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Author Topic: History of the Jesus Prayer  (Read 5515 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: January 30, 2011, 04:50:03 PM »

I know there are tons of threads on the Jesus Prayer but most of them seemed to be about books on the prayer or about how to utilize the prayer, and I'm more interested in its history. From the limited reading I've done, it seems the Jesus Prayer is most closely associated with Hesychasm, which seems to have mainly originated in the 13th or 14th century.

From Wikipedia:  "It appears that the particularity of the term Hesychast has to do with the integration of the continual repetition of the Jesus Prayer into the practices of mental ascesis that were already used by hermits in Egypt. Hesychasm itself is not recorded in Lampe, which indicates that it is a later usage, and the term Jesus Prayer is not found in any of the Fathers of the Church.[4] Saint John Cassian (c. 360–435) presents as the formula used in Egypt for repetitive prayer, not the Jesus Prayer, but "O God, make speed to save me: O Lord, make haste to help me". By the 14th century however, on Mount Athos the terms Hesychasm and Hesychast refer to the practice and to the practitioner of a method of mental ascesis that involves the use of the Jesus Prayer assisted by certain psychophysical techniques. Most likely, the rise of the term Hesychasm reflects the coming to the fore of this practice as something concrete and specific that can be discussed."

Does anyone know when the prayer came into wide use? Any other related tidbits would be greatly appreciated!
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2011, 10:16:42 AM »

The practice of the Jesus Prayer undoubtedly can be traced far before the 13th or 14th century.

St. Diadochos of Photiki (5th century) recommends unceasing meditation on the simple phrase "Lord Jesus." The Jesus Prayer may have started in a simple form like this and lengthened over the centuries. It is believed that this prayer goes back to Apostolic times and that its common use made its mention in texts unnecessary. 

Likewise St. John Chrysostom recommends the Jesus Prayer: http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2007/12/31/st-john-chrysostom-on-the-jesus-prayer/

It's also true though that other prayers were used for a similar purpose- the Prayer of the Publican ("O God be merciful to me a sinner"), which St. Seraphim used during his 900 days on the rock, or lines from the Psalms, such as the one you mentioned. The Ladder recommends short prayers but does not mention any specifically; St. John assumes that there are a variety to choose from.
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2011, 10:57:53 AM »

If you would like to read a book on the subject, you may wish to obtain “The Name of Jesus” by Irenee Hausherr.  One reviewer commented that “This is, as far as I know, the only book that gives an authoritative history of the Jesus Prayer.”

http://www.amazon.com/Name-Jesus-Cistercian-Studies/dp/0879079444/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298904838&sr=8-1
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2011, 05:31:39 PM »

Thanks guys!
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2011, 06:02:05 PM »

I'm pretty sure it goes back to the prayer of the publican...around 30-33 A.D.?  angel
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2011, 08:49:57 AM »

I'm pretty sure it goes back to the prayer of the publican...around 30-33 A.D.?  angel
Hi
I am new to the forum and mostly interested in the "Jesus Prayer".
I have tried to trace its history but there is not much to tell.
It sure goes back to the prayer of the publican (Luke 18) or the two blind men (Matthew 9) but as a distinct prayer method appears much later. The earliest mention of the form can be found in St. John Chrysostom's writings but I don't know if is among the writings that modern scholarship rejects as later immitations. According to Wikipedia the earliest explicit reference is in Discourse on Abba Philimon from The Philokalia (~600 AD) but searching the TLG brings up a passage of St. John Chrysostom which of course is earlier - if genuine.
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« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2011, 02:19:33 AM »

Some of the saints who utilized the method said that one cannot be saved without use of the Jesus Prayer. What are we to make of this?
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« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2011, 04:30:02 AM »

Some of the saints who utilized the method said that one cannot be saved without use of the Jesus Prayer. What are we to make of this?
There are many such "exagerated" remarks especially in the Philokalia. Regarding salvation, grace etc.
Understood in their context - spiritual & monastic (ie they are mostly texts from monks to monks on spiritual matters) they make their own sense.
Trying to "apply" stict aristotelian logic in order to understand them makes them look "exagerated" and puzzling.
For example, the word "saved" is used in the Scriptures to mean: saved=eligible for salvation & eternal life (the commonly understood), saved=healed from illness/demonic powers, saved from danger etc.
With the above in mind, "one cannot be saved without use of the Jesus Prayer" from his/her own passions or this present fallen nature, when following the monastic path (for example).
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2011, 08:11:18 AM »

Some of the saints who utilized the method said that one cannot be saved without use of the Jesus Prayer. What are we to make of this?

I suspect many saints never heard of the Jesus prayer, as we know it, in their lifetimes, especially in the West. Perhaps the saints saying this are using "Jesus prayer" as a stand-in for interior prayer/ prayer of the heart in general.
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« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2011, 10:08:10 AM »

I don't mind the Jesus prayer, I think it is beautiful.

But I do feel that many Orthodox pray it in vain repetitions as we are told not to do.

Some have prayer ropes with hundreds of knots and say it over, over, over and over, and over again.

But I think saying it here and there is wonderful.  Of course this is not main stream Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2011, 10:20:15 PM »

I don't mind the Jesus prayer, I think it is beautiful.

But I do feel that many Orthodox pray it in vain repetitions as we are told not to do.

Some have prayer ropes with hundreds of knots and say it over, over, over and over, and over again.

And, if they are doing it right, each time they say it, they say it with full attention. Of course this is not easy, but we must try. You have spoken ill to suggest that this is vain repetition. When the Lord condemns vain repetition, the key word you are missing is "vain."
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« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2011, 06:16:41 AM »

I don't mind the Jesus prayer, I think it is beautiful.

But I do feel that many Orthodox pray it in vain repetitions as we are told not to do.

Some have prayer ropes with hundreds of knots and say it over, over, over and over, and over again.

But I think saying it here and there is wonderful.  Of course this is not main stream Orthodoxy.

Jesus Prayer is a repetitive prayer but whether its repetitions are “in vain” it’s another story (and whether the Lord meant to ‘condemn’ any repetition in prayer, still another).
The prayer rope, on the other hand is not so much as to count the times the prayer has been repeated, as to be used as an aid to help concentration in the words of the prayer (and thus avoiding repeating it “in vain”).
Saying the “Jesus Prayer|”, “here and there” it’s fine, but that’s “using” it as any other prayer.
Jesus Prayer as a repetitive prayer developed out of the desire of people to “pray ceaselessly” and make themselves as perfect as they can and many throughout the centuries can attest to its usefulness towards these directions.
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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2011, 09:38:49 AM »

I had always understood the vain repetitions pertain to those who want to be seen in public and filled with swollen pride. I think the instructions the Lord gives us in Matthew 6 pertaining to the Lord's prayer & prayer in general is exemplified in the Jesus Prayer. This is a powerful prayer and lead us to pray in intercession for all (as St. Paul states in Timothy 2:1) since we can perpetually confess our sin, pray for others, & cleanse our conscience to do whatever  works the Spirit guides us within our means to do.
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