What is The Prayer?

“The unceasing interior Jesus Prayer is the uninterrupted, continual calling upon the divine name of Jesus Christ, with the lips, the mind, and the heart, while calling to mind His constant presence and beseeching His mercy, during any activity one may be occupied with, in all places, at all times, and even while sleeping. The words of this prayer are as follows: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!’ If one makes a habit of this supplication, one will experience great comfort and a need to repeat this prayer unceasingly, so that eventually one will not be able to live without it and the prayer will flow of its own accord.

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way (Kindle Locations 210-214). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

“Now listen, I will read to you about how to learn unceasing interior prayer.” The starets opened the Philokalia, selected a passage from Saint Simeon the New Theologian, and began to read: “‘ Find a quiet place to sit alone and in silence; bow your head and shut your eyes. Breathe softly, look with your mind into your heart; recollect your mind— that is, all its thoughts— and bring them down from your mind into your heart. As you breathe, repeat: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”— either quietly with your lips, or only in your mind. Strive to banish all thoughts; be calm and patient, and repeat this exercise frequently.’”

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way (Kindle Locations 226-231). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

Prayer First and Foremost

Many good works are required of a Christian, but it is prayer that must come first and foremost, for without prayer no other good work can be performed and one cannot find the way to the Lord. Truth cannot be acquired, the flesh with its passions and lusts cannot be crucified, the heart cannot be filled with the light of Christ and united with Him, through salvation, unless these are preceded by frequent prayer. I say frequent, because the proper way to pray and to attain to perfect prayer lies beyond our abilities. The apostle Paul says: ‘For we do not know how to pray as we ought’ [Rom. 8: 26]. Consequently, it is only the frequency and regularity of prayer that lie within our abilities, as the means of attaining to pure prayer, which is the mother of all spiritual blessings. ‘Acquire the mother and she will bear you children,’ says Saint Isaac the Syrian. First learn to pray, and then you will easily perform all the good works. This is not obvious to those who lack a living experience of prayer and the knowledge of the mystical teachings of the Fathers, so they say very little about it.”

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way (Kindle Locations 197-204). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

The Prayer and the Psalms, without ceasing

“Now that you have had the experience of silence and prayer of the mind and have tasted the sweetness that this brings, you must always keep this in your heart— whether you are eating or drinking, having a conversation with someone, traveling, or sitting in your cell— with attentive thought and an undistracted mind, do not stop repeating that prayer, psalmodising, and learning from the prayers and the psalms. Even when attending to your most pressing needs, do not let your mind remain empty, but exert it to study and to pray in secret. In this manner you will understand the profound meaning of Holy Scripture and the power that is hidden there; you will teach your mind to pray unceasingly and will thus fulfill the words of the Apostle that command us to Pray without ceasing [I Thess. 5: 17].

Diligently practice watchfulness over yourself and guard your heart against accepting any evil, vain, or futile thoughts, but let your heart, in secret, alternate learning from the psalms and praying Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me! Do this always— when you sleep and when you awaken; when you are eating, drinking, or having a conversation. Then, when you chant the psalms with your mouth, be careful that you do not only mouth the words while your mind wanders elsewhere.” — Abba Philemon

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way (Kindle Locations 3475-3483). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

Delight in the Psalms

The same brother then asked him (Abba Philemon), “Why is it, Father, that you take greater delight in the Psalter than in any other book of Holy Scripture; and why is it that when you are quietly chanting, it looks like you are talking with someone?” To this, he replied, “God has imprinted the power of the psalms in my soul as deeply as in the prophet David, and I cannot tear myself away from delighting in all the mystical revelations that are hidden in them. For they embrace the entire Holy Scripture.”

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way (Kindle Locations 3460-3464). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

Your Hiding Place, Where Christ Dwells

The Teaching of Theoliptus, Metropolitan of Philadelphia

Find a solitary place and then strive to enter the innermost, guarded, secret chamber of yourself (the watchtower), which is the dwelling-place of Christ, and where there is always peace, joy, and stillness. Christ, the Sun that shines on the intellect, bestows these gifts, which emanate from Him like rays, as a kind of reward to the soul that has welcomed and has accepted Him with faith and a love of all that is good (page 46).

Prayer is the mind conversing with the Lord, simultaneously uttering the words of prayer and focusing its attention on God. When thoughts are focused on constantly repeating the Name of the Lord and the mind clearly listens to this invocation of the Divine Name, the light of divine contemplation envelops a man’s entire soul like a radiant cloud.

Believe me, for I speak the truth— if everything you do is inseparably linked with prayer, the mother of all good, it will not rest until it has shown you the way to the bridal chamber and has led you inside, and until it has filled you with inexpressible bliss and joy. Prayer removes all obstacles, it smooths the path to virtue, and makes it conveniently accessible to those who seek it.

In walking the spiritual path, recite the words of prayer; speak to the Lord crying out unceasingly, and never despair. Pray steadfastly by emulating that importunate widow who moved the unyielding judge. Then (it will mean that) you walk in the Spirit, you ignore the lusts of the flesh, and you do not interrupt your constant prayer with worldly thoughts— but you are a temple of God wherein He is silently praised. In the end, such prayer of the mind will grant you to attain unceasing remembrance of God; to acquire the inaccessible treasures of the intellect; to gaze on the Unseen through mystical contemplation, so that you, alone in your solitude, will worship the one and only God with outpourings of love that only you can comprehend.

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way (Kindle Locations 3359-3377). Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

The heart is a small vessel

The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there. 

St. Macarius the Great

Silence of the lips

The wise silence of the lips is the first door into the Jerusalem of the mind or the watchfulness of the mind, even though the mind itself is not yet silent. The second door is temperate moderation in eating, drinking, and sleeping. The third door, which purifies the mind and the body, is the constant remembrance of and reflection on death (Text 6).

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way . Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

Goal of the nous, remembrance of God

The one who strives toward righteousness should resolve that the goal of his mind will be to cherish fully in his heart the remembrance of God, as if it were a priceless pearl or a precious jewel. He should set aside all else, disregarding even his body and scorning his very life in this world, in order to acquire only God in his heart (Text 1).

Cleary, Thomas. The Way of a Pilgrim and The Pilgrim Continues His Way . Shambhala. Kindle Edition. 

Let Them be instructed by your Deeds

Pray continually for the rest of humanity as well, that they may find God, for there is in them hope for repentance. Therefore allow them to be instructed by you, at least by your deeds. In response to their anger, be ­gentle; in response to their boasts, be humble; in response to their slander, offer prayers; in response to their errors, be steadfast in the faith; in response to their cruelty, be gentle; do not be eager to retaliate against them. Let us show ourselves their brothers and sisters by our forbearance, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Ephesians 10:1–3