Monday, August 16, 2010

The Jesus Prayer and Pentecostals

I ran across a blog this morning by "Orthodox Monk" in which the author recommends that Pentecostals not practice the Jesus Prayer because it may be spiritually dangerous. On the one hand, I agree that practicing the Jesus Prayer is dangerous--for anyone, especially someone who is not under the guidance of a spiritual father who has spent years practicing (himself under the guidance of a spiritual father) the prayer. The greatest danger with any spiritual practice is delusion: one can think he or she is practicing prayer at a "level" (Oh how I despise that concept when it comes to spiritual matters!) deeper, greater, more profound, etc. than they really are.

On the other hand, spiritual practice, perhaps particularly the Jesus Prayer, is also a path by which one may be delivered from delusion. How else might one be enlightened to his own delusion than by calling on the Name of Jesus? It is an irony, like most of the spiritual life.

My recommendation to anyone who might stumble across this blog is to simply pray and pray simply. As a Pentecostal, I began "saying" the Jesus Prayer (what is and isn't prayer I leave in God's hands). At first it was something I mixed with "praying in tongues." But gradually, my heart was lifted and my mind focused through the Jesus Prayer so that I "prayed in tongues" less and less. The kind of prayer beyond words (groanings too deep to be uttered, a la Romans 8:26?) that "praying in tongues" seemed to provide for me was eclipsed by the Jesus Prayer. Actually, the metaphor is more like a faint star disappearing as the sun rises.

What I was actually doing when I was "praying in tongues," I do not know. God knows. My heart was crying out to Him and somehow He heard my cry and has led me to the Safe Haven of His Church.

If you would like to say the Jesus Prayer, do so simply. And God in His mercy will hear the cry of your heart.


Fr Dn Charles Joiner said...

I had a similar experience with the Jesus Prayer. I had for some years engaged in a meditation practice which involved the slow repetition of a spiritual text. When I learned of the Jesus Prayer I used it. At first, it was a method to still the mind––self centered. But it led me to seek out a spiritual father in the Orthodox Church. It took many years to undue the meditation orientation of a far eastern self-centered meditation practice, but in time it became a true prayer. I feel it led me progressively in the right direction. So I agree with your observation here.

elizabeth said...

God is merciful!

I am really appreciating Frederica Matthewes-Green's book entitled _The Jesus Prayer_; as I am only 6 years young in the Orthodox Church, I am really appreciating this book... I really appreciate Kh. F.'s loving attitude towards us who are rank beginners and the accessibility in which she explains things.

Fr. Michael said...

Thanks for sharing your similar experience, Fr. Dn. Charles.
And Elizabeth, I have been more and more impressed lately with Frederica's gift of explaining difficult ideas simply and clearly and in genuine humility. May God continue to bless her writing and talking.
Fr. Michael