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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer: Weekly Summary  

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Is it any wonder that so many people are excited to learn about the contemplative mind? It really is or can be the change that changes everything.  
—Richard Rohr 

How can we make prayer not merely something that we do, but something that we are? For that is what the world needs: not persons who say prayers from time to time, but persons who are prayer all the time.  
—Kallistos Ware 

God is speaking all things into being right now, and if God would cease this speaking, we’d all disappear. So, we’re trying to become so silent that we can hear God speaking us into being. 
—James Finley  

Lord, that I might see your presence presencing itself and giving itself away as the intimate immediacy of the grace and miracle of our very presence. Help us to understand that the generosity of the Infinite is infinite and that we are the generosity of God. We are the song you sing. 
—James Finley  

The Jesus Prayer—this constant returning to the present awareness of love—had begun to heal me. I will always be grateful for being able to repeat this prayer until I could feel my soul being knit together again. 
—Carmen Acevedo Butcher 

At the very heart of this prayer is the heart of Jesus because God is love, and when love touches suffering, the suffering turns love into mercy. Jesus is like a field of boundless mercy. 
—James Finley 

Week Twenty-Three Practice 
Putting Aside Our Thoughts 

In The Way of a Pilgrim, a wise Russian Orthodox monk responds to the pilgrim’s deep desire to “pray without ceasing” with these instructions from St. Symeon the New Theologian:  

Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe out gently and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. Carry your mind, that is, your thoughts, from your head to your 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. [1]  

CAC teacher James Finley offers recommendations for how to pray the Jesus Prayer while “putting all other thoughts aside”: 

St. Symeon tells the practitioner to “try to put all other thoughts aside.” This is important because when we sit and pray in this way, it isn’t as if all other thoughts politely step back so we can do this. They don’t. What happens is that our thoughts are circling around the edges, and they keep making inroads into our practice. We’re sitting there praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” and we think, “Oh geez, I forgot to call Aunt Mildred!” We are praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” and the thought pops in, “I wonder what’s for lunch?!” We do our best.  

Every time the slippage into thoughts other than the Jesus Prayer occurs, it’s a graced opportunity to circle back around to God being in love with us in our inability to do this. The stillness of this prayer is not a stillness that we perfect in our ability to sit still. The stillness is an inner stillness in which God is unexplainably transforming us into the love of God in our nothingness without God. We’re stilled by it, and there’s a kind of quiet amazement, in awe of the grace that’s unfolding within us in the midst of all the unresolved things in our heart. [2] 

[1] From The Way of a Pilgrim; and, The Pilgrim Continues His Way, trans. R. M. French (San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2010), 10–11. This paragraph summarizes key teachings from St. Symeon’s “Three Methods of Attention and Prayer” in the Philokalia.  

[2] Adapted from James Finley and Kirsten Oates, “The Way of a Pilgrim: Session 3,” Turning to the Mystics, season 9, ep. 6 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2024), podcast. Available as MP3 audio download and PDF transcript.

Image credit and inspiration: Vlad Bagacian, woman sitting on a grey cliff (detail), 2018, photo, Romania, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. Prayer is a practice for the long road of life, remembering that we are accompanied even when we feel alone. 

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