Colliander on the Jesus Prayer  

Posted by Joe Rawls in

Tito Colliander (1904-1989) was an ethnic Swede who was born in czarist St Petersburg and spent most of his life in Finland. He and his wife converted to the Finnish Orthodox Church as adults. He was primarily a novelist who wrote in Swedish but also left behind a body of spiritual writings. Probably the most significant of these is Way of the Ascetics (St Vladimir Seminary Press 2003). Chapter 25 (the book is available here online) deals with the Jesus Prayer.

I can resonate with what Colliander says about the Jesus Prayer because my own use of it, while regular (most of the time), is hardly effortless. The "monkey mind" is still an uninvited guest during prayer time, and the whole practice is not in the least glamorous. Colliander gives us a much-needed reminder that prayer is not an end in itself, but a means of preparing the ground of our souls for the raining down of God's grace.


...Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Repeat it aloud, or only in thought, slowly, lingeringly, but with attention, and from a heart freed as much as possible from all that is inappropriate to it. Not only worldly thoughts are inappropriate, but also such things as every kind of expectation or thought of answer, or inner visions, testings, all kinds of romantic dreams, curious questionings and imaginings. Simplicity is as inescapable a condition as humility, abstemiousness of body and soul, and in general everything that pertains to the invisible warfare.

Especially should the beginner beware of everything that has the slightest tendency to mysticism. The Jesus Prayer is an activity, a practical work and a means by which you enable yourself to receive and use the power called God's grace--constantly present, however hidden within the baptized person--in order that it may bear fruit. Prayer fructifies this power in our soul, it has no other purpose. It is a hammer that crushes a shell: a hammer is hard and its strike hurts. Abandon every thought of pleasantness, rapture, heavenly voices: there is only one way to the kingdom of God, and that is the way of the cross...

If you hammer a nutshell too hard, you may crush the kernel as well. Lay on with caution. Do not pass over suddenly to the Jesus Prayer. Hold back to begin with, and even afterward, use your other prayer practices as well. Do not be overanxious. And do not suppose that you can pray proper attention to a single Lord, have mercy. Your prayer is bound to be divided and scattered; you are, indeed, human...Do not shriek to high heaven in amazement if at the beginning you completely forget your prayer practice for many hours at a time, perhaps for a whole day or longer. Take it naturally and simply: you are an inexperienced sailor who has been so anxiously occupied with other things that he forgot to keep watch on the breezes. Thus, expect nothing of yourself. But do not demand anything of others, either.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 30, 2010 at Thursday, September 30, 2010 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Post a Comment