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Prayer, Spirituality & Healing
Special Prayers

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Prayer of Heart or Prayer of Jesus

The Jesus prayer entails the ceaseless repetition of the phrase 

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." 

Often the prayer is compressed "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me" or even to the bare bones of the one word "Jesus," endlessly repeated. 

Although the prayer has been in use for nearly 2,000 years as noted in the book  ‘The Way of a Pilgrim’ (The Pilgrim Continues His Way) written by an anonymous Russian author, most people came to know of Jesus Prayer from the classic, "Frannie and Zooey"  written by J.D. Salinger. He describes the results from the Jesus prayer thus:

Sometimes my heart would feel as though it were bubbling with joy, such lightness, freedom, and consolation were in it. Sometimes I felt a burning love for Jesus Christ and for all God's creatures. Sometimes my eyes brimmed over with tears of thankfulness to God, who was so merciful to me, a wretched sinner.... Sometimes by calling upon the name of Jesus I was overwhelmed with bliss, and now I knew the meaning of the words, "The Kingdom of God is within you."

It is recommended that this prayer be repeated endlessly. Some people repeats it up to 6,000 times a day. In order to track the number of repetitions, a prayer rope may be used.

Some people synchronize the prayer with the breath; especially in conjunction with an abridged version of the prayer. You say "Lord Jesus Christ" on the in-breath, during which you invite God's sanctifying presence, and "have mercy on me" on the out-breath, during which you expel your sins. At the end of the out-breath, of course, you are momentarily out of air - that is, helpless and thus dependent upon the divine mercy.

Classical description of Jesus prayer is:

cross2.GIF (3530 bytes) Sit down alone and in silence.
Lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe out gently, and
Imagine yourself looking into your own heart.

As you breathe out,
say "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."
Say it, moving your lips gently, or simply say it in your mind.
Try to put all other thoughts aside.
Be calm, be patient and repeat the process very frequently.
Keep the mind free from dreaming;
make it closed to suggestions of the enemy.
This will lead to Divine desire and love.

Discussion:

Prayer of the Heart or Prayer of Jesus is a method adopted by Russian mysticism and developed at Mt. Athos. The Prayer of the Heart was often used as a method of contemplation in Russian monasticism. It was also used by devout lay people, especially among the poor peasantry.

The philosophical basis for the Prayer of the Heart dates back to the Greeks and St. Gregory Palamas, who believed that after the body and intellect are purified man can regain intuitive wisdom, as before the fall of mankind depicted by Adam. The method of repetitive prayer purifies the intellect by means of a passive attitude, emptying it of all thought, image, and passion.

The Jesus prayer can be said under any circumstances. It is a very powerful prayer. In time it becomes "self-activating": it moves from the mind into the heart where it sounds of its own accord, whether we attend to it or not; it even continues during sleep. All four elements required to elicit relaxation response (a quiet environment, a proper posture, a dwelling upon an object, and a passive attitude) are found in this prayer.

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