Words of Life

Why do we use prayer ropes to pray the Jesus Prayer? February 25, 2019 13:20

"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." - St. Seraphim of Sarov

It is very important to use a prayer rope when we pray the Jesus prayer, because it helps our minds concentrate by using our sense of touch, our most sensitive sensory perception.

Even if 90% of the information transmitted to the human brain is visual, the tactile stimuli have the property to create a deeper impression on us. Try to say the Jesus prayer with the prayer rope and then without it. You will see that the mind is more focused when using the prayer rope.

Thanks to its easily divisible number of knots (33, 100, 300 etc.), the prayer rope helps us to be constant, overcoming our fallen nature which usually falls victim to daily influences. Besides that, every 25th knot of the rope is of a different colour and/or material, which is yet another help in accomplishing a certain number of prayers daily, by allowing us to stop and (re)start our prayer easily.

That’s why the prayer rope helps us a lot in our spiritual life. Of course, we can use other means to pray, but prayer ropes are the traditional and most recommended tools for this.

In this photo, a monk is making a prayer rope in a quiet place between the Cell of St. Joseph of Timisoara and Vatopaidi.

The prayer rope is not some kind of amulet with magic or exorcising powers. On the contrary, it is a purely Orthodox holy object used only for praying and nothing else.

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

1. 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" or "Most Holy Theotokos save us".

2. 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: i) with our right hand we make the sign of the cross over ourselves and ii) 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 advised.

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". They most often are made of black wool or silky lace (soutache). The black colour symbolises repentance.

Sources: Ascetic Experience and OrthodoxPrayer.org

10 Points on Prayer of the Heart for the Faithful Living in the World February 25, 2019 11:38

"Take the prayer rope and use it while you repeat the prayer - whether you are standing, sitting, walking, or lying down, continue to repeat: 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!'; do not be loud or rush the prayer, but without fail repeat it during each day." - from The Way of a Pilgrim

The Jesus Prayer (also called the Prayer of the Heart, the Noetic Prayer, the Prayer of the Mind in the Heart, or simply The Prayer) is a short, simple prayer that has been widely used, taught and discussed throughout the history of Eastern Christianity. The exact words of the prayer have varied, from a simple form such as “Lord, have mercy on me” to the extended form “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”

10 Guidelines for praying the Jesus Prayer:

1. Commit to daily Prayer

2. Select a quiet place for your prayer

3. Prepare to enter into a conversation with your God

4. Sit or stand quietly and let go of all thoughts of your daily life.

5. Repeat the prayer slowly over and over for at least 15 minutes working up to 30 minutes.

6. Concentrate on the prayer with vigor. When you find your mind wanders immediately bring your attention back to the words of the prayer.

7. Use of a prayer rope can help you concentrate.

8. When finished with your payer sit quietly for a few minutes before going onto other activities.

9. Participate regularly in the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion, fasting on Wednesday and Friday, and also participate in Holy Confession at least two times each year.

10. Seek guidance from your spiritual father on the above.

Source: Jesus Prayer Trifold Brochure, Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral 406 N Academy, Greenville, SC.

The true aim of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done because of Christ, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit… Of course, every good deed done because of Christ gives us the grace of the Holy Spirit, but prayer gives us it to us most of all, for it is always at hand, so to speak, as an instrument for acquiring the grace of the Spirit. For instance, you would like to go to church, but there is no church or the service is over; you would like to give alms to a beggar, but there isn’t one, or you have nothing to give… you would like to do some other good deed in Christ’s name, but either you have not the strength or the opportunity is lacking. This certainly does not apply to prayer. Prayer is always possible for everyone, rich and poor, noble and humble, strong and weak, healthy and sick, righteous and sinful. - St. Seraphim of Sarov
Source: Valentine Zander, St. Seraphim of Sarov

Saint Paisios the Athonite said:

We should constantly and unceasingly repeat the Jesus prayer. Only the name of Christ must remain inside our heart and mind; when we neglect our prayer, that is our communication with God, the devil finds the chance to confuse us with negative thoughts. Thus, we end up not knowing what we want, do, or say.

The soul must be constantly ready and alert and always in contact with the spiritual headquarters, that is, God. Only then, it will feel secure, full of hope and joy.

When I was in the army, during the war, I was a radio operator. I noticed that we felt secure only when we communicated with the Army Division on an hourly basis. When our communication was limited to every two hours, we felt a little bit insecure; sometimes, when we could only be in touch with them twice a day, we felt uncomfortable, lonely and lost. The same thing applies to our prayer. The more we pray, the more secure we feel, on a spiritual basis, of course.

When someone is involved in manual labor, it helps him a lot to say the Jesus prayer and at the same time perform his task.

When someone is doing work that needs concentration, i.e. he is driving a car, or he is operating on a patient, he should also say the Jesus prayer so God can help him and enlighten him; however, he should pray with his heart, and use his mind to concentrate on his work and thus avoid doing any mistakes.

The more the mind concentrates on praying, and is being humbled, the more it is enlightened by the grace of God. However, the more it gets dispersed and confused due to its haughtiness, the more it becomes troubled; therefore our mind, which is clean by nature, fills up with dirty thoughts.

The Jesus prayer must gratefully and generously spring out of our soul, while, at the same time, we think of all the good things God has done for us.

We should always say the Jesus prayer wherever we are; not just in the morning or at night. When we walk, we should not waste our free time, but instead take advantage of it and repeat the prayer. When we are working in a busy place and it is difficult for us to concentrate on praying, we can quietly chant without disturbing others.

If someone prays correctly, God listens to him, as long as what he is asking in his prayer is for the benefit of the person he prays for.

The prayer of those who pray for the world benefits the faithful Christians who have specific and serious problems, because both the former and the latter “are turned in the same frequency.

“When I wish to rest, I pray. I realised that the only effective way to get some rest is through praying. Therefore, pray and study.”

When you are about to begin your prayer, first read a section from the Holy Bible or a story from the Gerontikon, to get your mind together and your heart warmed up. Then start praying.

Through your prayer, you can sanctify yourself as well as your work. When there are new people at your place of work, first teach them how to become spiritually revived, and then show them the practical side of the work. I will give you an example to indicate that this is both for your own benefit as well as for the benefit of your fellow workers.

Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998) “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain”

Source: OrthodoxPrayer.org
Original source: Pigizois



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