3 Stages of Jesus Prayer

Hello everyone,

Could someone please help me understand the meaning and purpose of the 3 stages of the Jesus Prayer.

Thank you!

I’m not an expert, I’m just learning. But here’s what I understand so far

First stage is something like memorization. When you say the words over and over that you are familiar with the words.

Second is praying in our minds. When the words become part of our consciousness and we start saying the words as if they are our own. We also start to live the prayer through conscious thought.

Third is prayer from the heart. When we become the prayer itself, in thought, action, everything.

Constantine gave you a pretty good summary. I’ll add this:

Prayer of the lips is where we are merely aware of the words themselves. We are just reciting the words, saying them over and over.

Prayer of the mind is where we begin to become aware of the meaning of the words (St. Thomas Aquinas says that we know the sense of the words at this part), and begin to contemplate that meaning.

Prayer of the heart is where we have reached such a point of union with God that words are inadequate, and we have simply become the prayer.

St. Thomas actually writes about this (I am unaware if this part of the Summa was influenced by Byzantine spiritual theology, but it would be interesting to find out).


From my understanding in using the Jesus Prayer…the first step is saying the prayer out loud…becoming familiar with it…the second step is being able to pray “in the mind”…where the words are not spoken…but the mind is filled with the prayer…the third stage is “becoming the prayer” in one’s spirit…to “pray without ceasing”…to live in such a way that the “prayer’ is now part of who you are…it’s a constant 'internal spiritual dialog”…

Thomas Kelly in his book “Testament of Devotion” hits on a similar Quaker practice of “living in the Presence”…“Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the sould…a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice to which we may continually return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home to Itlsef… Yielding to these persuasions, gladly commiting ouselves in body and sould, utterly and completely, to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life.”

Christ is among us!
Hello to you!

There has of course been much written on the Jesus Prayer. :slight_smile: If you have an interest in the use of the prayer Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of blessed memory has some wonderful writing about it. Khouria Frederica Mathewes-Green published a book a year ago on the Jesus Prayer, which I haven’t read, but she does have a lecture on it on Ancient Faith Radio. Metropolitan KALLISTOS Ware speaks at some length about it here beginning around minute 18:00.

Dear Friends,

Ultimately, we should be under the direction of an Elder or Father to whom we could report our experiences in the life of praying the Prayer of Jesus. This is THE most important thing for those of us who want to embark on an intense prayer life in His Name.

We should begin by asking our Elder/Father for a blessing before even undertaking this. Let him assign to us how many times we are to say it daily, when we are to come back to speak with him about our progress etc.

We should also ask for his blessing if we wish to wear the prayer rope around our wrist.

This way we can be protected against the sin of pride which is the first thing the devil attacks us with when we undertake the Jesus Prayer.

Yes, this is spiritual warfare of the highest order.

Only our spiritual Father/Elder can adequately assess our progress in this. We may never tell ourselves that we are “coming along nicely” or worse, that the “Spirit is really acting in our lives.”

That leads to spiritual pride and we need to focus on spiritual reading of the Bible and the Fathers together with the guidance from a spiritual Elder (it could be whoever is available) in all humility of spirit.


Beautiful. I will follow your advise :thumbsup:


Subdeacon told me he’ll refer me to a monk. :eek:
Wouldn’t a priest suffice?

He may know a monk who would be better fit for such a journey.

Yes, I’m just afraid that I may not be up to task.

Most parish priests have no idea as how to guide someone along a life of prayer and asceticism. You’d be much better off with a monk. At least they are trying to live the ascetically life, a life not required (and unfortunately not always appreciated by) the secular clergy.

There are some remarkable books on spirituality by Quakers – “Prayer” and “Discipline” by Richard J. Foster have wonderful insights into those subjects and I find little at variance with our Catholic tradition.

Regarding other postings about The Jesus Prayer (which has been part of my spiritual life for years), I disagree with any necessity for spiritual direction or guidance in using this method. We are basically calling on the Name of Jesus, acknowledging Him as Son of God and asking for mercy for our sinfulness – how complicated can that be?

The prayer becomes you and you become the prayer as you live your daily life – I see no need for a third party’s assistance or intervention in this practice at all. Just my opinion.

Well, as far as using the Jesus Prayer as a daily, simple devotion, you are right. If someone really wants to LIVE the Jesus Prayer, it is important to make sure one regular attends Church and the sacraments, reads the bible and the spiritual Fathers of the Philokalia especially, and tries to find a spiritual Father or guide.

This is simply good sense. The Fathers warn against certain wiles of the evil one in this regard and this is also outlined in the Way of the Pilgrim. When the Pilgrim began trying to say the Jesus Prayer, he became heavy with depression and tried to give it up altogether. When he went to his Elder with this, the Elder, quite seriously, told him that the powers of evil had declared war on him to try and get him to stop praying. That makes perfect sense.

If I were in the devil’s shoes, I certainly wouldn’t want people getting all excited about the invocation of the Most Holy Name of … you know who! :wink:

I wouldn’t want people taking extra efforts at spiritual reading and meditation, or anything of the sort and so on.

St Teresa of Avila also talks about the way in which the evil one liked to lead her nuns astray, especially in prayer.

Prayer is a dangerous thing, let’s be honest. It can move mountains, when it’s done right. And it is a declaration of war against the evil one. So we need the guidance of an elder or spiritually experienced person, if we can find such.

I was once myself asked by a priest if I would consider becoming his “spiritual guide.” Rather than being flattered, I became very afraid and flatly said, “No.” A fine guide I would have made for a priest! That encounter made me realize how spiritually weak I really am. So did the priest and this is why he sought out a guide (he started at the bottom of the barrel).

We do need such guides and I am blessed to have one. Better than not having one.

There are pitfalls to this spirituality. Let’s follow the advice of the Fathers!



I agree. Christianity has always relied heavily on discipleship. There is always a master and a disciple (like the Jedi or Sith for you geeks like myself :D). This I think where Protestants fail when they try to take the Spiritual Father away and rely on each one trying to understand and interpret the Bible. Jesus had disciples, and the Apostles had disciples, and their disciples eventually had disciples of their own, and so on. True learning always comes from someone who has not only stuided the faith but lived it as well.

I have never before come across such a lucid and brilliant explanation of this matter - congratulations on a truly insightful statement!


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