Friday, March 12, 2010

The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God

Paraclete Press sent me a copy of The Jesus Prayer by Frederica Mathewes-Green. This is now the third book that I've read on the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer is "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner." Some use shorter or longer versions of the prayer. The prayer is said repeatedly. I have found this helpful in focusing my mind on Christ, reminding myself that I am a sinner in need of Christ's mercy, and keeping my mind from sinful thoughts. I've reviewed The Jesus Prayer by Per-Olof Sjogren and The Way of a Pilgrim. All three books are useful for different reasons. All three books have strengths and all three have weaknesses. All three suffer to some degree from pietism. All three take a different approach to the use of breathing techniques and pacing the prayer with your heartbeat. The Way of a Pilgrim strongly promotes breathing techniques and pacing the prayer to your heartbeat. Frederica Mathewes-Green seems to discourage the use of these techniques. Per-Olof Sjogren is somewhere in the middle. These are probably all the result of individual experiences with the prayer. At times I have found the techniques helpful and at other times I have found them distracting. Frederica Mathewes-Green offers a very helpful defense of using this prayer repeatedly against those who claim that this is nothing more than pagan Eastern mysticism. Frederica Mathewes-Green does promote a syergistic view of salvation but she is Eastern Orthodox after all. The book isn't perfect but it might be the best introduction to this prayer and it's an easy read.

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