23 May, 2009

Introduction to the Jesus Prayer

This is the hand-out from the college presentation I gave last week about the Jesus Prayer.
I hope it makes any sense.

Mark 10
[...] As [Jesus] and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

1 Thessalonians 5
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
The Jesus Prayer is an ancient form of devotion originating from the Christian east. Although the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches have used this prayer for centuries, the publication of the ‘Philokalia’ (literally ‘love of what is beautiful’) and of ‘The Way of a Pilgrim’ has contributed to the spreading of this practice throughout the wider Church since the 18th century.
The Jesus Prayer focuses on the constant repetition of an invocation. There are many different variations ranging from relatively long ones (e.g. ‘Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner!’) to very short petitions. Indeed, some people just repeat the name of Jesus without ceasing as ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth’ (Philippians 2:10). In invoking the name of Our Lord we intercede for the World and we place our being constantly before him.
Relentless practice of the Jesus Prayer will train an individual to seek, invoke, and love God everywhere, until the words of prayer come out naturally in everyday life. The main function of the prayer is to connect one’s whole being with God at all times and in all places. Therefore, this simple practice can be carried on by an individual whilst working, meditating, walking, doing group duties... and – as the author of ‘The Way of a Pilgrim’ shows – even whilst sleeping.

  • French, R.M., The Way of a Pilgrim, SPCK (London), 1972
  • Kadloubovsky, E. and Palmer, G. E. H., Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart, Faber and Faber Ltd (London) 1962
  • Spidlik, T., The Spirituality of the Christian East, Cistercian Publications Ltd (Michigan, USA), 1986
  • Ware, T. (Bp. Kallistos), The Art of Prayer, Faber and Faber Ltd (London) 1966

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