The Jesus Prayer
Fr. Steven Peter Tsichlis
THE JESUS PRAYER
In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and to come to grips with 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.” 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) …MORE…
On Practicing the Jesus Prayer
by St. Ignaty Brianchaninov
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
THE CORRECT PRACTICE of the Jesus Prayer proceeds naturally from correct notions about God, about the most holy name of the Lord Jesus, and about man’s relationship to God.
The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine name. The power and effect of that name are divine, omnipotent and salvific, and transcend our ability to comprehend it. With faith therefore, with confidence and sincerity, and with great piety and fear ought we to proceed to the doing of the great work which God has entrusted to us: to train ourselves in prayer by using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The incessant invocation of God’s name,” says Barsanuphius the Great, “is a medicine which mortifies not just the passions, but even their influence. Just as the physician puts medications or dressings on a wound that it might be healed, without the patient even knowing the manner of their operation, so also the name of God, when we invoke it, mortifies all passions, though we do not know how that happens” (421st Answer). …MORE…
Concerning the Jesus Prayer
From the Jordanville Prayer Book (1996 ed.)
Saint John Chrysostom says: “It is necessary for everyone, whether eating, drinking, sitting, serving, traveling, or doing anything, to unceasingly cry: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me,’ that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, descending into the depths of the heart, may subdue the pernicious serpent, and save and quicken the soul.
Saint Seraphim of Sarov: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”: let all thine attention and training be in this. Walking, sitting, doing, and standing in church before the divine service, coming in and going out, keep this unceasingly on thy lips and in thy heart. In calling in this manner on the name of God thou wilt find peace, thou wilt attain to purity of spirit and body, and the Holy Spirit, the Origin of all good things, will dwell in thee, and He will guide thee unto holiness, unto all piety and purity.”
Bishop Theophanes the Recluse: “In order to more conveniently become accustomed to the remembrance of God, for this the fervent Christian has a special means, namely, to repeat unceasingly a brief prayer of two or three words. Most often this is: ‘Lord, have mercy!’ or ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.’ If you have not yet heard of this, then hear it now, and if you have not done it, then begin to do it from this time.
“Those who have truly decided to serve the Lord God must train themselves in the remembrance of God and in unceasing prayer to Jesus Christ, saying mentally: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.’
“Through such practice, by guarding oneself from distraction and by the preservation of the peace of one’s conscience, it is possible to draw near to God and to be united with Him. For, according to the words of Saint Isaac the Syrian, ‘Without unceasing prayer we cannot draw near to God’ (St. Seraphim of Sarov).”
The Orthodox Faith
The Jesus Prayer
The most normal form of unceasing prayer in the Orthodox tradition is the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer is the form of invocation used by those practicing mental prayer, also called the “prayer of the heart.” The words of the prayer most usually said are “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” The choice of this particular verse has a theological and spiritual meaning.
First of all, it is centered on the name of Jesus because this is the name of Him whom “God has highly exalted,” the name given to the Lord by God Himself (Luke 1:31), the “name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9-10, cf Ephesians 1:21)
…for there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
All prayer for Christians must be performed in the name of Jesus: “if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
The fact that the prayer is addressed to Jesus as Lord and Christ and Son of God is because this is the center of the entire faith revealed by God in the Spirit. …MORE…
Discussion with the Gerondas on the Jesus Prayer
Having clarified this point, he went on, I must also show you some methods or rather a very simple method. Do not expect me to burden you with very heavy things. The prayer of Jesus, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me” the unceasing cry to God, our Saviour purifies our soul. All our salvation rests upon the invocation of Jesus and union with him. Let us cry to him to come and He will cure us by his coming. Let us moan like a sick man and He like a doctor will come lovingly to our aid . Let us cry like the one who fell among thieves, and the good Samaritan will come to clean our wounds and guide us to the Inn, that is to the theoria (vision) of the Light which consumes all our being. When God comes into our heart, He gains victory over the devil and cleanses the impurities which the evil one has created. The victory, therefore, over the devil is the victory of Christ in us. Let us do the human part, that is to invite Christ, and He will do the divine part, He will gain victory over the devil and cut him off. So we should not want to do the divine part ourselves and expect God to do the human one. We should understand this well, we do the human part, the prayer of Jesus, and God the divine part, our salvation. The entire work of the Church is the collaboration of divine and human. …MORE…
The significance of the Jesus Prayer
[…] The “prayer” is called the “Jesus prayer” but is founded on a Trinitarian basis. Moreover, Christ, “being one of the Holy Trinity” , never exists without the Father and the Holy Spirit and constitute, together with the other Persons, “a Trinity of one substance and undivided”. Christology is tightly connected with Triadology. Let me come back to the matter of the “Jesus prayer”. The heavenly Father ordered Joseph through the angel to call Christ, Jesus: “. . .and you shall call his name Jesus…” (Matt. 1. 21) Joseph obeying the Father, called the Son of the Virgin, Jesus. Evenmore so according to the Holy Spirit which illumined the Apostle Paul, “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12. 3). By saying, therefore, the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”, we acknowledge the Father and are obedient to Him. Moreover we feel the energy of and the communion with the Holy Spirit. The Fathers illumined by the Holy Spirit, told us that the “Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, makes everything”. The complete Holy Trinity created the world and made man; and again the entire Holy Trinity recreated man and the world. “The Father was well pleased, the Word became flesh”. And He “became flesh” by the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the incarnation of Christ was made “by the good will of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit”. For this reason we say that the salvation of man and the acquisition of divine gifts are common acts of the Holy Trinity. I will mention two characteristic teachings of the Holy Fathers.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes that the Son and Word of God is the door of salvation according to His declaration: “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture”. (John 10. 9). If Christ is the door, the Father is the house”.In my Father’s house are many rooms” (John 14. 2). So we enter into the Father through Christ. And in order to open the door (Christ) we need the key, which is the Holy Spirit. For we know the truth, which is Christ, through the energy of the Holy Spirit. The Father sent His Son to the world, the Son and Word of God reveals the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and is sent through the Son, forms Christ in our hearts! We know, therefore, the Father “through the Son in the Holy Spirit”.
St. Maximos speaks often in his works about the mystical incarnations of the Word. He writes that, just as the words of the law and of the Prophets were the forerunners of the presence of the Word in the flesh, in the same way the Son and Word of God, being incarnate, became the forerunner of “his spiritual presence”, “by instructing the souls through his own words so that they will be able to accept His divine presence”. In other words Christ must be incarnate within us, because we shall not be able to see His glory in Heaven otherwise. The incarnation of Christ within us, however, is done by the good will of the Father and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. Can you see how the common action of the Holy Trinity is expressed, how we acknowledge and confess the great Mystery that the Lord revealed through His incarnation? He who then denies and does not acknowledge the Jesus prayer makes a big mistake. He denies the Holy Trinity. He does not obey the Father and does not accept the illumination of the Holy Spirit, therefore, he does not have real communion with Christ. So, he must be in doubt as to whether he is a Christian or not. …[More]…
On Unceasing Prayer
From the Life of St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica
by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, editor of The Philokalia
Do you see, my brethren, how all Christians, small and great, should always pray, using the noetic prayer, “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me”; and how their mind and heart should become accustomed to saying it always? Just think how pleasing this is to God, and how much good comes from it, that out of His extreme love for mankind He even sent a heavenly angel to reveal it to us, so that we should no longer have any doubt about it.
But what do lay people say? “We are involved in so many matters and cares of the world. How can we possibly pray without ceasing?”
My answer to them is that God has not commanded us to do anything impossible; but He has commanded us to do all those things that we are able to do. Therefore this too can be accomplished by anyone who diligently seeks the salvation of his soul. For if it were impossible, it would be so for all lay people, and there would never have been so many in the world who did accomplish it. …[MORE]…
The Jesus Prayer
Fr. Lev Gillet
Online book of “The Jesus Prayer”. A classic treatise on the Jesus Prayer written by Fr. Lev.Gillet,also known through many of his writings as “A Monk of the Eastern Church”.
1. THE SHAPE OF THE INVOCATION OF THE NAME
… And Jacob asked him and said: Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said: Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. Genesis 32:29
The invocation of the Name of Jesus can be put into many frames. It is for each person to find the form which is the most appropriate to his or her own prayer. But, whatever formula maybe used, the heart and centre of the invocation must be the Holy Name itself, the word Jesus. There resides the whole strength of the invocation.
The Name of Jesus may either be used alone or be inserted in a more or less developed phrase. In the East the commonest form is: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” One might simply say: “Jesus Christ”, or “Lord Jesus”. The invocation may even be reduced to one single word “Jesus”. …[MORE]…