The Cycle of the Jesus Prayer
Original Greek written by Protpresbyter Fr. Nicholaos Manolis
Πρόκειται για το άρθρο που δημοσιεύσαμε εδώ. Η μετάφραση στην Αγγλική για τις ανάγκες της ομογένειας έγινε από τον fr. Charalampos.
When it comes to the Jesus Prayer, we must always pray with guidance from an experienced spiritual father. Once we receive his blessing, and he has instructed us on what to do, we can then begin the struggle towards unceasing prayer.
First we must pray for ourselves, because we are in outmost need of this since we are “blind” and “lame”. Then we pray for others.
Sometimes certain people ask me in confession how they should pray. Why do you ask me how you should pray? If you can, sit on your couch, take your prayer rope and close the television with the remote control. Instead open the “television of your soul” with the prayer rope that is its remote control, and see whatever movie you want. What movie do you want to see? A gangster one? Look inside you. A movie about fraud? Look inside you. An action movie? Look inside you. A drama? Look inside you. A psychological thriller? Look inside you. Everything is inside us.
My elder, Fr. Agathon the Abbott of the Monastery of Konstamonitou on the Holy Mountain, says that you must identify yourself and see who we are. And then you begin to pray for your swindler, vicious, worldly self, by saying “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”. Nothing else. Just repeat over and over “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” until your soul feels peace and until God hears you. And He will hear you and come to your aid!
Then you pray for your loved ones and family: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my husband, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my wife, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my child, on my son who is suffering, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on my daughter, on my father in law, on my mother in law, on my mother, on my siblings, on my enemies…”
Whom do you have hatred towards? Who has wronged you? Who do you feel has stolen from your inheritance? Your upstairs neighbor has wronged you, yells, he bothers you by throwing water on your dry clothes still hanging on the clothesline? Who else? That’s whom you do the prayer rope for.
Instead of taking him to the authorities or to court, do the prayer rope for him. Do the prayer rope for him so that God can intervene. God will send his radiant angel and He will calm both him and that wild tiger with long nails that you have inside you. As soon as someone says something about us, we are ready to tear him to shreds. That’s the amount of ego that we have and we are in need of many prayer ropes!
Although some of us are ignorant and don’t know how to pray correctly, we must manage to find a way for the Jesus Prayer not to be too “formal”. We are superficial people and so we like formality. The prayer rope is a tool. Many of us wear it on our wrist as “protection” or as a “blessing” and we are mistaken in thinking that this will save us. The prayer rope has no value if the soul does not cry out to God with zeal, a good disposition and tears.
We don’t always pray with the same zeal, the same willingness, the same desire. Spiritual droughts occur quite often. But we have several examples that show us the salvific power of the Prayer simply by repeating it, even if our mind is not focused on it.
A narration says that there was a monk in the monastery that would pray with his window open. A parrot would come in through the window and listen to the monk pray the Jesus Prayer out loud. The parrot thus learnt to repeat the words “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”. One day as the parrot was flying, an eagle saw it and attacked it. The parrot didn’t know what to do but simply repeated the words “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”. The eagle was frightened and changed path and the parrot was spared. The monk that saw this exclaimed, “Glory to God’s Name. The Prayer even saves the irrational animals that simply repeat it, from temptation”.
Quantity and Quality
Elder Joseph the Hesychast said that we should be hunters of Divine Grace. The hunter of Divine Grace needs both quantity and quality; he needs both quantity and quality of Divine Grace. He needs to feel his heart change, from God’s love. To start repeating the Jesus Prayer, without thinking. To start saying the Prayer noetically, without thinking other things. Being completely enwrapped in the Prayer.
Lord do not have mercy on me
There is a story where two uneducated, simple monks went to devote themselves to God on an abandoned island. There they would pray the Jesus Prayer as they had been taught. But over the course of the years they had forgotten and were saying “Lord Jesus Christ do not have mercy on me” instead of the proper formula “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”. They thought the words “have mercy” meant, “abandon” and so they believed they were actually saying “Lord Jesus Christ do not abandon us”. Once the local bishop went and visited them. The monks greeted him, offered him food and a place to rest. When the monks thought that the bishop had fallen asleep, they got up and started their prayer rule by doing prostrations and repeating the words “Lord Jesus Christ do not have mercy on me, Lord Jesus Christ donot have mercy on me...” When the bishop heard this, he immediately corrected them. The two monks were saddened because they had been praying wrong all these years. To comfort them, the bishop said that it didn’t matter as long as they start praying using the correct words “have mercy on me” going forward.
The next morning the bishop got on his boat and left. He had already been deep in the ocean when he saw the two monks running to him on the oceans without sinking, like Christ had done. Running on the water the monks cried out “Your Eminence! What were those words again? How did you tell us to pray? We forgot!” The bishop thought to himself “if you are able to walk on the water without sinking, do you think I’m able to instruct you in prayer?” He then answered, “Pray the way you used to pray”
I would like to close this article with a saying from our holy father, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, a great teacher of Noetic Prayer. He said: “Keep the Prayer. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me! This prayer will save you. The name of Christ will enlighten your soul, will strengthen you spiritually, and will help you in the spiritual warfare against the demons. The prayer will cultivate virtues and will become everything for you”.