What is the Jesus Prayer? How old is it? Who is the Jesus Prayer for?
Where can the Jesus Prayer be found in Scriptures, and how does it differ from the mantras of eastern religionis?
How ought we to practice the Jesus Prayer, and what do we find when we do?
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The Jesus Prayer, is something that we all should know about and something we all should practice, but as I said earlier it’s good to go back to the roots of things and to refresh, and there might be some who know little about this.
It’s been said that prayer is our true life. Prayer is our highest task and communion with God. Without prayer we become disconnected from our inner depth and we lose something of our basic humanity. Without prayer we become dead inside.
One early Christian writer said, “When I stopped praying I became old and when I prayed I became young again.” Youthfulness and old age are not just physiological conditions but also spiritual. Even a young person can feel old. St. Ephraim the Syrian said that when a person is terminally ill and he stops eating, his friends know that death is near. And when the angels see us refraining from the nourishment of prayer and the Eucharist they begin to grieve because our souls are dying.
It’s a very powerful image and it says a lot about what prayer is, and the cosmic consequences that a life of prayer, or not, have in the spiritual world.
To pray is to open oneself up to the source of Divine life. The ascetical writers talk about closed and open hearts, and the person who has not received God or been aware of Him in some way is someone whose heart is closed, but a person who has been transformed to a certain extent is one whose heart has begun to open.
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It is the ceaseless repetition of the words “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There are shorter versions of the prayer such as “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me,” or even just “Lord Jesus have mercy on me.” Different people find different versions that better express themselves, but what’s common to all of these is the Divine name of Jesus.
Who is this prayer for?
How old is the Jesus Prayer?
If you ask historians this question the earliest written evidence for the practice of the Jesus Prayer is found in a text called A Discourse on Abba Philimon which is the only narrative text in the Philokalia. This text tells the story of Abba Philimon who was an early Egyptian desert father. It’s probably from the fifth or sixth century, but it describes the Jesus Prayer as already well-established. In Tradition the Jesus Prayer is much older.
One of the fathers reminded me the other day that the prayer of the Blind Man is like this: Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, and of course the book of Acts places heavy emphasis on the name of Jesus, so there are Biblical forms of the Jesus Prayer. 1 Thess. 5:17 says pray without ceasing, which from Christian antiquity has been taken as a charge to ceaseless prayer and especially the Jesus Prayer.
St. Anthony entered the church and heard If thou wilt be perfect go thy way and sell all that thou hast and come and follow Me and those words became a spur or goad for him. In the nineteenth century classic, The Way of a Pilgrim, the pilgrim goes into church and hears 1 Thess. 5:17, and that is what stirred something inside him and put him on the search for the Jesus Prayer. That book is such a tremendous text.
The Way of a Pilgrim is the English title of a 19th century anonymous Russian, seemingly autobiographical, work, possibly by an Athonite monk, detailing the narrator’s journey across the country while practicing the Jesus Prayer devoutly, with the help of a prayer rope and the study of the Philokalia. The Russian title of the book is actually much longer than its English translation: “Откровенные рассказы странника духовному своему отцу” – literally, “Candid tales of a pilgrim to his spiritual father’.
The book as a whole is often interpreted as an allegory of both the life of Jesus Christ and the struggle of Orthodox spirituality. It details the gradual spiritual development and struggles of the narrator, and the effect the narrator’s spirituality has on those around him (to quote St. Seraphim of Sarov, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and a thousand souls around you will be saved”), as well as the effects upon the narrator of the struggles of those whom he encounters and the stories they tell him.
There are two books in this series, The Way of the Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues his Way (often included together as one volume). Many have benefited greatly from their reading.
Modern New Testament scholars would never accept this, but the Church has accepted that 1 Cor. 14:19, where St. Paul says I would rather speak five words in or by means of my mind (in the Greek he uses “nous”) rather than thousands by means of the tongue, refers to the five words of the Jesus Prayer in Greek: “Kyrie Eleison Iesou, eleison me.”
Scholars would scoff and say this is forced, but it fits, and many great saints of the Church such as St. Gregory cite this. So I think it’s incumbent upon us to accept it at least as a pious tradition. We don’t need this verse to be our proof-text, but it’s a pious tradition, and an intriguing one at that.
It seems clear that the very practice of the Jesus Prayer reflects the Biblical teaching of the nature of personal names, and especially of the Divine Name. We all know that the name is closely linked to the person that bears it so that to invoke the name is to invoke the person who bears it.
So it’s logical that when there is a change of life there is also a change of name—Abram becomes Abraham, Simon becomes Peter, Saul becomes Paul, and monks and nuns receive new names in monastic tonsure, because the name is so deeply tied to personal identity.
A name is not arbitrary or random but conveys the essence as it were of the thing or person. When Moses asks God, “What is your name,” he’s not asking God, “What should I call you,” but he’s asking, “Who are you?” If one profanes the name he’s not harming a word, but rather the person who is named by it, and we all know about the name that observant Jews have for the name of God.
The other day I talked about St. Symeon the New Theologian pressing his eyes to the page of Scripture after the reading because of this devotion to the word, which is a verbal icon.
There was a senior seminarian quiz before graduation: “What is the difference between the Gospel on the altar and the icon of Christ in the dome?” and the answer is: “location.” St. Theodore the Studite says this in his own way. One is a verbal representation of Christ and the other is a visual representation of Christ. Word and image, and acts, and gestures of ritual are all modes of revelation.
1 Phil. 2:9-11 says, Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name—and in the Greek it even means that which transcends every name—so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
How to say the Jesus Prayer?
Anybody who’s done this and repeated it aloud knows that it gets tiring. Very quickly and naturally what began as a prayer of the lips will on its own begin to repeat itself inaudibly in our minds. I think that’s a natural, human transition but God is also active here.
There are so many other things we can’t remember, but the Jesus Prayer attaches itself to us more quickly and deeper, and it goes from the lips to something internalized. By God’s grace and our effort the prayer will enter more deeply so that the prayer of the lips and mind will become the prayer of the heart in the core of our being.
Those who practice this will realize right away because we’re so used to the scattered, fragmented life we will easily float away from the prayer without even realizing it. That happens all the time, and when it happens don’t get upset or angry—just gently recall your attention to the heart and continue to say the prayer without even thinking about what happened. Expect that this will happen and know it’s not a huge problem. Just bring yourself back to the work you were doing.
The first thing we need to do is return the attention to yourself, first to the mind and then to the heart to unite these divided aspects of ourselves—a reintegration of the self, in its core, in its root. Once we have entered the place of the heart and found that place of silence within ourselves, the idea is not to sit there in Buddhist nothingness, but from that place of the heart to say the Jesus Prayer with gentle but unwavering concentration as much as we’re able. Don’t pressure yourself or have expectations of praying for hours. Start small and see what happens, ideally under the direction of someone who is more advanced who can encourage and guide you.
In the Orthodox spiritual tradition and in the Bible the heart is the center and core of our being, and there’s a lot of biological information that backs this up. In the human fetus the cardiovascular system is the first to form and there are beating cardiac cells within the fetus twenty-one days after conception. That is long before the brain and the nervous system are formed, and neurologists tell us that the brain does not complete its own formation until at least three years after birth.
The brain is a latecomer to the anthropological landscape. And cardiac cells are the only cells that don’t divide, which means those that start beating on day twenty-one will continue to beat for your entire life. People ask where miracles are today, and to me this is astonishing! We’re talking about things so small that they can’t be seen. Where does that life come? It’s very remarkable.
It seems very clear that the heart is the center of the biological organism. It’s like the seed out of which the rest of the person grows. I mentioned chapter ten of St. Nikodemos of On Guarding the Mind and the Heart where he says that the mind is always active, and some people even define the mind as activity. Sometimes we can’t sleep at night because the mind is racing. He says all of that activity, which in Greek presupposes a source, has its root in the heart, and in the Gospel we hear about all the things that come out of the heart—lust and pride, etc.
There’s a great Byzantine tradition of the memorial services concerning the third, ninth, and fortieth days, that as the body is formed in the womb, from seed to fully-formed body, so it is undone or dissolved in the opposite direction at the moment of death. They believed that the last thing to be formed in the body is the first thing to go, and that is the face. The fullness of the definition of the face is the last thing to be formed which means it’s the first thing to dissolve. At the moment of death you immediately see the blood rush from the person’s face and his features change, and then the rest of the body subsequently.
On the third, ninth, and fortieth days key parts of the body break down as if the soul is somehow uncoiling itself. On the fortieth day, the last thing to go is the heart. This is a pious tradition, but it’s not the reason for the memorial services, although it’s very intriguing and consistent with the other things I’ve been saying. Not only is the heart the natural core of the person, it’s also the super-natural center of the person. When I was a seminary student you couldn’t use the world “supernatural” because it’s “scholastic.”
It’s like, if the Catholics say it then we can’t say it, but to define yourself in a negative dialectic is what the Protestants do. If you read the fathers of the Church and the Byzantine ecclesiastical writers they use the words “physikon” and “hyperphysikon.” Maybe they mean something different by it but the words themselves are perfectly Orthodox.
So the heart is also a supernatural center, because that is where the seed of the Holy Spirit is implanted within us. Where else would it go? It’s also a kind of para-natural center, because the heart is also the place where all the negative things arise from, too. To discover one’s heart is an act of reintegration, and when the heart and mind are reunited it’s an experience of tremendous spiritual joy and delight.
The image that St. John Climacus uses is that it’s like a man returning home after a long journey and embracing his wife and children. We see often on the news about soldiers returning home and embracing their wives and children and it’s so tremendously powerful to see. Imagine that as an image of what takes place when all your fragmented and dispersed thoughts and wandering mind are reconnected to the deeper part of yourself.
I’d like to say a few words about the breathing practices that are associated with the Jesus Prayer because I think this is one of the most misunderstood things.
People sometimes warn people about this, which I don’t agree with. As we’ve said over and again, it’s not easy to free ourselves from distractions. One priest friend said we can’t even say one single Jesus Prayer without being distracted. How wretched are we? We know it’s hard to not be distracted. It’s difficult to find our center and enter the place of the heart and once we do enter it it’s very difficult to stay there because the cares of life distract us.
This is why the teachers of the Jesus Prayer teach us to initially focus on the breath. If the mind focuses on the breath that means the wandering mind, which has been outside of the body, is now united to the body, and that’s a huge first step, because so often we’re absent from the present moment.
You can live your whole life without actually having lived it. Focusing on the breath is important because it brings the mind back to the body, and also because the breath is the one thing that we have that is unambiguously in the present—right where and right now.
If I can get my mind to focus on the breath I’m not only entering into my body but I’m also entering into the present. It is so tremendously powerful to be in the present. It can be frightening because it’s a place we’re not familiar with, and I think that’s one of the reasons we run from it. It can be overwhelming. We sense there are other things in the present too, namely the presence of God.
And this reality is so big, awesome, and so mysterious that I can’t deal with it so I go back to the my own little reality—my paper I’m working on, or the party I’m planning—the smaller reality that I can control and manipulate. In so many churches there are so many activities—even doubling their talks and programs during Lent. How about just stopping? What are we running away from?
As St. Nikodemos says, breathing is respiration which involves the lungs and heart; and to follow the breath is not only to return to the body and to the present, but it’s to allow the mind to return to the place of the heart.
People discourage this for different reasons, but breathing is something we do all the time; and if you’re saying the Jesus Prayer in a rhythm, to me it’s the most natural thing that this repetition will on its own very quickly unite itself to your breath.
I don’t know how that can’t be. Many people will say the first half of the prayer on the inhale, and the second on the exhale, and this is what’s recommended in the Philokalia and elsewhere.
While inhaling: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” and while exhaling: “have mercy on me a sinner.” The prayer becomes part of people’s breathing, and sometimes you just take a breath without intending to pray, and you find yourself saying the prayer because it unites itself to your breath. This should be basic.
We talked about the buried seed and the idea of actualizing the potential of the Holy Spirit, and the Jesus Prayer is precisely this cultivation. Why? 1 Cor. 12:3 says No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. It’s not a mantra, but the invocation of the Divine name; and like an icon, with the name comes the presence of Christ. How is the presence of Christ actualized in the world?
Through the agency of the Holy Spirit, always. If Christ is present somewhere it’s due to the activity and agency of the Holy Spirit. Think about the Annunciation—the Archangel delivers the message and she asks, How can this be?” Well, simple—The power of the Most High will overshadow you. We say in the Creed “begotten of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.”
The Second Person of the Trinity becomes a reality incarnate in her womb through the agency of the Holy Spirit. That’s how Luke begins his Gospel, and he begins the Book of Acts with the apostles gathered in Jerusalem, where Christ told them to stay, awaiting power from on high. The Spirit descends on them and transforms them from a ragtag group of blue-collar workers into the Body of Christ.
We have two parallel moments in the works of Luke—the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit that concretizes the presence of Christ, and the overshadowing at Pentecost which concretizes the mystical Body of Christ.
At every Liturgy, again the material of the Virgin’s womb is transformed, the material of the apostolic body, the material of the bread and wine that we place on the altar. In the epiclesis we invoke the Holy Spirit to transform the gifts and “make them the Body of Your Christ.” No one can say “Jesus” without the Holy Spirit. That’s just not a simple, sweet idea.
People often say, “Well, this sounds good, but I don’t have time for this. I’m a busy man!” I understand that we’re all very busy today, but let’s be careful that when we say “I don’t have time,” which was the mantra at Harvard, that we don’t really mean, “I don’t believe in the possibility of my own transformation.” I seem to never have time for certain things, but I find all the time in the world for the things I use to amuse myself.
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The above presentation was the fifth lecture in a six part series: “Prayer of the Heart in an age of technology and distraction” delivered by Fr. Maximos (Constas) in Feb. 2014. You can find the other five lectures here:
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THE JESUS PRAYER FOR LAYPEOPLE
From the Optina Monastery Heritage
Some mistakenly think that the Jesus prayer is only for monks. However, the Optina elders also instructed laypeople to do the Jesus prayer. St. Barsanuphius (Plikhanov) taught, “In order to have remembrance of God, we have the Jesus prayer.”
The saint wrote about various steps of the prayer:
“The Jesus prayer is divided into three, even four steps.
The first step is oral prayer, when the mind often runs away and the person has to apply great effort in order to collect his scattered thoughts. This prayer takes work, but it gives one a repentant mood.
“The second step is the prayer of the mind in the heart, when the mind and the heart, reason and feelings are one; then prayer is made without interruption. No mater what the person is doing—eating, drinking, or resting—the prayer continues.
“The third step is creative prayer, which can move mountains with one word. This is the prayer that for example St. Mark the desert dweller of Thrace had.
“Finally there is the fourth step. This is such a high level of prayer that only the angels have it, and it may be given to one man only out of all humankind.”
In order to understand better what gifts the Lord sends to those who pray and what prayer corresponds to the level of spiritual growth of the one praying, St. Barsanuphius explained in more detail:
“The first gift the Lord gives in prayer is attention; that is, when the mind can dwell in the words of the prayer without being distracted by thoughts. But with such attentive, undistracted prayer the heart is yet silent. That is the whole matter—our feelings and thoughts are separated; there is no agreement between them. Thus, the first prayer, the first gift, is undistracted prayer.
“The second prayer, the second gift, is inner prayer; that is, when the feelings and thoughts are in agreement and directed toward God. Up until this stage, every struggle with passion ends in the passion’s victory over the person; but from that stage on, when the mind and heart pray together—that is, the feelings and thoughts are in God—the passions are already conquered. They are conquered, but not destroyed; they can come back to life if he is careless. Here the passions are like corpses lying in the coffins, and if a passion but twitches, the man of prayer beats it down and conquers it.
“The third gift is spiritual prayer. I cannot say anything about this prayer. Here there is no longer anything earthly left in the person. True, a person can live on earth, walk on earth, sit, drink, and eat—but in his mind and thoughts he is wholly in God, in the heavens. To some have even been revealed the service of the angelic ranks. This prayer is the prayer of a visionary. The one who has attained this prayer sees spiritual things, for example the state of a human soul, just as we see tangible things, as if in a picture. They look with the eyes of the spirit; in them the spirit is looking.”
How to correctly pray the Jesus prayer
St. Leo of Optina
St. Leo taught to pray in simplicity of heart, waiting for God’s mercy—only the Lord knows what is beneficial for each specific person:
“Go through the Jesus prayer as you do it, and the time will come when God’s mercy itself will enlighten and inform your soul as to how and who to ask; and what you search for and desire will be sent.”
The elders counseled to pronounce the Jesus prayer as often as possible, but not to look for any kind of pleasant feelings, spiritual consolations or delights.
St. Ambrose explained:
“No matter who it is, no one has ever fallen into demonic delusion (prelest) by praying the Jesus prayer orally. However, those who incorrectly pray the Jesus prayer of the mind and heart often fall into demonic delusion. Therefore, one should first of all hold fast to oral prayer and then to mental prayer and humility; and only then, whoever can and whoever has the Lord’s will for it, will go on to prayer of the heart according to the instruction of the holy fathers, who taught from experience.”
At the question of how to attain prayer of the heart and what it means to “have the mind descend to the heart,” St. Anatoly (Zertsalov) replied with a warning:
“One should not search for the place of the heart; when prayer grows, it will find it itself. Our striving is to enclose the mind in the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
During the Jesus prayer there is often a storm of thoughts sown by the enemy.
St. Hilarion taught not to contradict enemy thoughts because only those experienced in prayer can do this, but to simply continue praying in simplicity of heart, hoping in God’s mercy:
“And if the mind is captivated against your wishes, then continue the prayer; but do not contradict—contradicting is not your measure yet.
The Optina elders warned about the necessity of humility in prayer. Once a spiritual daughter of St. Ambrose complained to him that when pronouncing the Jesus prayer, she stumbles at the words, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” The elder replied:
“You write that when doing the Jesus prayer you experience a kind of stumbling on the words, ‘Have mercy on me, a sinner.’ This shows that you have done the prayer without the proper humility, without which our prayer is not pleasing to God. Therefore, force yourself to emphasize the word ‘sinner’ with the proper understanding.”
St. Barsanuphius noted that whoever walks the path of the Jesus prayer is can endure sorrows, which he must nevertheless accept without murmuring”
“The path of the Jesus prayer is the shortest, most convenient path. But do not complain, for whoever walks this path will experience sorrows.”
On the danger of asking for spiritual gifts and exalted prayer
The Optina elders warned against self-willed striving to reach more exalted levels of prayer or to seize spiritual gifts, be they tears during prayer, or purity and passionlessness.
St. Leo wrote that whoever has not cleansed his heart, or has not conquered the passions, cannot preserve spiritual riches without harm to himself:
“Having by God’s mercy tasted sweetness and consolation from prayer, but now not finding that in yourself, you are depressed and consider it your own fault for the loss and the fault of your carelessness. This is really true. But I also find God’s Providence in this, which took away that consolation. Can anyone who has not conquered the passions or cleansed his heart possibly preserve these riches without harm?! For your own good it’s not given to you, so that you would not fall into delusion.”
St. Barsanuphius also warned about the danger of asking for gifts and exalted levels of prayer:
“One can pray for attentive prayer, but I would say that it is sinful to pray for the gift of exalted states of prayer. This must be entirely left to God. Some have begged exalted prayer for themselves; the Lord gave it to them according to His mercy, but it was of no benefit to them…”
Elder Macarius taught:
“Remember: Prayer is a gift, and not your own property. You have to earn this gift—not only by prayer, but also by all the other good works: humility of mind, simplicity, patience, and guilelessness. But without these virtues, the person may think he has attained prayer, but he is deluded; this is not prayer, but a mask of prayer.
The above presentation was written by Olga Rozhneva. You can find the original article here: http://orthochristian.com/99403.html
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The Jesus Prayer A Summary
“LORD JESUS CHRIST SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME A SINNER,”
The Orthodox Christian practice of the “Jesus Prayer” is a way to not only look forward to prayer, but to fulfill St. Paul’s call in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”
The prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” can be shortened to as little as “Lord, have mercy,” and its repetition throughout the course of the day gives Orthodox Christians a way to fill all those voids in between, from when they walk out of church to when they walk back in.
Numerous Church Fathers tell us that the Jesus Prayer is “essential” to our spiritual growth. It proclaims our faith and humbles us by asking mercy for our sinfulness and is thought to be as old as the Church itself.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom says the Jesus Prayer, “more than any other,” helps us to be able to “stand in God’s presence.” This means that it helps us to focus our mind exclusively on God with “no other thought” occupying our mind but the thought of God.
At this moment when our mind is totally concentrated on God, we discover a very personal and direct relationship with Him. Jesus Prayer is both a discipline and a prayer. As a prayer it proclaims our faith in God and seek his mercy for our recognized sinfulness.
As a discipline, its practice helps us to control our mind and its many wandering thoughts so that we can focus our attention on God more and more frequently during our daily life.
The aim is to become one with God and have our entire life become one continuous prayer dedicated to act with the will of God.
Theological Foundation The prayer begins with the name of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts we are told, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The power in the prayer comes from our proclaiming the Lord’s name. In its simple form we confess our faith in Jesus Christ as our God and Lord.
Practice of the Jesus Prayer:
The way the Church Fathers tell us to use the Jesus Prayer is to say it over and over hundreds of times as part of our daily prayer rule. It is best to add it to your morning prayers as this is when the mind is the quietest. Begin by saying it verbally focusing on each word.
Repeat it continually for 15 minutes at first and then expand to 30 minutes as you begin to see the challenge in dealing with your thoughts. Attention is important. Be sincere in your prayer with contrition. It is that simple!
The first is worship with repentance like all prayer. In this regard it must be repeated with total sincerity. It must be coupled with an attitude of repentance coupled with humility. We must also have a feeling of awe when calling on God’s name, recognizing His perfect love and His awesome power.
At the same time we must be fully aware of our limitations in being able to live the way He intended for us at our Creation. We know from the story of our creation in Genesis, He made us in His “image and likeness”. So we have an incredible potential to live up to.
If we honor this and recognize how far we miss the mark, we will approach Him with a contrite heart and along with a sincere desire to be helped and transformed so we can live up to this beautiful potential He gave to each of us.
The second purpose of this prayer is to help us concentrate our inner life, calming it, so we can focus our attention totally on God and his teachings.
We may refer to this as a form of spiritual purification. If we study human behavior we know that our brain is very active and easily distracts our mind as it continually reacts to various stimulus through our five senses based on hidden assumptions programmed in its inner workings.
The repetition of this prayer is an ascetic discipline to help us focus the attention of our mind on God rather on the endless stimulation of our senses and our biased orientation to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
Three Stages of Practicing the Jesus Prayer:
There are three stages of progress in the use of the Jesus Prayer. You begin with verbal prayer, then it becomes silent or mental and finally a continuous prayer in the heart. We begin with vocal prayer.
Humility is Essential When Using the Jesus Prayer:
The practice of the Jesus Prayer assumes you are a regular participant in the worship services of the Church, in her Sacraments and aware of your sinfulness. Be sure to consult with and follow the advice of your spiritual Father. Humility is a prerequisite for all prayer.
Attention of the Mind:
You can expect to be bombarded with thoughts like a swarm of gnats. When your mind is distracted from the prayer by thoughts, and its will, be polite and gentle but firmly nudge your mind back to the concentration on the prayer and seeking God.
When you recognize your mind is wandering do not let it continue on this path. Don’t accept even good thoughts. Let your soul take charge and move your focus back to the words of the prayer.
Saint John of the Ladder puts it this way:
“Try to restore, or more exactly, to enclose your thought in the words of the prayer. If on account of its infancy, it wearies and wanders, lead it again. The mind is naturally unstable. But He Who orders all things can control it. If you acquire this practice and constantly retain it, He who sets the bounds of the sea of your mind will say to it during your prayer: Hitherto thou shalt come, and shalt go no further (Job 38:11). It is impossible to bind a spirit. But where the Creator of that spirit is present, there everything obeys Him.” (Ladder 28:17)
Traditionally read by Orthodox Christians each year during Great Lent, the Ladder of Divine Ascent is reported to be the 2nd most widely read book in history, trailing only the Bible.
Practice of the Jesus Prayer is A Long and Difficult Path:
- 1. Commit to daily Prayer
- 2. Select a quiet place for your prayer
- 3. Prepare to enter into a conversation with your God
- 4. Sit or stand quietly and let go of all thoughts of your daily life.
- 5. Repeat the prayer slowly over and over for at least 15 minutes working up to 30 minutes.
- 6. Concentrate on the prayer with vigor. When you find your mind wanders immediately bring your attention back to the words of the prayer.
- 7. Use of a prayer rope can help you concentrate.
- 8. When finished with your payer sit quietly for a few minutes before going onto other activities.
- 9. Participate regularly in the Divine LIturgy and Holy Communion, fasting on Wednesday and Friday, and also participate in Holy Confession at least two times each year.
- 10. Seek guidance from your spiritual father on the above.
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Want to watch an awesome film about The Jesus Prayer?
Ostrov (The Island) is a 2006 Russian film about a fictional 20th century Eastern Orthodox monk. It’s available for free on both YouTube and Amazon Prime.
The film closed the 2006 Venice Film Festival, proved to be a moderate box-office success and won both the Nika Award and the Golden Eagle Award as the Best Russian film of 2006.
Available on Amazon Prime here:
How to Become Truly Human
We live in a world full of men and women who are trying to understand themselves. The existential questions looms large: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of my existence? How can I live a fulfilling life? How can I be all that I was meant to be: a “real live human being”?