Sunday, 24 August 2014
The Jesus Prayer for Beginners
The invocation of the Name may be practiced anywhere and at any time. We can pronounce the Name of Jesus in the streets, in the place of our work, in our room, in church, etc. We can repeat the Name while we walk. Besides that "free" use of the Name, not determined or limited by any rule, it is good to set apart certain times and certain places for a "regular" invocation of the Name. One who is advanced in that way of prayer may dispense with such arrangements. But they are an almost necessary condition for beginners.
If we daily assign a certain time to the invocation of the Name (besides the "free" invocation which should be as frequent as possible), the invocation ought to be practiced—circumstances allowing—in a lonely and quiet place : "Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and, when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret" (Matthew 6:6). The bodily posture does not matter much. One may walk, or sit down, or lie, or kneel. The best posture is the one which affords most physical quiet and inner concentration. One may be helped by a physical attitude expressing humbleness and worship.
Before beginning to pronounce the Name of Jesus, establish peace and recollection within yourself and ask for the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost" (Α Corinthians 12:3). The Name of Jesus cannot really enter a heart that is not being filled by the cleansing breath and the flame of the Spirit. The Spirit himself will breathe and light in us the Name of the Son.
Then simply begin. In order to walk one must take a first step; in order to swim one must throw oneself into the water. It is the same with the invocation of the Name. Begin to pronounce it with adoration and love. Cling to it. Repeat it. Do not think that you are invoking the Name; think only of Jesus himself. Say his Name slowly, softly and quietly.
A common mistake of beginners is to wish to associate the invocation of the Holy Name with inner intensity or emotion. They try to say it with great force. But the Name of Jesus is not to be shouted, or fashioned with violence, even inwardly. When Elijah was commanded to stand before the Lord, there was a great and strong wind, 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. After the fire came a still small voice, "And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood..." (I Kings 19.13) Strenuous exertion and the search for intensity will be of no avail. As you repeat the Holy Name, gather quieti little by little, your thoughts and feelings and around it; gather-.around it your whole being. Let the name penetrate your soul as a drop of oil spreads out and impregnates a cloth. Let nothing of yourself escape. Surrender your whole self and enclose it within the Name.
Even in the act of invocation of the Name, its literal repetition ought not to be continuous. The Name pronounced maybe extended and prolonged in seconds or minutes of silent rest and attention. The repetition of the Name may be likened to the beating of wings by which a bird rises into the air. It must never be labored and forced, or hurried, or in the nature of a flapping. It must be gentle, easy and~ let us give to this word its deepest meaning-graceful. When the bird has reached the desired height it glides in its flight, and only beats its wing from time to time in order to stay in the air. So the soul, having attained to the thought of Jesus and filled herself with the memory of him, may discontinue the repetition of the Name and rest in Our Lord. The repetition will only be resumed when other thoughts threaten to crowd out the thought of Jesus. Then the invocation will start again in order to gain fresh impetus.
Continue this invocation for as long as you wish or as you can. The prayer is naturally interrupted by tiredness. Then do not insist. But resume it at any time and wherever you maybe, when you feel again so inclined. In time you will find that the name of Jesus will spontaneously come to your lips and almost continuously be present to your mind, though in a quiescent and latent manner. Even your sleep will be impregnated with the Name and memory of Jesus. "I sleep, but my heart waketh" (Song of Songs 5:2).
When we are engaged in the invocation of the Name, it is natural that we should hope and endeavor to reach some "positive" or "tangible" result, i.e., to feel that we have established a real contact with the person of Our Lord: "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole" (Matthew 9:21). This blissful experience is the desirable climax of the invocation of the Name : "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32:26). But we must avoid an overeager longing for such experiences; religious emotion may easily become a disguise for some dangerous kind of greed and sensuousness. Let us not think that, if we have spent a certain time in the invocation of the Name without "feeling" anything, our time has been wasted and our effort unfruitful. On the contrary this apparently barren prayer may be more pleasing to God than our moments of rapture, because it is pure from any selfish quest for spiritual delight. It is the prayer of the plain and naked will. We should therefore persevere in assigning every day some regular and fixed time to the invocation of the Name, even if it seems to us that this prayer leaves us cold and dry; and such an earnest exertion of the will, such a sober "waiting" on the Name cannot fail to bring us some blessing and strength.
Moreover, the invocation of the Name seldom leaves us in a state of dryness. Those who have some experience of it agree that it is very often accompanied by an inner feeling of joy, warmth and light. One has an impression of moving and walking in the light. There is in this prayer no heaviness, no languishing, no struggling. "Thy name is as ointment poured forth... Draw me; we will run after thee" (Song of Songs 1:3-4).
From "The Jesus Prayer" by Lev Gillet (online book available here).