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On the Jesus Prayer.


From the immemorially ancient times ardent Christians repeated short invocations to God so that could be incessantly praying and driving away idle wandering thoughts. Those were various prayers. Saint Kassian said that in Egypt all Christians say, "O God, help me, O Lord, grant me your help." St. Ioannikii repeated constantly, "My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my shelter is the Holy Spirit; O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee." Somebody else said, "I sinned as a man, but as a bountiful God, have mercy on me."

There were surely some other similar short prayers. With time the Jesus prayer got established and became widely used by everyone, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." The aim of this prayer is the same as of the others: to keep one’s mind turned to God. At the same time one has to remember that saying the Jesus prayer is just a tool or work showing a strong desire to find the Lord.

Everyone will benefit from saying the Jesus prayer. Those in the monastic orders must repeat it all the time. So there is no danger in the prayer itself, if one says it reverently. Yet, what is dangerous is the "artistry" (i.e. some artificial tricks) invented to accompany that prayer. For example, while saying the Jesus prayer some people put their hand on the table and concentrate their attention under the fingers — it is an inconsistent oddity. Or here is another whim: to strike the finger of your right hand against the palm of left one and thus try to concentrate the mind on the prayer.

The first person to write about the "artistic" performance of the Jesus prayer was Gregory of Sinai in the 13th century... It was those tricks that plunged some people into a dreamy state of enchantment, while others strange as it sounds — into a constant lustful state. That is why those tricks should be disapproved and condemned resolutely. And we must urge everybody and teach everyone to hail the sweetest name of the Lord in a simple heartfelt way.

The essence of a prayer is easy to explain. Make your heart and mind stand up in front of the Lord and appeal to Him, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." That will be your prayer work. The Lord will see who prays devotedly and will grant the praying person a spiritual prayer according to his zeal. That spiritual prayer is in fact the fruit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is all we must say about the Jesus prayer. All the rest that was invented, has nothing to do with it: it is the Enemy that is trying to distract us from the prayer.

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