Prayer of the Heart 

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Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. . . .  Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17… 3:5)

While St Paul prays that Christ Himself might comfort and direct our hearts, the Orthodox tradition built upon this idea to form the prayer of the heart – when Christ abides in our hearts, uniting Himself to us. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware comments:

The aim of the Jesus prayer, as of all Christian prayer, is that our praying should become increasingly identified with the prayer offered by Jesus the High Priest within us, that our life should become one with his life, our breathing with the Divine Breath that sustains the universe. The final objective may aptly be described by the Patristic term theosis, ‘deification’ or ‘divinization’. In the words of Archpriest Sergei Bulgakov, ‘The Name of Jesus, present in the human heart, confers upon it the power of deification. ‘The Logos became man,’ says St Athanasius, ‘that we might become God.’  . . .

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In the Hesychast tradition, the mystery of theosis has most often taken the outward form of a vision of light. This light which the saints behold in prayer is neither a symbolic light of the intellect, nor yet a physical uncreated light of the senses. It is nothing less than the divine and uncreated Light of the Godhead, which shown from Christ at his Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and which will illumine the whole world at his second coming on the last day. …

The Jesus prayer causes the brightness of the transfiguration to penetrate into every corner of our life. Constant repetition has two effects upon the anonymous author of The Way of a Pilgrim. First, it transforms his relationship with the material creation around him, making all things transparent, changing them into a sacrament of God’s presence. He writes:

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When I prayed with my heart, everything around me seemed delightful and marvelous. The trees, the grass, the birds, the earth, the air, the light seemed to be telling me that they existed for man’s sake, that they witnessed to the love of God for man, that everything proved the love of God for man, that all things prayed to God and sang his praise. Thus it was that I came to understand what The Philokalia calls ‘the knowledge of the speech of all creatures’ . . .   I felt a burning love for Jesus and for all God’s creatures.

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In the words of Father Bulgakov, ‘Shining through the heart, the light of the Name of Jesus illuminates all the universe.’  (THE POWER OF THE NAME, pp 25-26)

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