candle burning in Orthodox Church

“By the grace of God I am a Christian, by my deeds a great sinner, and by my calling a homeless wanderer of humblest origin, roaming from place to place.” – opening words in Chapter 1 of The Way of a Pilgrim

Now that we know what ceaseless prayer is and we are willing to pray ceaselessly, the time has come for us to learn what to pray when praying ceaselessly.

“The ceaseless Jesus Prayer is a continuous, uninterrupted call on the holy name of Jesus Christ with the lips, mind, and heart; and in the awareness of His abiding presence it is a plea for His blessing in all undertakings, in all places, at all times, even in sleep.  the words of the Prayer are ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!’  Anyone who becomes accustomed to this Prayer will experience great comfort as well as the need to say it continuously.  He will become accustomed to it to such a degree that he will not be able to do without it and eventually the Prayer will of itself flow in him.” (Pilgrim, 9)

The above explains the form of ceaseless prayer and gives an example in the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”  However, ceaseless prayer not only has a form, but a matter also.

“‘Now if you will listen, I will read how you can learn ceaseless interior prayer.’ The elder opened the Philokalia to the account of St. Simeon the New Theologian and began reading: ‘Sit alone and in silence; bow your head and close your eyes; relax your breathing and with your imagination look into your heart; direct your thoughts from your head to your heart.  And while inhaling say, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,’ either softly with your lips or in your mind.  Endeavor to fight distractions but be patient and peaceful and repeat this process frequently.'” (Pilgrim, 9-10)

This piece of reading, demonstrates the matter of prayer to be in one’s posture and in one’s breathing.  Having found both the form and matter of prayer, we now know what to pray.


Resource: The Way of a Pilgrim. Helen Bacovcin trans. (Image Books: New York), 2003.