From Kathleen’s Perspective:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
This, the Jesus Prayer, is an essential part of interior prayer, which is the main focus of The Way of a Pilgrim. This story is about a pilgrim who is searching for the way to pray ceaselessly and he discovers the Philokalia, a collection of writings from the church fathers, and the way of interior prayer. At one point though the pilgrim – who never is actually named in the book of which the author is unknown – realizes that he has many sins that he has not yet tried to overcome repetition of (while he went to confession the confessor made note of that to help him). I think this is an important message, that even if we manage to do one thing well in our spiritual life (in the case of the pilgrim it’s prayer) we need to look at ourselves as a whole. It is like having a cold and only focusing on the cough, you may suppress it but you are still sick and, in this case the remedy was more scripture reading and repenting. The realization of your sins will help you further your relationship with God so when you pray it is that much more effective. “The prayer of one who does not consider himself a sinner is not accepted by the Lord.” -St. Isaac the Syrian
Prayer is so important in our lives, there are so many instances in the stories told by the pilgrim and others of when prayer helped someone and even saved their lives. And you can see the contrast of people who don’t pray to the ones that do; the people who don’t pray, in the book, are sometimes unpleasant, they lose hope and have a depressing view on life. One person says they can only really rely on vodka for strength and another was ready to die from despair until the pilgrim helped him discover the benefit of prayer. “Do not forsake prayer, for just as the body becomes weak when it is deprived of food, so also the soul when it is deprived of prayer draws nigh to weakness and noetic death.” -St. Gennadius of Constantinople
Constantly calling on the name of God is a major theme and we can see the positive effect it has on everyone! Prayer makes God present, it is our communication with Him, and it changes people. Those who use unceasing prayer, interior prayer, want to pray at all times and when they stop they feel like something is missing.
“Consistently pray in all things, so that you might not do anything without the help of God.” -St. Mark the Ascetic
From Michelle’s Perspective:
When I used to read the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing,” I used to think it was impossible. I could barely say a prayer longer then 10 minutes how can I be praying at all times, while I’m at school, watching TV, even in my sleep? Everyone has these questions even the Pilgrim himself in the beginning.
This past summer 2013, Sister Macrina gave me the book The Way of a Pilgrim from the Greek monastery in Lachute, QC. She was surprised that I have never read it before and told me it was a must for all Christians to read it. I’ve heard about the book before and how it’s about a Russian Pilgrim that goes on a journey and learns about the Jesus Prayer but I thought, “What’s so special about that? There are a lot of books on the Jesus Prayer.” Father Thomas Hopko answers this beautifully in his forward. He says, “It tells us that ceaseless prayer in pursuit of God and communion with Him is not simply life’s meaning or goal, the one thing worth living for, but it is life itself.”
Like the Pilgrim, we need to go on a journey and discover how to pray ceaselessly. It is possible. With guidance from our spiritual father of course, we should start saying the prayer using a prayer rope. This prayer will be written in our hearts and what we thought was impossible will be possible with God’s grace. We will also realize that “the Russian proverb which says that man proposes and God disposes is indeed true (p.55).” God works in mysterious ways, the things He does are really amazing! We see a few of these things in the Pilgrims life.
Nowadays yoga is popular for relaxation but the Orthodox Church was way ahead of the world with the Jesus Prayer. It can bring you from having suicidal thoughts to having complete peace in your heart. People say to count to ten when you’re angry I say to recite the Jesus Prayer. When we say the name of our Lord the demons flee! Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
For more on the Philokalia:
A Conversation on the Philokalia with Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4qtQ6AUrRE