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I have a good fifty-cent word for you – “Hesychasm”. No it’s not a new Japanese steak house.
According to Thomas Von Hagel in his book Christians Through the Century pp 192, 223 – 224 it has “been an integral component of the Eastern Church. It was kindled in the New Testament, fanned in the Early Church and burned brightly throughout the history of Orthodoxy.”
“Hesychasm” is defined as silent and inner prayer. It often repeats a short phrase such as a psalm verse. Most commonly, it utilizes the Jesus Prayer: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner’ or some variation thereof. This prayer is repeated over and over until it is no longer spoken with the mouth, but ceaselessly recited in the heart. Hesychasts were not required to be hermits, but to recite the Jesus Prayer while they ate, conversed, worked and slept.”
“It became an ascetic model that was practiced by a holy few, but idealized among the vast majority. Hesychasm very much reveals the mystical nature of Eastern Church as her faithful unite with Jesus through continuous prayer…”
According to Professor Von Hagel the Biblical justification for this practice is “…the apostolic command, ‘prayer without ceasing’ (1 Thess 5:17). He read his Bible and noted that the apostle Paul said one should be ‘praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication’ (Eph 6:18)”
A ‘Staret’ [an elder in the Russian Orthodox Church] would direct a pilgrim on his spiritual quest. In the first week, the pilgrim studied and practiced prayer. His initial results were good, but by the end of the week, he failed miserable by allowing mundane thoughts and lethargy to thwart his prayer. Rather than reprimanding the pilgrim, the starets explained that this was a good thing: Satan did not approve of such prayer and was attacking him. The pilgrim was then given a prayer rope and instructed to pray the Jesus Prayer 3,000 times a day… then 6,000 times each day … finally 12,000 times per day. Initially his mouth tired and his hands ached from manipulating the prayer rope. One morning, his mouth prayed the prayer of itself…he prayed when awake and in his sleep.”
Don’t mistake this with some concept of eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism) idea of a “mantra”. Which means repeating over and over an otherwise meaningless phrase in order to “clear the mind”. The idea in Christian prayer is to always bring us into the presence of the Father, to always remember who our Savior Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us, that He is Lord of our Life and He who paid the price for our sin, that we are sinners in need of a Savior.
Granted this is would be a little difficult to achieve in the normal day to day hubbub of western life, but it is a goal to strive for and certainly fulfills biblical guidance.
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