This series has been looking at monastic spirituality and how it can be appropriated in the church for today. One essential practice of any Christian spirituality is prayer. The monks were certainly no exception to this, so let us turn to one practice from the Eastern church which I believe can be very fruitful for our postmodern context: the Jesus Prayer.
The Jesus Prayer, according to John Meyendorff, is "at the center of all hesychast spirituality." It comes in a few different forms, but is most usually:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Practiced in primitive form since ancient times, the Jesus Prayer is a primary tool for pursuing the monastic goal of "circumscrib[ing] the Incorporeal in a dwelling of flesh" (St. John Climacus, from The Ladder of Divine Ascent). According to Bishop Kallistos Ware (as cited by Father Edward Rommen), the Jesus Prayer has 4 main activities:
- devotion to the name of Jesus as something almost sacramental in nature
- an appeal for divine mercy, accompanied by inward grief
- frequent repetition
- the quest for silence