Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Spiritual Warfare and the Jesus Prayer

My own experience of saying the Jesus Prayer is sometimes that of struggle and difficulty. These seem to multiply and the temptation is to give in. It is interesting to note that this is 'normal' and even the will of God! Here is an extract from The Way of the Pilgrim (incidentally it highlights the importance of seeking out an elder to guide you):

"For a week I followed the instructions of the elder an studied ceaseless prayer alone in the vegetable garden, and for a while I managed. Then a great burden came upon me. Laziness, boredom, drowsiness and a cloud of disturbing thoughts seemed to overwhelm me. In my sorrow I went to see the elder and explained my situation to him.

He welcomed me lovingly and said, "Dearly beloved brother, a war has been declared against you by the world of darkness - a world which finds nothing as terrifying as heartfelt prayer and therefore tries by all means possible to confuse you and distract you from your purpose of learning how to pray. However, even the action of the enemy is permitted by God's will to the extent that it is necessary for us. It seems that your humility needs to be tested and that you are not yet ready to enter the interior of your heart, for you may fall into spiritual greediness."

He continues:

"I will read you a directive from the Phiklokalia regarding such a situation."  And so teh elder found the instruction of the venerable Nicephorus the Solitary and began:

"If, in spite of all effort, you cannot enter the interior of the heart in the way which was explained to you, then do what I will tell you and with God's help you will reach your goal. Man's vocal cords enable him to speak, to vocalize words. Use this ability then and, while fighting distractions, diligently and continuously say, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!" If you will persevere for some time then, without any doubt, the path to the heart will be opened to you. This has been verified through experience."
No wonder Jesus told a parable "that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (never give up)" (Luke 18:1)

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