THE JESUS PRAYER
"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of
God, have mercy on me a sinner"
INTERIOR SILENCE & THE JESUS PRAYER
By The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
In order to practice "ceaseless
prayer" as St. Paul suggests, we must first bring our minds that are a
battleground of conflicting thoughts into a state of silence and peace. To acquire interior silence, is to receive one of the greatest rewards of prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ. What a gift it is to be able to purge your mind of all conflicting thoughts and images and look deep inside your soul to discover the Tabernacle of God within you.
This is a state that takes a lot of time to accomplish, once there, you are only at the first level of defense against Satan and his evil demons.
Every level of success that you reach, you can expect equal and furious attacks from the evil one. Since the dawn of mankind, evil has been waging war against our souls. Often we stumble and fall in the battle; however, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ becomes our shield and buckler against these attacks. We may be wounded temporarily by sin but the war has already been won by our Lord and Savior. We must remember that we are protected from permanent harm by the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and the power of His Life-Giving Cross.
The uphill battle to interior silence is the hardest ground to take, it will appear to you that you are making no progress at all; however, regard this as a trick of the evil one. Your efforts, even if they seem to have no effect are working, it takes time to achieve results. This is one of the ways that God tempers the steel of your soul. If you are not strong enough to fight off demons on the lowest level, you will still be defenseless when you reach the summit of interior silence! If you reach interior silence without the proper defenses, itís like the man in the Scriptures that swept and cleaned his house, then took in seven spirits into his home worse than the first. The state of that manís soul is worse than the first. You have cleaned out the evil thoughts and cleared your mind so at that point you may be attacked by demons more crafty and worse than the ones you escaped at the foot of the mountain.
Consider the search for interior silence to be a fine talent. As with any fine talent, one must practice many hours to accomplish the talent. Daily practice is recommended, the more time you spend in this endeavor the better. If you become disgusted and give up at the first sign of failure, it will take you longer and longer to achieve your goal. The following exercises are designed to help you relax, then slowly clear your mind of all thoughts. You must keep in mind that you will have to re-train your mind not to give notice to wayward thoughts that pop into it continually during every moment of your life. You are building a weapon against demons by blocking out their foot soldiers and their first line of attack. All sin begins with a thought, then proceeds along a sordid path until it surrenders your soul to the attacking demon. To overturn sin successfully, it is imperative that you guard your mind from every angle. Take heart in your endeavors, many Saints struggled all their mortal lives trying to obtain this lofty goal. All that we can truly hope for is a reasonable measure of success. Believe me, the Lord understands, after all, He took on flesh so that He could fully understand the human condition.
- Find a place where you can be quiet and alone.
- Set a silent (perhaps electronic timer) for 30 minutes at first. You may increase this time later, but you must first achieve at least 30 minutes of interior silence before increasing the time.
- Turn off all lights, the darker the room the better. The idea is to block out ALL visual and audio stimulation. Disconnect phones, instruct family that you are meditating and must not be disturbed.
- You should be in a reclined, comfortable position.
- Keep your eyes closed.
- Breathe deeply and slowly at first, then regulate your breathing to a normal pace.
- Relax your body completely, even if you have to, relax each leg, arm, and all body parts by identifying them separately and issuing a command to your mind to relax them.
- Block out all thoughts, imagine a total void, an endless sea of black.
- If a thought pops into your mind, ignore it, focus on the darkness, push it immediately out of your mind. (Note: One of the tricks of the evil one will be to introduce a thought of something holy. This gets your attention and distracts you from your goal. God knows what you are attempting, He would not choose that time to try and communicate with you, He wants you to succeed and wonít stand in the way of your progress. Ignore ALL thoughts, push them all out of your mind. Stay focused on total darkness. If you let a falsely holy thought get your attention; Satan will try to make you proud of your success, thus committing the sin of pride and vainglory!)
- The first few times you attempt this you will have to literally fight off thoughts as if you were on a battle field with the enemy advancing on you in great numbers.
- It is not good to fall asleep while you are attempting this mind clearing process. Often, if Satan sees he cannot win your mind over, he will convince you that you are tired and need to sleep. (Donít despair if you fall asleep, remember you are human, you are striving for a perfection, but you must remember, you cannot obtain perfection while you possess a mortal body, only Jesus Christ was perfect.
- Do not immediately try to conquer the Jesus Prayer while you are learning to block out thoughts. The crafty demons will immediately realize that you are an amateur and attack you more fiercely. You are training to be a soldier, (A soldier of the Cross), one who refuses to allow the thief to break in and spoil his home. You are the watchman at the gate of your heart. As any good soldier knows, you must first secure the area before you can guard and protect it from external attack.
- You may say the Jesus Prayer as often as you like while you are not actively working on interior silence. To combine the two at first causes sure defeat because you cannot have silence in your mind while you are thinking about what you are reciting. While reciting the Jesus Prayer, you should always be aware of what you are saying. You are learning to offer this prayer in its purest form, from a heart silent and focused on God.
- As Jesus Christ said, you must first clean the inside of the cup, then when you clean the outside the whole cup will be clean. Gain the spiritual ground of interior silence before you use it as a place for self activating, ceaseless prayer.
- Once you have obtained the ability to block out thoughts for one hour, try it throughout the day, if you are at work, think only of what is necessary to do your job. If an extraneous thought enters your mind, push it out. Stay focused on your job. Donít carry it too far, however, during social situations, it is necessary to focus your attention on many areas of thought. Eventually, you will know when you can safely practice interior silence.
- As time advances, you will notice that your mind is still, and uninvited thoughts seldom invade it. This may come as a sudden revelation, or gradually over a long period of time. At this point, you may combine the Jesus Prayer with your practice of interior silence.
- The next ground you need to conquer is spiritual discernment. You must be able to accurately analyze thoughts that pop into your mind. Once you have learned interior silence, it is much easier to examine a thought that invades your mind. Obviously, some thoughts are easy to discern; thoughts of violence, lust, greed, pride, fear, anger, hate, and discrimination. When one of these obvious violating thoughts pops into your mind, push it out as quickly as it entered. Shut the door and secure it with the Jesus Prayer if necessary.
- A more difficult type of thought is a complex thought that can start out to appear quite harmless. Sometime, Satan will make a thought appear innocent, even holy! This is where you need to develop a sharp sense of discernment. Test the thought for signs of evil by asking yourself these questions.
- Does this thought make me feel anger toward any thing or any one?
- Does this thought incite a prideful feeling in me?
- Does this thought make me feel peaceful, or uneasy?
- If I were to heed this thought, would any of the precepts of Christianity be compromised?
Most of the time, when you begin to apply these tests to a thought, it will dissipate if it
was from Satan; otherwise, if it is from God, you will have positive answers to the 4 test questions above. If you apply light to one of Satanís tricks, it cannot stand in the light, and will have to withdraw.
- Trying to discern the origin of thoughts is the hardest concept of this process. A distressing thought can come from God, especially to those who are "gifted" with prophecy, or special abilities to communicate readily with God. In such a case, you must apply questions 2 and 4 to the thought. As long as it does not puff you up with pride, or violate any of the precepts of Christianity, you can allow the thought to proceed, giving it further thought.
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