From the Prayer of Jesus to Prayer of the Heart (Part II)
Once this prayer [the Prayer of Jesus] has taken root within us, our heart is illumined by a deep confidence, in which we are spared of the former blindness that allowed us to pray only with the lips. Now we welcome prayer as an ineffable treasure. As spiritual guides have so often declared, “the Prayer of Jesus is a joy that elicits a response of thanksgiving.”
At this point in the spiritual pilgrimage, the heart becomes transformed by grace. Nevertheless, God allows us again and again to be tempted, to teach us that it is in Him alone that we can find our strength and the fulfillment of our hope. This is why it is so necessary that we learn to accept our weakness and frailty with a spirit of genuine humility. No one can acquire humility other than by using the appropriate means, means that lead to a humble and broken heart and the elimination of our presumptuous thoughts. For all too often the Enemy discovers the weak points within us, and that allows him to turn us from the way that leads to Life.
Without humility, it is impossible for a person to attain spiritual “perfection.” We learn by trials, and without them, no one can acquire true humility.
That acquisition necessarily involves a “broken heart” and ardent prayer. Such humility allows those who love us to draw near to us and to manifest that love. However great the trials and temptations, they can always become, by the grace of God, the means by which we attain genuine humility and thus gain the Kingdom of Heaven. Those trials may involve our inner life: assault by corrupting thoughts, or surges of pride (which is so often a manifestation of our shame and woundedness). They may also involve attacks against our body: illness, old age, neglect on our part or the part of other people. Sometimes they come, too, from overt attacks by others: by abuse or abandonment. In any case, such trials are needed, in order to lead us into a state of true humility.
It is in that state of humble acceptance of our trials—constantly remitting them into the loving hands of God—that the Prayer of Jesus can become true Prayer of the Heart.
~Adapted from the Very Rev. John Breck, Life in Christ, Orthodox Church in America (oca.org)
“Whenever we are filled with evil thoughts, we should throw the invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ into their midst. Then, as experience has taught us, we shall them instantly dispersed like smoke in the air. Once the intellect is left to itself again, we can renew our constant attentiveness and our invocation. Whenever we are distracted, we should act in this way.” ~Saint Hesychios the Priest, On Watchfulness and Holiness
~Taken from Philokalia: The Eastern Christian Spiritual Texts, translation by G.E.H. Palmer; Philip Sherrard and Bishop Kallistos Ware