Author Topic: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer  (Read 1074 times)

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Offline Michael_Gerard

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Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« on: November 14, 2010, 12:11:36 PM »
Budhist and Hindu yogi's mechanically repeat mantras to induce an altered state of consciousness, and some new agers believe that using the right side of your brain by doing something repetitious or mechanical creates an interface with what they call a higher reality.

Would focusing on the mechanics, and emptying one's mind while repeating the Jesus prayer (instead of focusing on the meaning of the words), be a misuse of the prayer rope (or is that the idea)?

Also, does the Orthodox Church have a dogma on the value of this practice?

Offline stavros_388

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Re: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2010, 01:19:06 PM »
While I am no authority on the subject, I'd say that emptying the mind of images or thoughts while repeating the prayer is certainly not a misuse of the prayer, but one of its aims. The words of the prayer provide an anchor for our concentration, and these words - especially the name of Jesus Himself - contain all the meaning that we need. The meaning is ongoing repentance (Have mercy on me, a sinner) and a perpetual directing of our focus on our Savior (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God) and a calling on Him for help.

One of the purposes of the prayer is in keeping this attitude of metanoia. It is therefore not a "mechanically repeated mantra". It is an invocation of God, and is certainly not used to induce any "altered states of consciousness". The rope is a centering tool, and is simply a way of keeping track of the number of prayers, and is a means of including the entire body in the practice of prayer.

I'd highly recommend the following books:

Writings from The Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart
http://www.amazon.com/Writings-Philokalia-Prayer-Heart-Kadloubovsky/dp/0571163939
The Art of Prayer
http://www.amazon.com/Art-Prayer-Orthodox-Anthology/dp/0571191657/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1289754372&sr=1-1
Prayer of the Heart, by George Maloney (not an Orthodox writer, but helpful nonetheless)
http://www.amazon.com/Prayer-Heart-Contemplative-Tradition-Christian/dp/1594711836/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1289754439&sr=1-1

and the article:
Power of the Name, by Bishop Kallistos Ware
http://books.google.ca/books?id=NAGfNe2sN5EC&pg=PA75&lpg=PA75&dq=power+of+the+name+kallistos&source=bl&ots=EhVu186tVn&sig=RcGUfdq1hDqVez-Rv9zohFX1pPo&hl=en&ei=FhbgTK3_KIWenwfe96jHDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CFUQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=power%20of%20the%20name%20kallistos&f=false

This is my understanding and I am no monk, so hopefully someone will correct my mistakes if there are any! I hope this helps.
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Offline Michael_Gerard

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Re: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2010, 08:22:05 PM »
Quote
The meaning is ongoing repentance (Have mercy on me, a sinner) and a perpetual directing of our focus on our Savior (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God) and a calling on Him for help.
If the purpose is to focus on the meaning of the words, it's not to empty the mind (the way Budhists and Hindus do.)

That means there is a right and wrong way of doing it (which is what I was asking.)

Thank you.

Offline Cognomen

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Re: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2010, 09:07:34 PM »
From Bishop Kallistos' The Orthodox Way:

"...we are to concentrate our full attention upon, or rather within, the words.  The Jesus Prayer is not just a hypnotic incantation but a meaningful phrase, an invocation addressed to another person.  Its object is not relaxation but alertness, not waking slumber but living prayer.  And so the Jesus Prayer is not to be said mechanically but with inward purpose..."

Admittedly, I am not an expert either, but I would echo much of what Stavros wrote.  Much of what I have read on the prayer includes a distinction, a disclaimer if you will, between this form of prayer and Far Eastern repetitive prayer.  So, in my estimation, there is a right and wrong way to perform this prayer.  However, I am not qualified to advise further.
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Offline stavros_388

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Re: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2010, 10:05:33 PM »
Quote
The meaning is ongoing repentance (Have mercy on me, a sinner) and a perpetual directing of our focus on our Savior (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God) and a calling on Him for help.
If the purpose is to focus on the meaning of the words, it's not to empty the mind (the way Budhists and Hindus do.)

That means there is a right and wrong way of doing it (which is what I was asking.)

Thank you.

The purpose is not to focus on the meaning of the words, as in think or ruminate about them. Please take the time to read Bishop Kallistos' article, which I linked to in my first response. Pages 85-87 in linked book address your questions quite directly, I think. Pages 81-85 address the theological and scriptural basis of the Jesus Prayer.

Here's the intro to the article:

"‘When you pray,’ it has been wisely said by an Orthodox writer in Finland, ‘you yourself must be silent. . . . You yourself must be silent; let the prayer speak.’ To achieve silence: this is of all things the hardest and the most decisive in the art of prayer. Silence is not merely negative — a pause between words, a temporary cessation of speech — but, properly understood, it is highly positive: an attitude of attentive alertness, of vigilance, and above all of listening. The hesychast, the person who has attained hesychia, inner stillness or silence, is par excellence the one who listens. He listens to the voice of prayer in his own heart, and he understands that this voice is not his own but that of Another speaking within him."
http://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Articles_files/Ware-1%20Prayer%20and%20Silence.html





« Last Edit: November 14, 2010, 10:09:44 PM by stavros_388 »
"The kingdom of heaven is virtuous life, just as the torment of hell is passionate habits." - St. Gregory of Sinai

"Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him." - Thomas Merton

Offline Silouan_43

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Re: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2010, 07:22:45 PM »
I have been practicing the prayer for about 3 years. The best advice I can give is the one that was given to me at the beginning. "The prayer itself is useless apart from the entirety of the Orthodox Faith." I would also say reading books will not get you there; you must find someone, Priest or Monk, to learn from directly and pray. Please remember the path in my experience is wrought with peril. God Bless your endeavor.
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Offline Shanghaiski

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Re: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2010, 07:52:02 PM »
Most people who pray the Jesus Prayer pray it like any other prayer--no special practices in addition. This is different, I think, from "the practice of the Jesus Prayer," which people might read or hear about, which is, I think, frankly, beyond most people. With that specific practice, there are many who attempt it and should not. But, anyone can pray and live an Orthodox life and become a saint without exalted and perilous practices. The Jesus Prayer, in any case, is certainly not a mantra. Orthodox Christian prayer has little or nothing in common with Hindoo or Buddhist forms of prayer--it is even doubtful whether they can be called prayer. Our prayer is conversation with the Living God who knows our prayer before we ask Him, but who is pleased to listen to us for He desires a relationship--in which our salvation lies.
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Offline Rafa999

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Re: Prayer ropes and the Jesus Prayer
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2010, 09:14:25 PM »
St.Ignatius Brianchaninov quoted I think John of the Ladder in saying that prayer without attention is babbling. There is no mantra, that is babbling words without meaning.  Psalm 34:1 and 150:6 say that we should ALL pray at all times. Everybody, or else we break the command, this is not a "monk" practice but an obligation. There are more advanced methods as Saint Ignatius describes however, not all methods are suitable for beginners...
« Last Edit: November 23, 2010, 09:21:00 PM by Rafa999 »
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