Jesus Prayer A Lesson on the Physical and Spiritual Aspects of:

The

Jesus Prayer

By: The Very Rev. Father-Abbot Gregori, SSJt +

'The more rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ's holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it.' -St. Hesychois the Priest, from the Philokalia.



Christ In Glory

Prayer is the basis of our Christian life. It is the source of our experience of Jesus as the Risen Lord. Yet very few Christians know how to pray with any depth! For most of us, prayer means little more than standing in the pews for an hour or so on Sunday morning or perhaps reciting, in a mechanical fashion, prayers once learned by rote during childhood. Our prayer life - and thus our life as Christians - remains, for the most part, at a superficial level, without real heart and soul.

St. Paul admonished us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:1). In his letter to the Romans, Paul instructs the Christian community there to "be constant in prayer" (Rom. 12:12).

Engaging in inner prayer is a task to which every Christian is called. Paul's command to pray without ceasing applies to each Christian today, as much as it did to those in the Church at Thessaloniki. We are called to intimate communion with the Creator of Life, such that there is no moment when our souls and bodies are not enlightened by Him. It was St Evagrios of Pontos who wrote that 'prayer is the communion of the intellect with God,' and it becomes our task to transform our prayer from mere words, mere petitions, to the direct communion of the depths of our hearts and beings with God Himself.

The dove is one of many symbols of the Holy Spirit.  Here the fig leaf is a symbol of PEACE... a peace which is wrought through the Jesus Prayer

In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and to answer St. Paul's challenge to pray unceasingly, the Orthodox Tradition offers the Jesus Prayer, which is sometimes called the prayer of the heart.

The Jesus Prayer is offered as a means of concentration, as a focal point for our inner life. Though there are both longer and shorter versions, the most frequently used form of the Jesus Prayer is: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." However, the form that I prefer to use in my meditations is a longer version, which is:  “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of the Living God and Creator, have  mercy on me a sinner.” This prayer, in its simplicity and clarity, is rooted in the Scriptures and the new life granted by the Holy Spirit. It is first and foremost a prayer of the Spirit because of the fact that the prayer addresses Jesus as Lord, Christ and Son of God; and as St. Paul tells us, "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).


Father Seraphim Rose used the Jesus Prayer of the heart as a means to maintain stability of the soul

The history of the Jesus Prayer dates back 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.

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.

There is power in a name. Biblically, knowing a person's name gave power over that person. Name was equated 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).

As I remember him in Life,

St. John Maximovitch encouraged use

of the Jesus Prayer

There are those who think that the Jesus Prayer is just for those in religious life, but nothing can be further from the truth. Anyone from cab drivers, social workers, business persons, teachers, professional baseball players (not necessarily used to win a game), even psychiatrists, anyone and everyone can pray the Jesus prayer.

Lord Jesus Christ...

Son of God and Son of Man....

Have Mercy on Me...

A sinner that I am,,,

Theophan the Recluse, a 19th century Russian spiritual writer, tells us that there are three levels in the saying of the Prayer:

1.      It begins as a prayer of the lips, an oral prayer. A "verbal expression and shape."  This is only the first step, for "the essence or soul of prayer is within a man's mind and heart."

2.      As we enter more deeply into prayer, we reach a level at which we begin to pray without distraction.  Theophan remarks that at this point, "the mind is focused upon the words" of the Prayer, "speaking them as if they were our own."

3.      The third and final level is prayer of the heart. At this stage prayer is no longer something we do but who we are. Such prayer, which is a gift of the Spirit, is to return to the Father as did the prodigal son (Luke 15:32). The prayer of the heart is the prayer of adoption, when "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit that cries 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal. 4:6).

The Russian hieromonk Dorotheus, a great instructor in spiritual asceticism, who was in this respect very much like St. Isaac the Syrian, counsels those who are learning the Jesus Prayer to recite it aloud at first. The vocal prayer, he says, will of itself turn into the mental.

"Mental prayer," he continues, "is the result of much vocal prayer, and mental prayer leads to the prayer of the heart. The Jesus Prayer should not be said in a loud voice but quietly, just audibly enough that you can hear yourself.,' It is particularly beneficial to practice the Jesus Prayer aloud when assailed by distraction, grief, spiritual despondency and laziness. The vocal Jesus Prayer gradually awakens the soul from the deep moral slumber into which grief and spiritual despair are wont to thrust it. It is also particularly beneficial to practice the Jesus Prayer aloud when attacked by images, appetites of the flesh, and anger; when their influence causes the blood to boil. It should be practiced when peace and tranquility vanish from the heart, and the mind hesitates, becomes weak, and—so to speak—goes into upheaval because of the multitude of unnecessary thoughts and images. The malicious princes of the air, whose presence is hidden to physical sight but who are felt by the soul through their influences upon it, hearing as they mount their attack the name of the Lord Jesus—which they dread—will become undecided and confused, and will take flight and withdraw immediately from the soul.”

St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), the last of the great Church Fathers, became the exponent of the Hesychasts. He won, after a long drawn out battle, an irrefutable place for the Jesus Prayer and the Quietists within the Church. In the 18th century when tsardom hampered monasticism in Russia, and the Turks crushed Orthodoxy in Greece, the Neamtzu monastery in Moldavia (Rumania) became one of the great centers for the Jesus Prayer.

All roads that lead to God are filled with pitfalls because the enemy (Satan) ever lies in wait to trip us up. He naturally attacks most assiduously when we are bent on finding our way to salvation, for that is what he most strives to stop. In mystical prayer the temptations we encounter exceed all others in danger; because our thoughts are on a higher level, the allurements are proportionally subtler. Someone said that “mysticism started in mist and ended in schism”; this cynical remark, spoken by an unbeliever, has a certain truth in it. Mysticism is of real spiritual value only when it is practiced with absolute sobriety and sincerity of heart and soul.

We live in very hectic times. We are bombarded by sensory information coming from all sides. People rush around with cell phones either jammed against their ears or with head sets, “We must keep in touch”. If it isn’t cell phones, it is ‘Palm-Pilots’ or ‘lap-tops’. There are others who have to have their music going “twenty-four seven”. We are always in a hurry, rushing here, rushing there, no time to take it easy. We want this, we want that and we want it NOW. High-speed dialing, high-speed internet access, high-speed microwave food prep, high-speed cars and high-speed planes, no time to rest and there is no peace.

Peace for the soul in today's world is extremely important, and often one wonders how to obtain this inner peace for the soul? Everyone seeks after it and everyone wants it spiritually, or should desire it as we go about our daily lives while on this earth as true loving Orthodox Christians. The peace I am of course speaking about is the peace of our inner souls with God Himself being present within us.

Obtaining this peace of the soul is done through the Holy Mysteries of the Church, in frequently going to Holy Confession, and participating in Holy Communion (as well as reading these prayers before hand). Also we might go to the Divine Services that the Church provides for us not only on Sunday, but also attending Vespers, Matins, and the week day services. Another means for us to obtain this inner peace of the soul is by prayer. Constant and unceasing prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ...

Son of God and Son of Man....

Have Mercy on Me...

A sinner that I am,,,

Finally we can start by reading and learning about the Holy Scriptures of the Church, as well as the Patristic writings of the Holy Fathers, and the lives of the Saints, and holy Martyrs of the Church, which in itself gives us inner peace of the soul, which in turn leads to peace of mind.

Seek the peace for your soul!  Learn more about the peace of our Lord God, and His Eternal Love for you.

For Question and Answers on the "Jesus Prayer" go to "Quotes from Father Thaddeus" page.  Questions are posted on this very important subject for one's spiritual understanding on a weekly basis....

 

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    Remember, anything that is a HALF TRUTH is not truth but a lie!  Many there are that you may know who fit those descriptions... pray for them.  Pray that God will send his Spirit of Truth upon them and lead them to Salvation through tears of Repentance, conversion of their cold and calculating hearts toward seeking forgiveness from God and those whom they attempt to harm. 

 

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    Yes, our Metropolitan Archbishop, +Joseph Thaddeus, SSJt., Ph.D. strongly defends the Seals of the Confessional for such leads to true Repentance in thought, word and deed whereby the penitent is required to make amends, where possible, to seek forgiveness of those harmed by his actions whether real or imagined, and to give his forgiveness to those who have harmed him before taking the Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  The reality of this understanding is bound up in and with the findings for which cause he, himself, had been character assassinated by his detractors who claim the courts prevented him from breaking the Seals of the Confessional which is not the truth at all.... Click here to see what another bishop's findings are...

 

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