Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Finding God in the Silence ~ Part Three


Dear Friends,

“Are you doing okay?” asked my dentist with some concern in his voice. “You’re very still.” We were in the middle of a very uncomfortable and lengthy root canal, but I was completely relaxed. My breathing had slowed as I sunk deeper in contemplative prayer and I was reciting the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I hate having work done on my teeth and my dentist is always kind enough to offer tranquilizers and sedation. But so far, all I’ve ever needed was Jesus.

The Jesus Prayer can take you into contemplative prayer and it can fill the secular spaces in our life. When we’re out shopping. Doing laundry. Taking out the trash. Stopped at the light. In the doctor’s waiting room. That’s when our minds wander toward the trivial and these are the empty spaces in our day that we can fill with prayer. The Jesus Prayer redeems those moments and turns the secular into the sacred. As we go about our day, we pray the prayer of our heart and invoke the Holy Name of Jesus. The Jesus Prayer enables all that we do and all our interactions with others to be Spirit-filled. 

When we consciously recite the Jesus Prayer regularly, it will soon come to mind spontaneously and without effort on our part. There are times that I wake up praying the Jesus Prayer. In that hazy state, when my mind is not yet fully awake and I’m floating in a free-flowing stream of unconscious thoughts, I’ve found myself saying the Jesus Prayer. While I’m sleeping, the Holy Spirit is praying in me to Jesus and through Christ to the Father. Even in deep sleep, our spirit connects with His Spirit. Prayer is our intrinsic desire. Our souls cannot develop without prayer. As our lungs must fill with air, our souls must fill with prayer.

Praying the Jesus Prayer is avoided by some because of Jesus’ warning to not engage in repetitious prayers but a careful reading of Matthew 6:7 shows that He’s referring to “vain repetitions” – those that are meaningless and worthless. But, there is nothing more worthy than the name of Jesus! That’s why, from the 4th century, monastics have used a form of the Jesus Prayer throughout their day as a way to “pray without ceasing..” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Over 1,000 years later, the Roman Catholic Church would develop the “Hail Mary”prayer and the use of the rosary. But the Jesus Prayer has remained the practice of the Eastern Orthodox for over 2,000 years and today, Protestants seeking a deeper connection with God are discovering this ancient tradition.

The Jesus Prayer is not a mantra or magic talisman. It is recited with fear (reverence) of God and with faith and love. Speaking the name of Jesus invites and instills His presence. Speaking forth the Holy Name, places the reality of God into our circumstances. Life happens. We get stressed. Thoughts can become unhealthy and can even be incapacitating. We worry. Obsess. Get angry or depressed. Praying the Jesus Prayer will break the bondage of those thoughts and bring the peace of God. 

One thing helpful to me when I don’t know what to pray.. When I’m too distracted or disturbed.. When I need to pray but can’t and don’t even know how to begin.. I start with the Jesus Prayer and soon the flow of prayer comes pouring from my heart.

The Jesus Prayer is LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER. Matthew 16:16 and Luke 18:13. Some people eliminate the last two words. For awhile I did too until I realized I was avoiding this penitential phrase out of a prideful spirit. The Orthodox practice combines the Jesus Prayer with deep breathing. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God (on the inhale) have mercy on me, a sinner (on the exhale). While you may not want to follow the Orthodox practice, I highly recommend it during a root canal. 

In contemplative prayer, we find a place of silence, solitude and stillness. We can pray the Jesus Prayer continuously without ceasing “until God’s love has been poured into our heart.” Romans 5:5 Greek Orthodox monks use a woolen prayer cord called a “komvoschinion” that has 100 knots tied in it and they use it to pray the Jesus Prayer hundreds or thousands of times per day. 

You and I don’t live in a monastery or convent. We live in a very secular, stress-filled world. But we can use the Jesus Prayer throughout our day to stay connected with God in both the daily mundane and in the most stressful circumstances. It's difficult to describe, but the Jesus Prayer will allow you to stay focused, relaxed and energized at the same time. This prayer can bring a sense of meditative calmness even in the midst of chaos. We do not disassociate from our conscious and discerning thoughts, but we invite the Presence of God into the center of those thoughts and into the ebb and flow of our life by invoking His name in all that we do. “You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.”  Augustine of Hippo ~ 354 A.D.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

enter your email to receive the AMEN Corner every wednesday