The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer
Author: Frederica Mathewes-Green
ISBN: 978-0-232-52784-1
Date: 2009
Price: ?12.95 RRP
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Publisher: Darton, Longman, & Todd

?In the process, you hone your ability to discern God?s presence.? This is how the author introduces us to her practice of the Jesus Prayer in the Orthodox tradition. This is a book from a practitioner, from someone who quite rightly is wary of the contemporary trend to see spirituality as something separate and separable from a lived faith.

She opens up the scriptural and historical bases for this prayer, and explores the ways in which it is presented today. While humbly asserting that she is no expert, she enables the reader to share her own experience and knowledge so as to make it their own. Her style is as gentle and engaging as is the Prayer itself. In that way the Prayer becomes possible, because it is not a process or technique to be learnt slavishly, but emerges in the individual discerning God?s mercy, love, compassion, God?s presence. That requires work, attention, repentance, self-discipline.

Over half the book is devoted to ?Getting Started? in the form of questions and answers. The questions are brief, the answers detailed, practical and demanding. They respond to what you can imagine must be an individual?s journey into this practice of prayer. They reflect how we along the way meet problems and challenges, progress and failure in any human endeavour which is worthwhile. There are useful passages too which situate the Jesus Prayer absolutely within the Christian frame, and ensure that it is not in some syncretistic way seen as a parallel to secular and other forms of meditation techniques. The author blends, in an easy balance, personal experience, stories from the ancients, and more contemporary examples to illustrate what is needed to engage with this Prayer. A useful bibliography is also provided.

This book functions well both as an introduction to the Jesus Prayer for the enquiring mind and for someone who wants to develop the practice for themselves. Some may find the personal style helpful, others may see it as too anecdotal in the context. That may be the inevitable consequence of the author?s humble approach which will be engaging for many.

There is a wealth of material within the pages for any reader for their spiritual reflection in general. That makes it worthwhile for the bookshelf of any pastor or spiritual director to offer to someone to dip into and see what the individual can gain.

Kevin McGinnell, Holy Ghost, Luton