Prayer Guide









If your first week was anything like my first week of prayer you are probably frustrated and maybe discouraged and in a little despair. That’s OK. Remember? I warned it wouldn’t be easy. Struggles are what make a person stronger. The devil will try all kinds of tricks to stop you from having a relationship with God. I pray you are still able to continue praying. If your prayer time has gone easy that is great, keep up the good work and beware that struggles will come at some point.

Let’s look back on your week, did you notice anything different?

Maybe you noticed the blessings in your daily life. Maybe it was easier to sit in the quiet during the day. I pray that you even saw God’s direction during the day. Hang in there; the Centering prayer is, in my opinion, the hardest. The rest of the prayers will build off this one and I pray will be easier for you. Here’s the next God direction:

Starting point: The corner of Frustration and Despair

Destination: 101 Perseverance Ave.

Directions: Follow the yellow brick road

Ok, this only works in the movies but what if it was that easy? In theory, it should be. When I say yellow what comes to mind? You might say flowers or a school bus, but I think of the Son. Yes Son, not the sun in the sky but the Son on the cross. Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). If we follow Him, He will lead us to where we need to go. Sounds simple enough but the truth is we are all sinners. Even the disciples had trouble following Jesus. This leads to the lesson.

When we develop our relationship with God through prayer He will strengthen the Spirit within us and the Spirit will give us the strength to follow God’s guidance. This is why Paul puts such importance on prayer. To the Ephesians he says“… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.1 He writes to Timothy “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.2 Paul reassures Timothy in his second letter by saying “I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” 3 Paul instructs the Thessalonians to “pray continually” 4 and to the Romans Paul states “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”5 What is interesting is that when Paul speaks of prayer in his letters two Greek words appear “pantote” (always) and “adialeptos” (without interruption or unceasingly). According to Paul prayer is not something that we just do when we think about it or have time, it should be our life. It is as important as breathing.

Now that we know we are supposed to pray all the time, how can we do this? We can’t just lock ourselves in a room all day everyday. The answer may lie in the Jesus Prayer.

In order to enter more deeply into the life of prayer and to come to grips with St. Paul's challenge to pray unceasingly, the Orthodox Tradition offers the Jesus Prayer, which is sometimes called the prayer of the heart. The Jesus Prayer is offered as a means of concentration, as a focal point for our inner life. Though there are both longer and shorter versions, the most frequently used form of the Jesus Prayer is: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." This prayer, in its simplicity and clarity, is rooted in the Scriptures and the new life granted by the Holy Spirit. It is first and foremost a prayer of the Spirit because of the fact that the prayer addresses Jesus as Lord, Christ and Son of God; and as St. Paul tells us, "no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).6

The Jesus Prayer has its roots in scripture in four areas:
  1. Matthew 6:7-8 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.7
  2. The power and glory of God are present in His name: Philipians 2:9-11 “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”7  In Luke the disciples discover “… even the demons submit to us in your[Jesus’] name.8 We also learn that prayers are answered by His name (John 14:13-14) and Jesus says in John 16:24 “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.7  We also see that the lame are healed (Acts 3:6-7). There is limitless spiritual power in the Name of Jesus.
  3. The very words of the Jesus Prayer are based on Scripture. There is the cry of the blind man in Luke 18:38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!7  The ten lepers who “called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!7 in Luke 17:13; and the cry of the publican in Luke 18:14 “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”7
  4. The Jesus prayer is a prayer in which we admit our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. We can look to 1 John 1:8-9 for the importance of this “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”7
To further explain prayer lets again look at Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.7 I want to further explain “go into your room, close the door” and “done in secret.” The idea here is we should not parade our devotions, nor boast about them. We should separate ourselves from our immediate surroundings and disturbing influences so as to be alone with God. I use alone as a relative term because in prayer we are never alone. We are in the presence of God. Hebrews 12:1 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.7 The witnesses spoken of are all the angels, the saints and sinners, the living and the dead. We are not alone in prayer and when prayer becomes a part of our life, as important as breathing, we can take heart in knowing that we are not alone so “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
In our busy lives this is not easy, yet it can be done--we can each of us find a few minutes in which to use a prayer consisting of only a few words, or even only one. This prayer should be repeated quietly, unhurriedly, thoughtfully. Each thought should be concentrated on Jesus, forgetting all else, both joys and sorrows. Any stray thought, however good or pious, can become an obstacle. When you embrace a dear one you do not stop to meditate how and why you love--you just love wholeheartedly. It is the same when spiritually we grasp Jesus the Christ to our heart. If we pay heed to the depth and quality of our love, it means that we are preoccupied with our own reactions, rather than giving ourselves unreservedly to Jesus --holding nothing back. Think the prayer as you breathe in and out; calm both mind and body, using as rhythm the heartbeat. Do not search for words, but go on repeating the Prayer, or Jesus' name alone, in love and adoration. That is ALL! Strange--in this little there is more than all!

I had a most striking proof of uninterrupted communion with all those who pray when I lately underwent surgery. I lay long under anesthesia. "Jesus" had been my last conscious thought, and the first word on my lips as I awoke. It was marvelous beyond words to find that although I knew nothing of what was happening to my body I never lost cognizance of being prayed-for and of praying myself. After such an experience one no longer wonders that there are great souls who devote their lives exclusively to prayer.

Prayer has always been of very real importance to me, and the habit formed in early childhood of morning and evening prayer has never left me; but in the practice of the Jesus Prayer I am but a beginner. I would, nonetheless, like to awaken interest in this prayer because, even if I have only touched the hem of a heavenly garment, I have touched it--and the joy is so great I would share it with others. It is not every man's way of prayer; you may not find in it the same joy that I find, for your way may be quite a different one--yet equally bountiful.

In fear and joy, in loneliness and companionship, it is ever with me. Not only in the silence of daily devotions, but at all times and in all places. It transforms, for me, frowns into smiles; it beautifies, as if a film had been washed off an old picture so that the colors appear clear and bright, like nature on a warm spring day after a shower. Even despair has become attenuated and repentance has achieved its purpose.
                                    (H.R.H. Princess Ileana of Romania)
Prayer Time:
Because prayer is a living reality, a deeply personal encounter with the living God, it is not to be confined to any given classification or rigid analysis. However, in order to offer some broad, general guidelines for those interested in using the Jesus Prayer to develop their inner life, Theophan the Recluse, a 19th century Russian spiritual writer, distinguishes three levels in the saying of the Prayer:
  1. It begins as oral prayer or prayer of the lips, a simple recitation which Theophan defines as prayers' "verbal expression and shape." Although very important, this level of prayer is still external to us and thus only the first step, for "the essence or soul of prayer is within a man's mind and heart."
  2. As we enter more deeply into prayer, we reach a level at which we begin to pray without distraction.  Theophan remarks that at this point, "the mind is focused upon the words" of the Prayer, "speaking them as if they were our own."
  3. The third and final level is prayer of the heart. At this stage prayer is no longer something we do but who we are. Such prayer, which is a gift of the Spirit, is to return to the Father as did the prodigal son (Luke 15:32). The prayer of the heart is the prayer of adoption, when "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit that cries 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal. 4:6).6
  1. You should first start by choosing which phrase you will use. Some suggestions include:
    • “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (the standard form)
    • “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.” (rule of St John Chrysostom)
    • “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” (the Traditional Jesus Prayer)
    • “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on me!”
    • “Lord have mercy.”
    • “Jesus have mercy.”
    • “Christ have mercy.”
    • “Son of God have mercy.”
    • “Most Holy Trinity have mercy.”
    • “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” (Psalm 31:5)
    • “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 25:1)
    • “I worship you, O Lord.”
    • (Ideally, when you find the phrase that best fits you, stick with that phrase for the rest of the week.)
  2. Once you have chosen a phrase, begin by centering as you did before. (After you take your position slowly relax by breathing in through the nose and breathing out through your mouth letting go with each breath. Make sure your hands are open and relaxed. As you breathe slowly introduce your sacred word, repeating with each inward breath and each outward breath. Use the word to focus on God and His presence in and around you. Give all your being to God.) Then move into the Jesus Prayer.
  3. Repeat the phrase first out loud then silently as outlined above until it becomes apart of you.
  4. Rest in prayer even when the words are not on your lips.
  5. Rest in prayer even when the words are not on your conscious mind.
  6. Allow the prayer to take on a life of its own in your heart and soul.
  7. Allow the prayer to give you an opportunity to listen for God speaking to you.
  8. Throughout the day return to the prayer to refocus on God’s abiding presence around you and within you.9
The formal portion of this prayer sets up the informal portion. The informal part is the rest of the day. While you go about your daily business, say the Jesus prayer. When you’re under stress, take a deep breath and say the prayer, when you become angry say the prayer, and when you are doing menial tasks, those that require little thought, say the prayer. Soon you will say the prayer without thinking, in your subconscious mind and that is praying constantly.
  1. The same pointers basically apply here as with the Centering prayer
  2. We use the Jesus Prayer to do God’s will, not our own bidding
  3. Silence is a Choice. We choose the things we want to do. These things, then, order and measure our lives.
  4. Silence at its best, is God-awareness. We quiet down our outer and inner lives, and listen to God speak.
  5. Outer silence calms the senses. By contrast, sensory overload and excitement can be addictive.
  6. Inner silence can usually be achieved only by substituting one thought for another. Hence, the Jesus Prayer overrides our usual compulsive stream of consciousness about our own anxieties. By beginning with this form of prayer, we might be led to deeper inner stillness, prayer without words. The caution here is that prayer without words is not heaviness, semi-sleep dullness. Rather, wordless prayer is alive, vigorous God-awareness.10
  7. Often with contemplative prayer, the first thing that occurs is an experience of darkness and resistance. But when we persist, peace will begin to replace that darkness.
  8. Don’t meditate on the words, use them to reach beyond thought, into just being
  9. These prayers cannot be forced. You must want to pray and you must let go and let God.
Practice this style of prayer for a full week. At the end of the week, move on to the next section.

1The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Eph 6:18). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

2The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Ti 2:8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

3The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (2 Ti 1:3). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

4The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Th 5:17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

5The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ro 12:12). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

6Fr. Steven Peter Tsichlis

7The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

8The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Lk 10:17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

9As adapted from a “Contemplative Prayer Study” by Rev. Derek Cheek

10Albert S Rossi “Prayer is Not Optional”

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