Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
The Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer

The Way of a Pilgrim

Monday, June 3, 2024

Eastern Orthodox theologian Kallistos Ware (1934–2022) considers how we can become people of prayer:  

How are we to enter into the mystery of living prayer? How can we advance from prayer repeated by our lips—from prayer as an external act—to prayer that is part of our inner being, a true union of our mind and heart with the Holy Trinity? 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. [1] 

In The Way of a Pilgrim, a 19th-century Russian mystical text, the unnamed pilgrim begins by sharing the moment he was unexpectedly quickened by God:  

On the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost I went to church to say my prayers there during the liturgy…. Among other words I heard these—“Pray without ceasing” [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. It was this text, more than any other, which forced itself upon my mind, and I began to think how it was possible to pray without ceasing, since a man has to concern himself with other things also in order to make a living. I looked at my Bible, and with my own eyes read the words which I had heard, that is, that we ought always, at all times and in all places, to pray with uplifted hands. I thought and thought, but knew not what to make of it. “What ought I to do?” I thought. “Where shall I find someone to explain it to me? I will go to the churches where famous preachers are to be heard; perhaps there I shall hear something which will throw light on it for me.” I did so. I heard a number of very fine sermons on prayer—what prayer is, how much we need it, and what its fruits are—but no one said how one could succeed in prayer. I heard a sermon on spiritual prayer, and unceasing prayer, but how it was to be done was not pointed out. 

The pilgrim sought many esteemed elders before encountering a starets—an Eastern Orthodox spiritual teacher—who guided him to the Jesus Prayer. 

He began to speak as follows. “The continuous interior prayer of Jesus is a constant uninterrupted calling upon the divine name of Jesus with the lips, in the spirit, in the heart, while forming a mental picture of His constant presence, and imploring His grace, during every occupation, at all times, in all places, even during sleep. The appeal is couched in these terms, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ One who accustoms himself to this appeal experiences as a result so deep a consolation and so great a need to offer the prayer always, that he can no longer live without it, and it will continue to voice itself within him of its own accord. Now do you understand what prayer without ceasing is?” [2] 

[1] Kallistos Ware, The Jesus Prayer (London: Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 2014), 3.  

[2] The Way of a Pilgrim; and, The Pilgrim Continues His Way, trans. R. M. French (San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2010), 3, 9–10.  

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. 

Story from Our Community:  

For some time now I’ve had a growing awareness that to accept reality moment to moment is to see life the way it really is. The meditation on May 13, 2024, Welcoming Reality, reminded me of a phrase in the original Serenity Prayer: “Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.” For me, that constant return to acceptance becomes the inner stance of least resistance to being overtaken by the mystery of Love.  
—John D. 

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.