Sunday, June 2, 2013

Jesus Prayer (1)

Vernicle.jpg (78264 bytes)The Jesus Prayer also refered to as the Prayer of the Heart, is a short repetitive prayer. It has been taught and used throughout the history of Eastern Christianity. The words of the prayer have varied from it's simplist form "Lord have mercy," to the more common form: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (LK 18: 9-14)

The Jesus Prayer is highly esteemed in the Eastern Orthodox tradition . It has an important place in personal ascetic practice. The constant praying the prayer is considered to be prfoundly mystical and transformative in nature. Its practice is an integral part of the Philokalia. A collection of texts on prayer compiled in the late 18th Century.

The use of the prayer most likely has it's roots in the Egyptian desert around the end of the 4th century. John Cassian describes this type of prayer in the 'Conferences' his diolouges with the Desert Fathers. It's earliest known specific mention is in the Gnostic Chapters of Saint Diadochos of Photiki, a work found in the first volume of the Philokalia. Diadochos encouraged the use of the Jesus Prayer for the purification of the soul. He also taught that it's repetition produced interior tranquility..

John of Sinai recommended it's use in his work the "Ladder of Divine Ascent". The Russian spiritual classic "The Way of a Pilgrim" encourages the use of the Prayer as taught in the Philokalia. J D Salinger in his modern classic Franny and Zooey even eludes to it's practice as a solution to the spiritual deadness of our age.

Though practiced primarily by the Eastern tradition, it has drawn a wider range of practitioners from different streams in the 20th century.

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