The Jesus Prayer

Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐλέησόν με ἁμαρτωλόν

Domine Iesu Christe, Fili Dei, miserere mei, peccatoris

Го́споди Ісу́се Христѐ, Сы́не Бо́жїй, поми́луй мѧ грѣшнаго

Can these words change your life?

Prayer Rope 1It may seem a lot of effort over just the repetition of several 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 words—“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner” (a.k.a. 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—Lestovkaturned 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 Dr. 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 in it alone.

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