I’ve always wanted to start up a mini bookstore at church to bring in resources for people to buy and use. One excellent little book describing this little prayer is called Living the Jesus Prayer, written by a Ukrainian Catholic woman named Irma Zaleski. It’s a short read, an easy read – published here in Canada too – which walks you through the practice of praying the Jesus Prayer. This book is available through Amazon.ca and you should be able to find it through Chapters too.
I already mention briefly in the video post that this prayer is best done through repetition. This is something that we haven’t usually practiced within our recent devotional patterns. We tend to ‘think’ our prayers – running through them until we ‘know’ them. The repetitive way of praying that is involved here, however, is different. We’re training the heart – not the head – and that requires us to meditate on these words so that they become absorbed into the core of who we are.
Luther talked about this in terms of the meditation process that he learned, both in the monasteries, but also from Scripture. You see, growing in faith is more than just a training of the mind. It goes far deeper into the very core of our existence where the brokenness of sin resides. This is why, when asked by his barber (Peter – no less) ‘how to pray’, Luther suggested that we slow down, repeat the words, roll them over on our tongue and in our minds so that we taste them and allow them to become internalized within us so that we allow the Holy Spirit (through the Word) to re-write our lives from the inside to the out.
In the simple case of the Jesus Prayer, we are bringing the simple movement between Law & Gospel (and then Law & Gospel – over and over again – that’s at the heart of repentance which lies at the center of all of our spiritual growth) and the very Name of Jesus into the center of our being so that He re-writes our lives in His mercy and peace. Through a process of letting go of our broken self so that we can be renewed and restored by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit.
We do this, not on our own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit who teaches us to pray – teaching us to let go of our self-styled ways of doing things so that the Jesus who comes to us in His Word and in the Sacraments can become our all-and-all (Galatians 2:20).