I pray that your struggle with the Jesus Prayer is proving spiritually fruitful. Of course, it is not easy to pray unceasingly, it requires patience, perseverance, consistency and faith.
While trying to repeat the prayer you may have questioned, ‘why so much focus on the name of Jesus?’
In the Scriptures we see that, the power and glory of God are present in his Name. In the Old Testament to deliberately and attentively invoke God’s Name was to place oneself in his Presence. Jesus, whose name in Hebrew means God saves, is the final Name of God. The name first spoken by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary at the Annunciation was Jesus. ‘You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins’ (Luke 1:31).
Jesus is ‘the Name which is above all other names’ and it is written that ‘all beings should bend the knee at the Name of Jesus’ (Phil. 2:9-10). In His Name devils are cast out (Luke 10:17), prayers are answered (John 14:13 14) and the lame are healed (Acts 3:6-7). In the book of Acts we are told, ‘There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). The saints of the Church also witness to the power and importance of the name, Jesus. Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov says, ‘By the power of the name of Jesus the mind is freed from doubt, indecision and hesitation, the will is strengthened and correctness is given to zeal and other properties of the soul.’
He is saying that as we call upon the name of Jesus and engage in this prayer the mind is freed from its confusion caused by the attack of numerous thoughts that distract us from God. As the mind is tamed through our repeated repetition of this prayer, the mind is brought under control through God’s grace so that we can use our rational faculties to direct our bodies in an appropriate way allowing us to act in a manner that is consistent with the teaching of Jesus.
In addition, the name of Jesus neutralises the power of the demons and protects us from their evil machinations. Elder Zacharias used to say that at the hut of the Transfiguration in New Skete, Mt Athos, the fathers would say the Jesus Prayer out loud. Once, the demons had gathered, enraged, and one of them shouted: ‘They are saying the Jesus Prayer out loud. The prayer has no power!’ One of the senior demons then said: ‘The Jesus Prayer has power, whether they say it aloud or in their hearts, and there is nothing we can do about it.’
As we can see the Name of Jesus is unbridled spiritual power. For this reason the Jesus Prayer is centred on the name of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. By repeating the prayer continuously, we are calling upon the power which comes from proclaiming the Lord’s name. In fact, the name of God, invoked in prayer, already contains the presence of God.
Armed with the sanctifying power, inherent in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us enthusiastically continue our struggle to pray the Jesus Prayer for the remainder of the Christmas Fast, in full knowledge, that, when we call out His name we are in His presence, and our ‘Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward’ each of us according to our effort.