When we pray the Jesus Prayer, we stand empty-handed, having nothing to offer, and expecting everything from God… Everything we have to offer, everything we call “I” is so poor, so infinitesimally small in comparison to what we are receiving, that we hardly dare to offer it at all…
The fundamental aloneness of the human before the face of God is very difficult for many of us to accept. We often associate it with loneliness, with lack of love and rejection, even with death. We are disappointed and filled with anxiety when we realise that even in our closest human relationships, in our moments of deepest love, we can never really dissolve the boundaries that separate us from others… We are never still. We forget, or perhaps we have never learned, that although we can never break down the walls of our aloneness ourselves, God certainly can. Our aloneness—our separateness—is not a prison in which we must remain forever, but a door to communion with God, but also with the whole universe. For God brings with him every human being who has ever lived.
Praying the Jesus Prayer can become such a door for us. By praying it simply, standing alone and totally open and real before the face of Christ, we become aware of the great silence—the holy silence—at the heart of our being…
Irma Zaleski, Living the Jesus Prayer, Canterbury Press, 2011
I have been finding myself in some unusual places recently, just because of this aloneness before God. It’s hard, sometimes, to be fair to the people around, to relatives who phone at odd times, to dear friends who would understand, only I don’t somehow think to include them.
I have often thought that I understand very well the impulse of those called to contemplative sorts of prayer either to gather in enclosed communities, or to live as solitaries. Sometimes it’s difficult to live a so-called normal life, when part of one is “hidden with Christ in God” as Paul so wonderfully put it in Colossians 3.3, and one’s “social self” is missing several layers of skin.
The Jesus Prayer, of course, is not only the means for getting people like me in this kind of mess, but is also our refuge from the mess itself, and healing for the wounds it brings. After all, whether they look like it or not, they are the wounds of love, the love the prayer brings with it, for the whole of creation in its brokenness, its pain, its incompleteness. After all,
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death… For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8.1-2; 38-39