Kallistos Ware on the Jesus Prayer  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is one of the leading Orthodox spiritual writers in the English-speaking world. Born Timothy Ware in Bath, England in 1934, he was raised in the Church of England. He converted to Orthodoxy as a young man and several years later made his monastic profession and was ordained to the priesthood. He served for many years as an Oxford lecturer in Byzantine studies.

Bishop Kallistos has written and spoken often on the Jesus prayer, one of the underpinnings of Eastern Christian spirituality (I have an earlier post on the same subject which can be found under "The Jesus Prayer" in the Previous Posts section of the sidebar). The following excerpt is from a recent interview carried over Ancient Faith Radio, an Orthodox webcasting enterprise. And, while I vehemently disagree with his politics, a big hat-tip nonetheless to Thomas Katsampes for transcribing it.

The Jesus prayer can be used in two main ways. It can be used as part of our daily special prayer time when we are seeking to pray and not to do anything else. I might call that the "fixed" use. And then the Jesus prayer can be used during the day as we go about our characteristic activities in all the passing moments that might otherwise be wasted. As we are doing familiar tasks, as we are walking from place to place, as we are waiting for the bus, or...when we're stuck in a traffic jam. The first thing when we wake up in the morning, the last thing before we go to sleep. if we can't sleep at night, we can say the Jesus prayer in a free way.

Now the fixed use of the Jesus prayer helps to produce within us a contemplative attitude. It helps to create silence within us. The Jesus prayer is a prayer in words, but because the words are very simple and constantly repeated, in and through the words of the Jesus prayer we reach out into the living silence of God. Sometimes, yes, in our prayer we can simply wait on God and not say anything. Those are very precious moments, but if we try to do this regularly we may find that in practice we are simply subject to endless wandering thoughts. We can't by a simple act of will turn off the internal television set. So the Jesus prayer gives us in our prayer time a specific way of praying, a practical method which can help to gather us in prayer, can help us to overcome wandering thoughts, can help us to attain through words an attitude of silence, of waiting on God, of listening to Him...

As to the "free' use, it would seem that its aim is to help us to find Christ everywhere...It helps us to bring Christ into the different moments of our daily life so that our awareness of God's presence with us is not just limited to our set prayer time, but flows over into the day so that as we go about our familiar tasks while performing those tasks with full attentiveness we can also become aware that Christ is with us wherever we are and whatever we do. So that the Jesus prayer bridges the gap between prayer time and work time. It helps us to turn our work into prayer. Paul says "pray without ceasing", not just morning and evening, not just seven times a day, but without ceasing, continually. How are we to do that? Perhaps the first step is to use very frequent prayers, to have throughout the day moments of prayer. The prayer may not be continuous but it will become more and more frequent, and that is the first step to fulfilling St Paul's injunction. So the Jesus prayer helps to make the whole world a sacrament of God's presence. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we feel that Christ is with us. And many people feel called to use the Jesus prayer in this free way, even though perhaps they may not use the Jesus prayer in their set prayer times in the fixed way. That's perfectly all right. Each should follow the path of prayer to which each feels personally called, with the guidance of course of their spiritual father or spiritual mother.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 20, 2008 at Sunday, July 20, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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