Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lay People and the Prayer of the Heart

To a layman who asked about Noetic Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me), Elder Ephraim of Katounakia had this to say:

Set aside half an hour out of the twenty-four to say the Prayer. Whenever you are able; but the evening is best. Say it without using the prayer rope - in supplication, pleading, and with tears. 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.' Cultivate this, and you'll see what fruit it brings. From half an hour, it will become an hour. And guard this hour. Whether the phone is ringing, or you have this task you need to do now, or you're sleepy, or some blasphemy is confronting you. Nothing. Turn off the phone. Finish your tasks. Do this half hour and you'll see. You've planted a little tree, and tomorrow or the day after it will bear fruit. St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil both began like this and became luminaries for the whole world. St. Symeon the New Theologian had experiences of the Uncreated Light while still a layman. He was a layman. How many laymen appear as such exteriorly, but deep down are monastics!
Elder Ephraim of Katounakia:

From Obedience Is Life: Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi, p. 196.


  1. This is very good advice. But I am wondering why he says to do this "without a prayer rope." I keep a prayer rope on me at all times and find it helps to focus my mind on the prayer.
    Any ideas?

  2. I was wondering the same thing as Matt.

  3. I think he is suggesting this to emphasize to the person he is writing to that the prayer is not something mechanical, not like meditation, but a heartfelt prayer. Other Fathers teach the use of the prayer rope as an aid in concentration. Clearly a rope is not essential for prayer and for some can be a distraction. All spiritual direction is personalized so we don't know fully the circumstance here. We all should be able to pray without a prayer rope and eventually the prayer becomes continuous and can be repeated while we are doing our daily tasks.

  4. I believe it is in a style of perception that is vastly unique to each of us as God's creations.
    As an example: I am a visual artist. I lay no claim to my ,lack,low, or otherwise talent. Only to say I have been paid well here and there over the years. I mostly focus on murals, craft arts, small commissions, copies of Icons for those who wish a personal Icon but are unable to pay for the very high cost of them. I "see" if I am in a room or space entirely void of colour( save eggshell white) and no texture or care to form for too long without purpose ,I become agitated, bored, etc. My very dear friend is an excellent musician. Schooled from 7 of age to now 46. He is able to play Trumpet,Tuba, ,several other wind instruments,standing Bass, bass,guitar, again some I have no clue of, piano, keyboard, and top off 18th c. Pipe organ. He is the organist for a large Church in Germany. I can't keep the cat from rebuking my song when I shower.
    Point being , I prefer a prayer rope. It has nothing to do with counting it merely places me ,orients my mind to what I am doing. Frequently, I've found after a bit of time I'll realize when I have finished it is beside me, I let it go at some point. As I am of no authority , it is just my thought ,anything that assists you in the end goal is worthy of your attention. There are many monastic traditions because of just this. Groups reach the same goal by different but equally important and useful roads.


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