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Komboschoini (The Prayer Rope): Four Articles

The four articles below provide additional background on the Komboschoini (Prayer Rope) and its use with the “Jesus Prayer:”

Meditations of a Monk of the Holy Mountain Athos

Prayer of the Heart for the Faithful Living in the World, Saint Joseph of Vatopaídi

Science Studies the Jesus Prayer

Quotes from our Holy Fathers on the Jesus Prayer

Meditations of a Monk of the Holy Mountain Athos

Following is the complete text of the booklet Komboschini (The Prayer Rope): Meditations of a Monk of the Holy Mountain Athos, published with the blessing of Abbot Paisios, Saint Anthony’s Monastery, Florence, AZ.


A few years ago, with the blessings of the very reverend Father Joseph, Abbot of the Xiropotamos Monastery of the Holy Mountain Athos, we reprinted, in a booklet, the most didactic article about the prayer rope, which had been published in Agioritiki Martiria, a magazine issued by the Xiropotamos Monastery.

Due to the fact that the booklet proved very helpful and because of the pastoral needs of all the English speaking Orthodox brothers around the world, it was suggested that we should proceed and publish this booklet in English.

We have to thank the very reverend Father Joseph, Abbot of the Xeropotamos Monastery, for his offer and his love.

The prayer rope is not intended to be used only by monks, but it can also be used by laymen and, generally, by anyone who wants to pray to God. The prayer rope is not some kind of amulet with magic or exorcising powers, like those given to simple-minded people by magicians or mediums, worn on the wrist or round the neck. On the contrary, it is a purely Orthodox holy object used only for praying and nothing else. We use the prayer rope in order to pray secretly.

At this point we have to note something very important: there are many books that refer to the prayer. However, before we start following any rule or prayer, we must necessarily ask for the advice, the blessing and the spiritual guidance of our spiritual father; i.e. the Priest to whom we confess our sins. That is what the Holy Fathers have taught us for centuries, in order to avoid delusion and, thus, not to lose the right Orthodox path.

There are two ways we can pray using the prayer rope:

At any time of the day when we have free time, without being seen by anyone, secretly, we hold the prayer rope with our left or right hand and move from knot to knot with our thumb whispering simultaneously or meditating upon the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” and “Most Holy Theotokos save us.”

At the time of our regular prayer, when we pray following the rule of prayer that our spiritual father has told us to follow, we hold the prayer rope with our left hand between the thumb and the index finger and move from knot to knot. At each knot we simultaneously do two things:
  1. With our right hand we make the sign of the cross over ourselves, and

  2. We say the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.” When we finish with all the knots of the prayer rope, we continue following the same procedure, for as many times as our spiritual father has told us to.

We hope that all our brothers and sisters in Christ will be helped by this little book, which is the result of the experience of an anonymous Monk of the Holy Mountain Athos. We also hope that everyone will use the prayer rope in the way our Holy Fathers have taught us, even if one lives in a society and not in a monastery.

—Thessaloniki, Greece Archimandrite Joseph

The Komboschini (Prayer Rope)

Let us pause for a moment just to look at a little prayer rope, like this one made of black wool on Mountain Athos. It is a blessing from a holy place. Like so much that we have in the Church, it is a blessing prepared and given to us by a brother or father in Christ, a living witness to living tradition. It is black, the color of mourning and sorrow, and this reminds us to be sober and serious in our lives. We are taught that repentant prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer, can bring us what the Holy Fathers call joy-creating sorrow—in Greek Harmolipi.

We are sorry for our sins and our weakness and failings before God, our fellow men and ourselves; but in Christ, Who pours out His mercy and forgiveness on all who call upon His Name, this sorrow becomes a source of joy and comfort. This prayer rope is knotted from wool, that is, it has been sheared from a sheep, a reminder that we are rational sheep of the Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord, and also a reminder of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (cf: John 1:29). And the cross likewise speaks to us of the sacrifice and victory of life over death, of humility over pride, of self-sacrifice over selfishness, of light over darkness. And the tassel? Well, you can use it to wipe the tears away from your eyes, or, if you have no tears, to remind you to weep because you cannot weep.

Besides, from the Old Testament times, little tassels have been a decoration for sacred vestments, a reminder of the sacred tradition in which we participate when we use the prayer rope.

Prayer ropes are made in keeping with a tradition whose origin is lost in antiquity. Perhaps one of the earliest forms was simply gathering small pebbles or seeds and moving them from one spot or container to another as one said his prayer rule or did his rule of bows or prostrations. The story is told of a monk who decided to make knots in a rope, which he could use in carrying out his daily rule of prayer. But the devil kept untying the knots he made in the rope, frustrating the poor monk’s efforts. Then an angel appeared and taught the monk a special kind of knot that consists of ties of interlocked crosses, and these knots the devil was unable to unravel.

Prayer ropes come in a great variety of forms and sizes. Most prayer ropes have a cross woven into them or attached to mark the “end,” and also have some kind of marker after each 10, 25, or 50 knots or beads. There are many forms of prayer ropes, some knotted of wool or silk, or other more elegant or simpler materials. Others are made of beads or the dried flower of a plant called “Tears of the Mother of God.”

The prayer rope is one of the items given to an Orthodox Christian monk at the time of tonsure: it is given to him as his spiritual sword with which he, as a soldier of Christ, must make war against our spiritual enemy, the devil. This sword is wielded by calling on the name of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ in a plea for mercy on me a sinner. This prayer can be said in a shorter form, such as: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me;” or in a longer form, as: “By the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and all the Saints, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.”

Other short prayers: the prayer of the publican: “God be merciful to me a sinner” (cf: Luke 18:13), the prayer to the Mother of God: “Most Holy Theotokos save us,” or other short prayers to the Guardian Angel, to individual saints or to all the saints can also be offered with the assistance of the prayer rope. A common form of such a prayer is: “Holy Guardian Angel—or Saint (name)—pray to God for me.” By changing the words of these short prayers and saying: “have mercy on us,” or “pray for us,” or by including the name or names of persons we want to pray for, we can also use the prayer rope for intercessory prayers. This also applies to those already departed this life: “Give rest O Lord to the soul of Thy servant (name).”

When monks carry the prayer rope in their hands, it serves as a reminder of their obligation to pray unceasingly. In keeping with the commandment of the Holy Apostle Paul to “pray without ceasing.” Anyone can keep a prayer rope in a pocket or some other discreet place where it can be easily used unnoticed when in situations where it is better to pray or remember prayer in secret, without attracting the attention of others. The prayer rope can also be placed over the head of our bed, in an automobile, with a small cross or icon, or in other appropriate places as a reminder of prayer and a kind of blessing and a holy and godly presence in our lives.

A Rule of Prayer

But now, let us discuss briefly the primary use for which this prayer rope was made. The whole purpose of the prayer rope is to assist us in offering our prayers before God and His Saints. In addition to serving as an external reminder and a blessing present with us, how can this little rope help us to pray? We can pray without a prayer rope, of course, and there are times when using the prayer rope may become a distraction for us in our attempts to concentrate in prayer. With that in mind, let us consider some ways in which the prayer rope can be of assistance.

There are times when our prayer is fervent and it is easy for us to pray. There are times when our thoughts are so distracted that we find it virtually impossible to concentrate on prayer. This is especially true when we try to keep a rule of prayer each day. Some days it goes very well, but other times—if not most of the time?—our efforts seem almost to be in vain. But because we are “creatures of habit,” as the saying goes, it is very profitable for us to set apart a special and regular time (or times) during the day for prayer. The time in the evening before going to bed is a good time, as it is important to end the day with prayer. The morning, upon awakening from sleep, is also good, so as to begin the new day with prayer. Or a person may find other times during the day when he is able to be quiet and concentrate.

We are trying to establish a rule of prayer in our lives, not an exception, so we want to find a time when each day we can find some quiet in order to concentrate and turn the eyes of our soul towards God.

We may want to read some prayers form a prayer book as part of this rule, or offer prayers and find quiet for our souls in other ways, such as reading religious literature, reflecting over the events of the past day— Anaskopisis [1] —and so on. But one of the most effective ways to find benefit from a rule of prayer is to say a set number of the Jesus Prayer regularly each day. This does not have to be a large number, and it may take only fifteen minutes or so, but that will be the portion of our day that belongs to God, the little grains of salt that will add savor to our Christian life. This practice is now recommended by many physicians (click on link and see article below, “Science Studies the Jesus Prayer”) for the sake of a person’s physical health, especially in overcoming stress. Better still, find such little pocket of time at various points throughout the day and regularly fill them with the precious treasures of prayer, a treasure no one can steal from you, that is laid up for you in heaven (cf: Matthew 6:20).

In maintaining a consistent number of prayers as part of such a daily rule, a prayer rope can be quite helpful. With the prayer rope, you can offer a set number of prayers and concentrate on the words of the prayer as you offer them. After collecting your thoughts, take the cross on the prayer rope in your left hand, holding it lightly between the thumb and the index finger. Then, making the sign of the cross over yourself quietly, whisper the Jesus Prayer. As your thoughts become more concentrated, you may not need to continue crossing yourself or saying the prayer audibly. Other times, when concentration is difficult, use the sign of the cross and whispering as means to help keep your mind on prayer.

It is good to stand, with head bowed, in a humble position; some people like to raise their hands from time to time in their petitions for mercy. But others find it more helpful to sit or kneel, with head bowed, in order to concentrate. A lot depends on the individual and also on his health and upbringing. The important thing is to be able to keep still and concentrate on the words of the prayer as you repeat it.

Of course, a person has to fight off the temptation to “rush.” For this reason, some people use a clock instead of a prayer rope as an external measure for their prayer rule. By using a clock, a person can devote a set amount of time to prayer, although he may not keep track of the exact number of prayer he says. But, then again, clocks with electronic beeps are quite a recent development, and keeping a loudly ticking clock that jangles the nerves with a loud alarm bell seldom proves to be a great boon to prayer. So much for traditional use of digital alarm clocks!

The prayer rope is also a convenient way to keep track of the number of bows or prostrations a person makes during his prayer rule. Making the sign of the cross over oneself and then bowing from the waist and touching the ground with one’s fingertips, or bowing down on one’s knees and touching the forehead to the ground are very ancient ways of offering prayers to God and His Saints. One can combine these bows or prostrations with the Jesus Prayer or any of the short prayers we have mentioned above. The physical action of bowing or kneeling can contribute to the fervor of the prayer and give expression to our supplication, as we humble ourselves before God. This is one way in, which we can carry out the apostolic command to praise God both in our souls and in our bodies. [2] Many people use the prayer rope when they lie down to sleep. After signing their bed with the cross, they take their prayer rope, bless themselves with the sign of the cross as they lie in bed, and quietly pray with the prayer rope until they fall asleep.

And waking up with the prayer rope still in your fingers or next to you on the pillow helps begin the new day with prayer. But ending the previous day with quiet prayer is an even better way to prepare for a prayerful beginning of the new day, not to mention preparing for the Eternal Day should we fall asleep that night in death. And others take their prayer rope in hand during idle moments, such as while commuting or traveling. At any time of the day, whenever you remember to do so, you can take a little prayer rope in your fingers, and the association of that action with the prayer you offer at other times will help you concentrate and offer some prayers during the course of the day whenever you may be, whatever you may be doing. And this is an important step towards fulfilling the commandment to pray without ceasing.

The holy bishop Ignaty Brianchaninov mentions that the lengthy services held in the Orthodox Church are also a good opportunity for praying with the prayer rope. Often there are times when it is difficult to concentrate on the words being read or chanted, and it is easier to concentrate quietly on one’s own private prayers, be they extemporaneous prayers for some special need, repeating prayers or psalms that we know by heart, or repeating some short prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer, with the assistance of the prayer rope. In fact, this often helps a person concentrate better on the service itself, something mentioned by Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Of course, when we are praying at the services, our prayer is joined to that of the entire Church.

We are constantly occupied by all kinds of thoughts that appear in our heads, and it seems we no sooner start to pray than we catch ourselves thinking about something else. Here again, the physical presence of the prayer rope in our fingers can help us catch ourselves and return to our task of prayer more quickly. Or, meeting up with one of the markers or with the cross on the prayer rope as we move it through our fingers remind us that we have been robbed of the prayers we intended to offer. And immediately we can offer our prayers anew without getting further entangled in our thoughts about how easily we get distracted from prayer to God.

Here we have touched on the great science of prayer, what the holy fathers have named the “art of the arts.” There is a great and rich literature written by the great men of prayer from all ages that can help guide us in learning, with God’s help, this greatest and most beneficial of all sciences. Regular reading the Holy Gospel, the lives of the saints and other devotional and spiritual literature can be of great assistance. Such works as the Philokalia contain important and inspiring instruction and direction in learning to pray as a Christian, which is an essential aspect of being a Christian. Above all, however, one needs the grace of God in the Church, especially in communing the Holy Mysteries.

These are just a few introductory thoughts on how we can make good uses of a prayer rope. But the important thing is to start to pray. The prayer rope does not pray by itself, although some of them are so magnificent they may give that impression. Here is an important, traditional aid in offering prayers, and especially for a daily rule of prayer. But the important thing is to concentrate on words of the prayer, to offer heart-felt prayers to Jesus Christ, our Lord and God.

If this little prayer rope helps you to say a prayer or reminds you to pray or helps you in some way to become more prayerful, it will have fulfilled its purpose, it will have tied you more closely and more intimately with Christ our God, and also brought you closer to the Kingdom of God, for “the Kingdom of God is within you” (cf: Luke 17:21).


We have to note, once more, that regarding any prayer rule about praying with the prayer rope or any other rule (fasting, etc.), the first and the last word has to be said by our spiritual father, in order to avoid delusion, as the Holy Fathers have taught us.


[1] Anaskopisis: in the Fatherly sense of examination, of checking up on ourselves, in order to feel remorse for our sins and become better but also recognize the beneficence of God.

[2] I Corinth. 6:20: you must praise God with your bodies and your souls, which belong to God.

Prayer of the Heart for the Faithful Living in the World
by Saint +Joseph of Vatopaidi, Spiritual Son of Elder Joseph the Hesychast

The question is always being asked, “Is it possible for those living in the world to occupy themselves with noetic [1] prayer?” To those who ask we answer quite affirmatively, “Yes.” In order to make this exhortation of ours comprehensible to those interested, but at the same time to make aware those who are unaware, we will briefly explain this, so that no one will be placed in a quandary by the various interpretations and definitions of noetic prayer that exist.

Generally speaking, prayer is the sole obligatory and indispensable occupation and virtue for all rational beings, both sentient and thinking, human and angelic. For this reason we are enjoined to the unceasing practice of the prayer [2].

Prayer is not divided dogmatically into types and methods but, according to our Fathers, every type and method of prayer is beneficial, as long as it is not of diabolic delusion and influence. The goal of this all-virtuous work is to turn and keep the mind of man on God. For this purpose our Fathers devised easier methods and simplified the prayer, so that the mind might more easily and more firmly turn to and remain in God. With the rest of the virtues other parts of man’s body come into play and senses intervene, whereas in blessed prayer the mind alone is fully active; thus much effort is needed to incite the mind and to bridle it, in order that the prayer may become fruitful and acceptable. Our most holy Fathers, who loved God in the fullest, had as their chief study uniting with God and remaining continuously in Him; thus they turned all of their efforts to prayer as the most efficient means to this end.

There are other forms of prayer which are known and common to almost all Christians which we will not speak about now; rather we will limit ourselves to that which is called “noetic prayer,” which we are always being asked about. It is a subject that engages the multitude of the faithful since next to nothing is known regarding it, and it is often misconstrued and described rather fantastically. The precise way of putting it into practice as well as the results of this deifying virtue, which leads from purification to sanctification, we will leave for the Fathers to tell. We paupers will only mention those things which are sufficient to clarify the matter and to convince our brethren living in the world that they need to occupy themselves with the prayer.

The Fathers call it noetic because it is done with the mind, the “nous,” but they also call it “sober watchfulness” [3] which means nearly the same thing. Our Fathers describe the mind as a free and inquiring being which does not tolerate confinement and is not persuaded by that which it can’t conceive on its own. Primarily for this reason they selected just a few words in a single, simple prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me,” so that the mind would not require a great effort in order to hold on to a long, protracted prayer. Secondly, they turned the mind within, to the center of our reason, where it resides motionless with the meaning of the divine invocation of the most sweet Name of our Lord Jesus, in order to experience as soon as possible the divine consolation. It is impossible, according to the Fathers, for our all-good Master, being thus called upon continuously, not to hear us, He Who desires so much the salvation of men.

Just as a natural virtue that is aspired to can only be achieved by the conducive means, so also this holy work requires some nearly indispensable rudiments: a degree of quiet; freedom from cares; avoidance of learning about and spreading the “news” of things going on, the “giving and taking” as the Fathers put it; self discipline in all things; and an overall silence which stems from these things. Moreover, I don’t think this persistence and habit will be unattainable for devout people who take an interest in this holy activity. The good habit of a regular prayer time, morning and evening, always about the same time, would be a good beginning.

With surety we have emphasized perseverance as the most indispensable element in prayer. Rightly it is stressed by Saint Paul, “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (cf: Colossians 4:2). In contrast to the rest of the virtues, prayer requires effort throughout our entire lifetime, and for this reason I repeat to those who are making the attempt not to feel encumbered, nor to consider the need for endurance as a failure in this sober-minded work.

In the beginning it is necessary to say the prayer in a whisper, or even louder when confronted by duress and inner resistance. When this good habit is achieved to the point that the prayer may be sustained and said with ease, then we can turn inwardly with complete outer silence. In the first part of the little book, Way of the Pilgrim, a good example is given of the initiation into the prayer. Sound persistence and effort, always with the same words of the prayer not being frequently altered, will give birth to a good habit. This will bring control of the mind, at which time the presence of Grace will be manifested.

Just as every virtue has a corresponding result, so also prayer has as a result the purification of the mind and enlightenment. It arrives at the highest and perfect good, union with God; that is to say, actual divinization (theosis). However, the Fathers also have this to say: that it lies with man to seek and strive to enter the way which leads to the city; and if by chance he doesn’t arrive at the endpoint, not having kept pace for whatever reason, God will number him with those who finished. To make myself more clear, especially on the subject of prayer, I will explain how all of us Christians must strive in prayer, particularly in that which is called monological [5] or noetic prayer. If one arrives at such prayer he will find much profit.

By the presence of the Jesus Prayer man is not given over to temptation which he is expecting, because its presence is sober watchfulness and its essence is prayer; therefore “the one who watches and prays does not enter into temptation” (cf: Matthew 26:41). Further, he is not given over to darkness of mind so as to become irrational and err in his judgments and decisions. He does not fall into indolence and negligence, which are the basis of many evils. Moreover, he is not overcome by passions and indulgences where he is weak, and particularly when the causes of sin are near at hand. On the contrary his zeal and devotion increase. He becomes eager for good works. He becomes meek and forgiving. He grows from day to day in his faith and love for Christ and this inflames him towards all the virtues. We have many examples in our own day of people, and particularly of young people, who with the good habit of doing the prayer have been saved from frightful dangers, from falls into great evils, or from symptoms leading toward spiritual death.

Consequently, the prayer is a duty for each one of the faithful, of every age, nationality, and status; without regard to place, time or manner. With the prayer divine Grace becomes active and provides solutions to problems and trials which trouble the faithful, so that, according to the Scriptures, “Everyone that calls on the Lord shall be saved” (cf: Acts 2:21).

There is no danger of delusion, as is bandied about by a few unknowledgeable people, as long as the prayer is said in a simple and humble manner. It is of the utmost importance that when the prayer is being said no image at all be portrayed in the mind; neither of our Lord Christ in any form whatever, nor of the Lady Theotokos, nor of any other person or depiction. By means of the image the mind is scattered. Likewise, by means of images the entrance for thoughts and delusions is created. The mind should remain in the meaning of the words, and with much humility the person should await divine mercy. The chance imaginations, lights, or movements, as well as noises and disturbances are unacceptable as diabolic machinations towards obstruction and deception. The manner in which Grace is manifested to initiates is by spiritual joy, by quiet and joy-producing tears, or by a peaceful and awe-inspiring fear due to the remembrance of sins, thus leading to an increase of mourning and lamentation.

Gradually Grace becomes the sense of the love of Christ, at which time the roving about of the mind ceases completely and the heart becomes so warmed in the love of Christ that it thinks it can bear no more. Still at other times one thinks and desires to remain forever exactly as one finds oneself, not seeking to see or hear anything else. All of these things, as well as various other forms of aid and comfort, are found in the initial stages by as many as try to say and maintain the prayer, in as much as it depends on them and is possible. Up to this stage, which is so simple, I think that every soul that is baptized and lives in an Orthodox manner should be able to put this into practice and to stand in this spiritual delight and joy, having at the same time the divine protection and help in all its actions and activities.

I repeat once again my exhortation to all who love God and their salvation not to put off trying this good labor and practice for the sake of the Grace and mercy which it holds out to as many as will strive a bit at this work. I say this to them for courage, that they don’t hesitate or become fainthearted due to the bit of resistance or weariness which they will encounter. Contemporary elders that we have known had many disciples living in the world, men and women, married and single, who not only arrived at the beginning state but rose to higher levels through the Grace and compassion of our Christ. “It is a trifle in the eyes of the Lord to make a poor man rich” (Sirach 11:23). I think that in today’s chaos of such turmoil, denial and unbelief there exists no simpler and easier spiritual practice that is feasible for almost all people, with such a multitude of benefit and opportunity for success, than this small prayer.

Whenever one is seated, moving about, or working, and if need be even in bed, and generally wherever and however one finds oneself, one can say this little prayer which contains within itself faith, confession, invocation and hope. With such little labor and insignificant effort the universal command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is fulfilled to perfection. To whatever word of our Fathers one might turn, or even in their wonderful lives, he will encounter hardly any other virtue given so much praise or applied with such zeal and persistence, so that it alone constitutes the most powerful means of our success in Christ. It is not our intention to sing the praises of this queen of virtues, or to describe it, because whatever we might say would instead rather diminish it. Our aim is to exhort and encourage every believer in the working of the prayer. Afterwards, each person will learn from his own experience what we have said so poorly.

Press forward you who are doubtful, you who are despondent, you who are distressed, you who are in ignorance, you of little faith, and you who are suffering trials of various kinds; forward to consolation and to the solution to your problems. Our sweet Jesus Christ, our Life, has proclaimed to us that “without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). Thus behold that, calling upon Him continuously, we are never alone; and consequently “we can and will do all things through Him” (cf: Philippians. 4:13). Behold the correct meaning and application of the significant saying of the Scripture, “Call upon Me in your day of trouble and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 49 (50):15). Let us call upon His all-holy Name not only “in the day of trouble” but continuously; so that our minds may be enlightened, that we might not enter into temptation. If anyone desires to step even higher where all-holy Grace will draw him, he will pass through this beginning point, and will be “spoken to” [5] regarding Him, when he arrives there.

As an epilogue to that which has been written we repeat our exhortation, or rather our encouragement, to all the faithful that it is possible and it is vital that they occupy themselves with the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” the so-called “noetic prayer,” with a sure faith that they will benefit greatly regardless of what level they may reach. The remembrance of death and a humble attitude, together with the other helpful things that we have mentioned, guarantee success through the grace of Christ, the invocation of Whom will be the aim of this virtuous occupation. Amen.


As several of the Greek words used in this text do not have direct English equivalents, the following small glossary may help the reader understand with more preciseness the meaning of text.

[1] Noetic: of the “nous,” the intellect. The intellect in this case is not simply the reasoning faculty of man, but the faculty of the heart that is able to comprehend natural and spiritual realities through direct experience. It is the faculty by which one may know God through prayer. Thus noetic prayer is also often called the “prayer of the heart.

[2] “The prayer”: When used with the article “the,” as opposed to a general type of prayer, it refers to the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” The Jesus Prayer is rooted in the early monastic tradition of the Church, with the words having been drawn from the New Testament.

[3] Sober watchfulness (in Greek, nípsis): Often translated as both “sobriety” and “watchfulness” it in fact incorporates both. It is a non-morbid seriousness in which the “nous,” the intellect, maintains an alertness and awareness of its immediate state.

[4] Monological: In this instance it refers to the fact that when the prayer is being said by the person, on the humanly observable level it appears as if only the one praying is speaking; doing a monologue, that is. The activity of God usually remains imperceptible, especially for those in the beginning stages.

[5] “Spoken to”: Refers to the numerous biblical instances of God speaking to the hearts and minds of His righteous ones, communicating Himself directly to those who were pure of heart and seeking Him through prayer.

Science Studies the Jesus Prayer
Can seven words—Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me—change lives?

It may seem a lot of effort over just seven words: Finding 110 Eastern Orthodox Christians, giving them a battery of tests ranging from psychology to theology to behavioral medicine, and then repeating the tests 30 days later. But the seven words – “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” (the Jesus Prayer) – are among the most enduring in history. What Boston University psychologist George Stavros, Ph.D., wanted to find out was whether repeating the Jesus Prayer for ten minutes each day over the 30 days would affect these people’s relationship with God, their relationships with others, their faith maturity, and their “self-cohesion” (levels of depression, anxiety, hostility, and interpersonal sensitivity). In short, Stavros was asking whether the Jesus Prayer can play a special role in a person’s “journey to the heart.”

The answer—at least on all the scales that showed any significant effect compared to the control group—turned out to be a resounding yes. Repeating the contemplative prayer deepened the commitment of these Christians to a relationship with a transcendent reality. Not only that, it reduced depression, anxiety, hostility, and feelings of inferiority to others. So powerful were the psychological effects of the prayer that Stavros urges his colleagues to keep it in mind as a healing intervention for clients. He recommends that the prayer be used along with communal practices so that one’s relationship with God and others is “subtly and continuously tutored.” In other words, going inside to find God does not mean going it alone.

Source: http://agapienxristou.blogspot.ca/2013/08/can-seven-wordslord-jesus-christ-have.html

Quotes from the Holy Fathers on the Jesus Prayer

In the First Epistle to the Thessalonians the Apostle Paul says: “Pray without ceasing.”

Saint John Chrysostom in his speech about sobriety and prayer, says the following: “Brothers, be always occupied with the intellectual prayer and do not move far away from God until you receive God’s mercy and pity. Never ask for anything but for His infinite mercy and this is enough for your salvation. When asking for His mercy, cry aloud in entreaty with humble and contrite heart form morning to night and, if possible, during the whole night, saying unceasingly: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.”

Saint John Climacus says the following: “Win the enemies in jour mind with the name of God. You will not find any other weapon more effective than this! Similarly you will manage both to appease your passions inside yourself and to efface them with the aid of the prayer.”

Saint Seraphim of Sarov says: “When mind and heart are united in prayer and the soul is wholly concentrated in a single desire for God, then the heart grows warm and the light of Christ begins to shine and fills the inward man with peace and joy. We should thank the Lord for everything and give ourselves up to His will; we should also offer Him all our thoughts and words, and strive to make everything serve only His good pleasure.”

Saint Isichios writes about the prayer: “Through the constant remembrance and invocation to Jesus Christ, a holy condition is created in our mind. This happens, if we appeal to Jesus Christ with fervor, crying aloud towards Him in entreaty day and night, so that repetition leads to habit and habit becomes second nature!.”

Saint Hieromartyr Cosmas Aitolós (+1779) says: “I advise you to make a Komboschoíni, all of you, young and old, and hold it in your left hand and cross yourselves with your right hand and say: ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.’ ... I advise all Christians to make Crosses and Komboschoínia and I pray to God to bless them, so they can keep them as a protection.”

Excerpt from the Epilogue of A Night in the Desert of the Holy Mountain, by Archimandrite [now Metropolitan of Nafpaktos] Hierotheos (Vlachos): “It is necessary that we live in Christ, the Word of God and become Christ and the Word of God in grace. This is achieved when we live in Church and participate in its holy mysteries. For, “Church is manifested in the holy mysteries, not as in symbols, but like the members of the body in the heart and like the branches of the plant in the root and, as the Lord said, like the vine branches in the vineyard” (Kavasilas). This is achieved with the invocation of the name of Jesus and the reciting of the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” especially as the Jesus prayer is very closely connected with the Holy Communion. All the theology of our holy Orthodox Church is hidden in this small prayer. That is why we would always meditate on the most sweet and joy-bringing name of Jesus. The Jesus prayer is not only for monks. Certainly, they have the possibility to live continually with it. However, we, also, who are sinners can say it. Let us set aside a certain time for this purpose and begin by saying the prayer for ten minutes in the morning and ten at night, as undistractedly as possible. It is very important that we fix even a short time which we should not break. In the course of time this certain hour will become longer and will sweeten the soul, the lips... Let us say it even when we walk in the street and before falling asleep. Whenever we have spare time. Let man and wife or all the family say it in the morning and in the evening for a few minutes. One of them should recite it calmly and peacefully and the rest of them listen to it. Much grace will come then to the family. There are many couples and families that practised it and saw miracles in their lives... Those who want to go deeper in prayer need an experienced director. At the same time we should coordinate our life with the commandments of Christ. For the person of Christ is connected with His work and His teaching. By keeping the commandments we also receive grace, the entire Holy Trinity. According to Saint Maximos, ‘he who has received and kept a commandment, has, mystically, the Holy Trinity’.”

In all things: Glory to God