Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Meaning of Prayer in the Heart

We often hear the Jesus Prayer referred to as the prayer of the heart.  What does this mean?

When we  pray from the heart. This is also called noetic prayer.  The heart is the center of our spiritual awareness.  Jesus often referred to the heart as this spiritual center.  "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks"; "... And [the people] should understand with their heart"; "Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart" (Matt 12:34, 13:15, 15:18)

Father Sophrony tells us,
"The ascetic learns great mysteries of the spirit through pure prayer.  He descends into his innermost heart, into his natural heart first, and thence to those depths that are no longer of the flesh. He finds his deep heart––reaches profound spiritual, metaphysical core of his being; and looking into it sees that the existence of mankind is not something alien and extraneous to him but inextricably bound up with his own being."
Elder Nikodim expresses,
"We pray with the heart. We are aware through the heart.  But I realize, I sense that I am praying. I bring myself to an awareness.  Then the feelings become manifest. And when the feelings appear, then tears flow. Without consciousness, without feeling, no one little tear will roll out."
He says that when your prayer is with the heart, "you sense it's the Lord Himself Whom you are addressing." If you do not have this feeling then you are "only praying with your head."  It's not a prayer from the heart.
...when feeling comes, he begins to weep.  True repentance is revealed.  He becomes aware of his sins and begins to repent sincerely––'forgive me, forgive me, have mercy on me!' Everything concludes in the heart. That's how the Lord created us.  He gave us a heart––our life.
When you pronounce the words, be aware––as if you felt them.  You have to practice this.
Prayer in the heart is an advanced level of prayer and not a condition that we can force. It comes by the grace of God after we have set aside all worldly cares.

See Christ the Eternal Tao pp 359-362.

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