulsive stream of consciousness about our own anxieties. Beginning with this form of prayer, then we might be led to deeper inner stillness, prayer without words. The caution here is that prayer without words is not heaviness, semi-sleep dullness. Rather, wordless prayer is alive, vigorous God-awareness.

Abba Pastor tells us that any trial that comes to us can by conquered by silence.
At the beginning of the Byzantine Liturgy, when the preliminary preparations are completed and all is now ready for the start of the Eucharist itself, the deacon turns to the priest and says, “it is time for the Lord to act.” Such exactly is the attitude of the worshipper in the Orthodox liturgy but also in the time of prayer.
[1] Reference unknown
[2] I Samuel 3:1-12
[3] I Kings 19:11-13
[4] George Arthur Buttrick, Editor, The Interpreters Bible. Abingdon Press: New York, New York. 1954. Volume 3, Page 163.

Jesus Prayer: The Who and The When
Clearly, the Jesus Prayer is not only for monks. We are told that the prayer is for cab drivers, social workers, engineers, teachers, social media experts, psychiatrists, etc. We use the Jesus Prayer to do God’s will, not our own bidding. Anyone, everyone can say the Jesus Prayer. The only prerequisites are to keep the Commandments, be a living member of the Church, and to have a guide.
Bishop Kallistos Ware has sound advice for those who simply can’t find a suitable guide. “But those who have no personal contact with a starets may still practice The Prayer without any fear, so long as they do so only for limited periods – initially, for no more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time – and so long as they make no attempt to interfere with the body’s natural rhythms.”

When to Pray
The Jesus Prayer is recommended in the morning, following our prayer rule, for some period of time, perhaps 10 or 15 minutes. This might be called “formal” use of the prayer. To sit in silence. Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Silence as God awareness – listening to God. Saint Seraphim of Sarov, “acquire inner peace and thousands around you will find salvation.” Spend a few minutes everyday praying Thre Jesus Prayer we will be more involved in the lives of those around us.

The second form of the Jesus Prayer is the “free” use of the prayer. This means at any and all other times of the day, or night. This is especially true for the semi-automatic tasks such as driving, doing dishes, walking, being unable to sleep, etc. The Jesus Prayer is notably useful in time of extreme concern or upset. It is short, does not require special preparation we can pray it when we are distracted. This can be called the “free” use of the Jesus Prayer. We are seeking to make all parts of our lives sanctified. The desert fathers in Egypt spoke of arrow prayers, such as the Jesus Prayer or, “Oh God make speed to save, O Lord make haste to help us.”

When alone, we might find it helpful to pray the Jesus Prayer, out loud. This can help lower the distraction level.


The Jesus Prayer Rope
Orthodox prayer ropes are usually soft and made of wool. Although we might be tempted to think of them as an Eastern version of the rosary they are not. The purpose is to help us concentrate, not to imagine an event and not necessarily to count. The prayer rope is used to aid us in concentrating on the prayer. The person praying says the Jesus Prayer for each knot on the rope. Usually the rope is 33 knots long but they come in all different colors and lengths. In the famous book, The Way of the Pilgrim, the pilgrim said the prayer 2,000, then 6,000, then 12,000 times. Is 12,000 Jesus Prayers better than 2,000? Quantity has nothing to do with love, and a living relationship with Jesus. The pilgrim did 12,000, no more and no less, as an act of obedience to his spiritual father, not because he was “making progress.” He also prayed much because that was his “heart’s desire.” Every prayer is an act of love, made to the Author of Love, Who is waiting expectantly for our desire, and our acceptance of His Love.


The Jesus Prayer: Hesychaism for the rest of us
Hesychia is the Greek word often translated into English to mean the spiritual stillness necessary for prayer. Archimandrite Vlachos, in his book Orthodox Psychotherapy, defines a hesychast as, “A person who is struggling in an atmosphere of stillness.”[1] The Philokalia defines hesychia as, “a state of inner tranquility or mental quietude and concentration which arises in conjunction with, and is deepened by, the practice of pure prayer and the guarding of the heart and intellect. Not simply silence, but an attitude of listening to God and of openness towards Him.”[2] This kind of listening prayer is hesychastic because it requires a silencing of the mind. Bishop KALLISTOS says again, “True inner prayer is to stop talking and to listen to the wordless voice of God within our heart; it is to cease doing things on our own and to enter into the action of God.”[3] He further develops the importance of listening in silence as prayer when he says, "To achieve silence: This is of all things the hardest and the most decisive in the art of prayer. Silence is not merely negative – a pause between words, a temporary cessation of speech – but, properly understood, it is highly positive: an attitude of attentive alertness of vigilance, and above all listening. The hesychast, the person who has attained hesychia, inner stillness or silence, is par excellence, the one who listens. He listens to the voice of prayer in his own heart, and he understands that this voice is not his own but that of Another speaking within him."[4]
Some teachers suggest that if we are able, we spend a half hour of wordless sitting, begun by asking God to teach us to pray, or a Bible quote. Usually this is best done in the morning, upon rising or before noon. If the person is able, a block of the some quiet time is also recommended for the evening. Hopefully, all this is worked out with the direction of a spiritual guide.

It is well attested in the Philokalia, and other more modern works on the Jesus Prayer, that there is an automatic component to the prayer where the repeating continues on a sub-conscious level.[5] The Jesus Prayer is the prayer of silent listening where there can be an awareness of God’s presence. This silent attention required to pray the Jesus Prayer can be at times gentle and at other times more akin to a wrestling match.

The Jesus Prayer does not harbor any secrets in itself, nor does its practice reveal any esoteric truths.[20] Instead, as a hesychastic practice, it demands setting the mind apart from rational activities and ignoring the physical senses for the experiential knowledge of God. It stands along with the regular expected actions of the believer (prayer, almsgiving, repentance, fasting etc.) as the response of the Orthodox Tradition to St. Paul’s challenge to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).[6][9] It is also linked to the Song of Solomon’s passage from the Old Testament: “I sleep, but my heart is awake” (Song of Solomon 5:2) [5]. The analogy being that as a lover is always conscious to his or her beloved, people can also achieve a state of “constant prayer” where they are always conscious of God’s presence in their lives.

[1] Archimandrite Hierotheos Vlachos, Orthodox Psychotherapy: Science of the Fathers. Birth of the Theotokos Monastery: Levadia, Greece. 1994. Page 326.
[2] St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain, The Philokalia: Volume Four. Faber and Faber Limited, London. 1995. Page 435.
[3] KALLISTOS, Page 2.
[4] Bishop KALLISTOS, The Power of the Name: The Jesus Prayer in Orthodox Spirituality. SLG Press, Convent of the Incarnation: Fairacres, Oxford. Page 1. Also found in his Inner Kingdom. St. Vladimir’s Press: Crestwood, NY.2000. Page 97.


The Jesus Prayer: Breathing and Posture
Bishop Kallistos Ware says that by spending only a few moments praying The Jesus Prayer each day, we actually transform all the other remaining moments of the day. In the beginning, there may be no new insights and no pleasant feelings. Was it a waste of time? Not necessarily. By faith, the Christian believes that spending time wanting to pray, and actually praying, does touch a Merciful God. God hears. But we can expect invisible, subtle snares, sent from Satan, precisely because we have been praying with more effort. In a sense, we rouse the enemy to action. St. John Chrysostom says that when we begin to pray we stir the snake to action, and that prayer can lay the snake low.

There is no ascetic effort more difficult, more painful, than the effort to draw close to God, Sophrony tells us. When we begin to pray, we expend desire and effort. The results are up to God. Real prayer is a gift from God, not the payment for our perspiration. Prayer works in the Unseen Warfare as a power/gift from Jesus, given as a function of our ability to receive it. We increase our ability to receive by asking for the increase, and God grants it as He sees fit, in His tender, all sweet and merciful manner.

Breathing and Posture
The Orthodox understanding of the role of the body in prayer rests upon a sound anthropology. The body, soul and spirit act as a single unit, not divided or split up. Therefore, the body has a role in prayer.
Bishop Kallistos Ware says that if we pray the Jesus Prayer for short periods, ten or fifteen minutes at the beginning, then there is no problem matching the words of the prayer to our breath. We are to breath naturally, without playing with the rhythm of the breath. On the inhale, we can say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.” On the exhale, we can say, “have mercy on me, a sinner.” We are to breath and pray slowly and reverently and attentively.

The usual position, as recommended is a comfortable sitting position in a chair. Sometimes standing is recommended. Usually the eyes are kept closed. Posture can take many forms, as long as the postures are reverent. Bishop Ware, St. Igantius Brianchaninov and Sophrony all agree, “the fullness of the Jesus Prayer can by practiced without any physical methods at all.”

In summary, it can be said that physical methods are optional and not at all necessary. Physical techniques are more suitable for beginners, says St Gregory Palamas. St. Theophan suggests, “Make a habit of having the intellect stand in the heart, but not in a physical way.”


The Jesus Prayer: Annotated Bibliography and Internet Resources
Bacovcin, Helen (translator). The Way of the Pilgrim and the Pilgrim Continues His Way, (New York: Image Books, 1992). The story of a pilgrim who after suffering great loss spends his life wandering in the forests visiting monasteries and searching for someone who could teach him to pray without ceasing.
Bloom, Metropolitan ANTHONY. Living Prayer, (Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1966). Chapter 6 is devoted to the Jesus Prayer and Metropolitan ANTHONY makes the argument that the Jesus Prayer is a prayer of silence, see especially page 103.
Brianchaninov, Ignatius. On the Jesus Prayer, (Longmead, Shaftesbury, Dorset: Element Books Limited, 1952). A thorough treatment of the Jesus Prayer with many scriptural and Philokalia references.
Chariton, Igumen of Valamo. The Art of Prayer: An Orthodox Anthology, (London: Faber and Faber, 1977). 271 pages of teaching about prayer. Consider especially chapter three.
Colliander, Tito. Way of the Ascetics, (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1988). Chapter 25 in this excellent book is a short meditation on the Jesus Prayer as the way of the cross.
Gillet, Lev. On the Invocation of the Name of Jesus, (Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, 1985). Detailed, practical and contains good historical information.
Kadloubovsky, E. and G.E.H. Palmer. Writings from the Philokalia On The Prayer of the Heart, (London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1979). The Philokalia is a collection of writing from the Fathers who reached the highest levels of prayer. The Philokalia along with Scripture is what the Pilgrim in the Way of the Pilgrim carried with him.
Theophan the Recluse, Editor. Unseen Warfare, (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990). This is the classic text on prayer in the Orthodox tradition.
Ware, Bishop Kallistos. The Power of the Name, (Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres, Oxford: SLG Press, 1986). It is short, excellent and possibly the best book to read for group discussion and training.
Zaleski, Irma. Living the Jesus Prayer, (Toronto, Canada: Novalis, 1997). This book’s intention is to teach the Jesus Prayer as a healing expression of a relationship with God.
Internet Resources on the Jesus Prayer including the heavily relied on “Saying the Jesus Prayer” by Dr. Albert Rossi
The Jesus Prayer by Fr. Steven Peter Tsichlis (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America)
Saying the Jesus Prayer by Albert S Rossi (St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary)
The Jesus Prayer by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
On Practicing the Jesus Prayer by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov
Introduction to the Jesus Prayer by Mother Alexandra
Prayer of Jesus or Prayer of the Heart by Archimandrite Fr. Jonah Mourtos
The Power of the Name by Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia
An Orthodox Christian Study on Unceasing Prayer by John K. Kotsonis, Ph.D.
Becoming the Jesus Prayer by Fr. Michael Plekon
The Jesus Prayer by Ken E. Norian, TSSF
Hieromonk Ilie Cleopa preaching on the levels of the Prayer of the Heart (video)
The Psychological Basis of Mental Prayer in the Heart (online book) by Fr. Theophanes (Constantine)
The Jesus Prayer A site for gazing (English and Greek)
Russian tradition in worship of God’s Name and the Jesus Prayer (Russian)
On the Jesus Prayer Greek site in English with practical advice
“Death to the World” an Orthodox Ascetic Website

Source: http://frjamescoles.wordpress.com/category/the-jesus-prayer/

Elder Cleopa on the Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer - A Fransciscan Perspective

The following is an article written by Ken Norian, minister general of the Third Order, Society of Saint Francis about the Jesus Prayer.

"The church has a rich history of prayer - and of prayers. The Lord's Prayer, The Hail Mary, and many prayers from scripture and the Psalms such as the Benedictus, the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimitus are a few examples. Since at least the sixth century, a prayer that has had an important role in the history of Christian Worship is The Jesus Prayer.

Though the Jesus Prayer has been used for centuries  in the east by orthodox churches, for many the first exposure to the Jesus Prayer came from Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger: "... if you keep saying that prayer over and over again, you only have to just do it with your lips at first - then eventually what happens, the prayer becomes self- active. Something happens after a while. I don't know what but something happens, the words get synchronized with the person's heart-beats,"and then you're actually praying without ceasing. The prayer has one aim, and one aim only. To endow the person who says it with Christ -Consciousness." Another book that brought the Jesus Prayer to the western world was The Way of a Pilgrim, a Russian novel written in the mid-nineteenth century that was first translated into English in 1930.

There are many forms of the Jesus Prayer, but the most common is: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

Though the Jesus Prayer is simple it is rich with meaning. To ask God to have mercy on us is to ask for lovingkindness. Mercy is comprised of compassion, charity, clemency, lovingkindness and grace. Compassion that forebears punishing even when justice demands it; Charity stresses benevolence and goodwill; Clemency implies a mild disposition in one having the power to punish; Grace implies a willingness to grant favours and meet one's needs.

When we pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray to Jesus our savior and Christ the anointed  King. In calling him Lord, we acknowledge him as our King and our Savior.

In addition to the most common forms of the Jesus Prayer, there are many variations of different lengths reflecting the different rhythms that individuals may be comfortable with.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.  (the form I have found best synchronizes with my breathing)
Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.
Lord Jesus, have mercy.

The Jesus prayer could actually be expressed in one word Jesus. It is reverence for the Name coupled with an intent to seek God's mercy that is the foundation of the Jesus Prayer.  Whatever the form, the Jesus prayer is not just some sort of mantra. It is actually a prayer from the heart of the person praying the prayer to the heart of God. We affirm meditatively in our hearts the beliefs summed up in the Apostle's creed, and we ask for God's mercy - his compassion, charity, clemency, and grace.

It is often suggested that those learning to pray the Jesus Prayer experiment with different forms to see what “fits” them best. The exact choice of words can be changed from time to time.  We should be cautioned however to allow a specific formula time to become a part of our heart and mind because as St. Gregory of Sinai writes, "Trees which are repeatedly transplanted do not grow roots."

The Jesus Prayer can be used for worship, petition, intercession, invocation, adoration, and thanksgiving.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia, speeks of the "free" and "formal" uses of The Jesus Prayer.  The "free" use of The Jesus Prayer is when we are going about the normal activities of our day - prayed once or more often "...in the scattered moments which otherwise would be spiritually wasted:  when occupied with familiar tasks... when walking or driving.... when waiting in lines or traffic jams... when unable to sleep.  Part of the distinctive value of the Jesus Prayer lies precisely in the fact that, because of its radical simplicity, it can be prayed in conditions of distraction when more complex forms of prayer are impossible.  It is especially helpful in moments of tension and anxiety."  (The Power of the Name, publised at the Convent of the Incarnation, Fairacres, Oxford, © The Sisters of the Love of God, 1974).  Bishop Ware goes on to speek of the "formal" use where our whole concentration is focused on the saying of the Prayer to the exclusion of external activity.  The Jesus Prayer then forms a part of our intentional time of prayer.  It could be said that in this case The Jesus Prayer is used to "create silence".

While individuals may be more drawn more to either the "free" or "formal" use of the Jesus Prayer, my experience is that they both compliment each other.  Spending at least some using the Jesus Prayer in formal meditation and  prayer strenghtens its efficacy when used in free form throughout the day.

While the Jesus Prayer as a prayer form and tradition is rooted in eastern orthodox spirituality, there are many other western examples of the spirit of the Jesus prayer. Contemplative prayer and centering prayer have much in common with the Jesus prayer. In charismatic and pentecostal worship many exclamatory prayers such as "Praise you Jesus" and simply "Jesus" are also in the spirit of the Jesus Prayer.

Francis of Assisi was a man for whom prayer was an utmost priority. He was also a man who was the perfect example of living simply - physically, spiritually, and prayerfully.

Once there was a brother novice who ... had heard it said that the holy father Francis did not want to see his brothers eager for learning and for books, but he preferred to see them - as he preached it - eager for pure and holy simplicity, for prayer, and for Lady Poverty. (Legend of Perugia,70 Omnibus of Sources)

Bernard of Quintavalle was a rich and important man who was impressed by Francis early in Francis' ministry. He invited Francis to his home to test him. As they were going to sleep in the same room Francis pretended to be asleep. Bernard also pretended to be asleep by snoring loudly. When Francis thought that Bernard was sleeping, he got out of bed and began to pray. Bernard was convicted by what he saw to "leave the world and follow you in whatever you order me to do". He saw Francis: "Looking up to Heaven and raising his hands, he prayed with intense fervour and devotion saying: "My God and my all" He kept repeating this with such devout persistence that until matins (he said nothing but "My God and my all". (Little Flowers of St. Francis, 2)

Francis was, very much, praying in the spirit of the Jesus Prayer. On another occasion:
He sought out a place of prayer ... frequently repeating this word: "0 God, be merciful to me the sinner". (I Celano, X1,26)

This is another form of the Jesus prayer. So, the Jesus Prayer is very much alive in the spirit and example of St. Francis in addition to the more widely known Orthodox Christian traditions.

There are many ways of praying the Jesus Prayer. It is a short and simple way of immediately entering into prayer. No long preparation is required. It can be prayed anywhere, anytime during the day. Whenever one has a few moments they can enter into prayer that is simple, yet rich with meaning. It may be prayed meditatively through repetition.

Anthony DeMello, S.J. in his book Contact With God says, “I don’t know why it is, but the fingering of beads brings to many people peace and prayerfulness; it is probably because it brings rhythm into the prayer.”  There is an excellent chapter, by the way, in this book on the Jesus Prayer.

The use of counting prayers or devotions is a tradition that goes back thousands of years, originally using stones, bone, clay, seeds, etc and exists across many faith traditions including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.  Today the most common forms used in conjunction with the Jesus Prayer include beads and knotted cords.

Greek Orthodox Christians, in particular, use a “prayer rope”, a knotted cord of 33, 50, or 100 knots.  Many Roman Catholics use a traditional Rosary praying the Jesus Prayer in place of the Rosary prayers.  Anglicans and others who are not Orthodox or Roman Catholic use a form known as “Anglican Prayer Beads” or the Anglican Rosary.

Doing a web search for “prayer rope”, “Anglican Rosary” or “Anglican Prayer Beads” will yield hundreds of results for each of these.

After many years of praying the Jesus Prayer, I have used a variety of forms of prayers beads and prayer ropes. Most recently, I have been using a prayer cord chaplet inspired by the Anglican Rosary (two “weeks” of seven knots instead of the standard four weeks). At six inches in length it is convenient enough to keep in my pocket and use regularly throughout the day.

http://www.rosaryworkshop.com/SERVICEcordRosaries.html is an excellent resources for cord, tools and instructions to make your own prayer cords in whatever form you desire.  There is a special significance to using a prayer rope that has been designed and made by the one who is using it!

The former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States highly recommends the Jesus Prayer.  In an interview with Dan England, Director of Communications of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Frank Griswold says:

“I always carry in my pocket a Jesus Prayer rope, which consists of 50 knots.  And between every ten knots there’s a wooden bead.  And it’s made out of wool…  I just sort of have it there in my pocket.  And if I’m walking around the city I usually finger it and simply say my prayers.  And when I’m stuck on a bridge somewhere and about to get frantic, or particularly, I’ll tell you, in airplanes, when you’ve left the gate and your are told with no explanation that it is going to be an hour and a half before the plane takes off, and you’re given the choice of becoming absolutely enraged or choosing some more ameliorating way of dealing with the situation.  I sort of reach for my Jesus Prayer rope.

And I mean this quite seriously.  Because my life is so hectic and busy, it’s very easy to sort of lose the center and become totally reactive and live in a state of constant agitation.  And just the discipline of saying the Jesus Prayer quietly to myself and trying to bring my breathing into relationship with the words of the prayer, which is part of the discipline, often reminds me that I am not the answer, but Christ is the answer, and that all I have to do is to be faithful and not get in the way.  And so often just walking around I can kind of find my stability that way.”

It is ironic that a prayer that has its roots in simplicity has spawned scores of books and articles.  Some are short and succinct.  Others are scholarly dissertations that delve deep into spirituality and the history and roots of the Jesus Prayer.

There are hundreds of web sites and many excellent books that a search of the internet will yield. I think I’ve read most of them!  If you feel God calling you to explore this form of prayer that has been used for many centuries as a way of drawing the hearts’ of God’s people nearer to the heart of God, please read on…

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.

My Home Page:  www.norian.org (includes contact information if you wish to pursue discussion via email)
Ken E.Norian TSSF 
BIBLIOGRAPHY:
A Priest of the Byzantine Church.   Reflections on the Jesus Prayer. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1978  (a brief but good discussion on the Jesus Prayer)
Sjogren, Per-Olof.  The Jesus Prayer.  Philadelphi:  Fortress Press, 1975  (my all time favorite)
French, R.M.  The Way of a Pilgrim.  New York:  Ballantine Books, 1977  (The classic)
Hausherr, Irenee.  The Name of Jesus. Kalamazoo, MI:  Cistercian Publications, 1978 (an exhaustive discussion of the names of Jesus used by early Christians with the development of the Jesus Prayer)

Living the Jesus Prayer

I have just started to read another book on the Jesus Prayer which in it's down-to-earth and common sense approach bears comparison with Frederica Mathewes-Green's book on the same subject, albeit in a shorter form. The author, Irma Zaleski, is a member of the Madonna House community of Combremere, Ontario, the organization founded by the late Catherine de Heuck Doherty, author of Poustina and other books. Zaleski is the author of several other books, including "God Is Not Reasonable," "The Way of Repentance," and "Living the Jesus Prayer ." "The Way of Repentance" was one of "Christianity Today "'s favourite books of 1999.

It's a good book to buy as a simple introduction to the Jesus Prayer and is full of sensible comforting advice like: "It is better not to worry too much about the breathing, especially at the beginning. If we practice saying the Prayer regularly, this synchronization tends to happen on it's own." (page 12) Or honesty like: "I took up the Prayer without much enthusiasm...Before too long, I began to be bored by it..." (page 9)

She also underlines the need for support and encouragement from others, especially Fr Briere, who helped her through the bored stage and into the regular discipline needed to transform the Prayer from something said to something prayed. Altogether a great introduction to one of the Church's greatest prayers and a good book to have on your church bookstall.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Jesus Prayer and The Liturgy

"In a special manner the invocation of the name of Jesus makes the grace of his Incarnation universal, allowing each of us our personal share and disposing our hearts to receive the Lord… When the divine Name is pronounced over a country or a person, these enter into an intimate relationship with God… The “prayer of the heart” frees and enlarges it and attracts Jesus to it … In this prayer … the whole Bible with its entire message is reduced to its essential simplicity… When Jesus is drawn into the heart, the liturgy becomes interiorized and the Kingdom is in the peaceful soul. The Name dwells in us as its temple and there the divine presence transmutes and Christifies us… "
Ages of the Spiritual Life, Evdokimov  (pp 211-212)   


St. Hesychios - The Jesus Prayer - 2

"Much water makes up the sea. But extreme watchfulness and the Prayer of Jesus Christ, undistracted by thoughts, are the necessary basis for inner vigilance and unfathomable stillness of soul, for the deeps of secret and singular contemplation, for the humility that knows and assesses, for rectitude and love. This watchfulness and this Prayer must be intense, concentrated and unremitting."
(Philokalia page 164)

St Hesychios here seems to be warning against half-heartedness when praying this prayer. It requires "vigilance" and concentration as well as "extreme watchfulness".  The occasional repetition stands at odds with his advice. Not that praying it a few times a week is bad - its just not best.

St. Hesychios on the Jesus Prayer - 1

"Attentiveness is the heart's stillness, unbroken by any thought. In this stillness the heart breathes and invokes, endlessly and without ceasing, only Jesus Christ who is the Son of God and Himself God. It confesses Him who alone has power to forgive our sins, and with His aid it courageously faces its enemies. Through this invocation enfolded continuously in Christ, who secretly divines all hearts, the soul does everything it can to keep its sweetness and it's inner struggle hidden from men, so that the devil, coming upon it surreptitiously , does not lead it into evil and destroy its precious work."
St. Hesychios the priest "On watchfulness and holiness" (The Phylokalia - page 163)

Note: Every human heart is a battlefield where good and evil fight it out for control. The Jesus Prayer however, rather than being a spiritual weapon which we wield - like a sword or mace - is a means of constantly reminding us that we cannot defeat the enemy of our souls ourselves. Only the One who defeated him on the cross - Jesus - can. So through the Prayer we "fix our eyes - our spiritual sight - on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

So: "When the mind, taking refuge in Christ and calling upon Him, stands firm and repels its unseen enemies, like a wild beast facing a pack of hounds from a good position of defence, then it inwardly anticipates their inner ambuscades well in advance. Through continually invoking Jesus the peacemaker against them, it remains invulnerable." (ibid 163-164)