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How To Pray Without Ceasing: The Jesus Prayer


St. Paul writes: “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17)

How is this possible? How can we pray all the time?
First of all, the Church has monastics, people who have made prayer their daily work. St. Silouan the Athonite writes: “Thanks to monastics, prayer continues unceasing on earth, and the whole world profits, for through prayer, the world continues to exist, but when prayer fails, the world will perish.”
Claire Brandenburg's lovely picture book The Monk Who Grew Prayer illustrates the beauty of the monastic life for children as young as pre-school age.
Secondly, there is the Jesus Prayer, which is based on the Prayer of the Publican( Luke 18:13): Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Monastics, especially those in the Eastern liturgical traditions, pray this short prayer constantly while going about their daily chores. Monks and nuns have to make a living. They often operate farms, bakeries or other manufacturing businesses. While they perform their daily tasks, they pray the Jesus Prayer. They also commit some time to pray this prayer with great concentration using knotted prayer ropes called chotkis, in the Slavic tradition, to help them focus.
A chotki is traditionally tied from "angelic knots" shown to fourth century Egyptian monk St. Pachomius by St. Gabriel. The knots are composed of seven interconnected crosses which cannot be untied by demons (some traditions say nine crosses, some attribute the story to St. Anthony). A chotki is a sacramental dispensing grace to the user. They come in different lengths from tiny ten knot fingerlings to 33 or 50 knot regular size to 103 or even 300 or 500 monastic size. The chotki is also used by the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox laity. We can pray our chotki while driving our car or while taking a walk. While performing chores that require our hands we can still pray the Jesus prayer and come closer to St. Paul’s goal to pray without ceasing.
Eventually, after praying the Jesus prayer thousands of times, the prayer may enter our heart and continue there even when we are consciously thinking about other things.
There are very advanced and complex adult books about the Prayer of the Heart. However, the prayer can be also be a very simple practice for a young child.
I just discovered a brand new board book about the Jesus Prayer:
I Pray Today by Angela Isaacs, illustrated by Amandine Wanert, tells in captivating rhyme how a child prays a simplified version of the Jesus Prayer, "Lord have mercy", throughout the day.
What better gift could one possibly bestow on a child than to instill the habit of the Jesus Prayer at an early age?
Here's another book about monastic prayer:

#JesusPrayer #BookReviews #BoardBooks #PictureBooks

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