I am new to the Catholic Church, but was previously an increasingly high Anglican, so it was not a massive shock to make the change over.
A big part of my spirituality in the past has been the praying of the Jesus Prayer:
“O Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.”
In the Eastern Orthodox church, this prayer is prayed repeatedly, with the mind focussed on the heart (physically, the organ of the heart, not just the ‘heart’ as in the emotional bit of the brain) and breathing, until it becomes the natural rythm of one’s own heart beat. The individuals (lay and religious) who aspire to this kind of interior prayer are known as hesychasts. I am nowhere near to perfecting this form of interior prayer, but I used to recite the Jesus Prayer around 300 times each day, and would also recite it while jogging so that i could focus more clearly on my heartbeat. I briefly looked into Orthodoxy before deciding to become Catholic.
In many of the Orthodox works on hesychasm, namely:
The Triads of Gregory Palamas
The Way of a Pilgrim (anonymous)
it seems that the Roman Catholics raise objections to this kind of prayer, and to the theology of a mystical union with God in the affections of the heart that it is intended to make the hesychast open to.
I realise that, without adequate direction, praying this way can be dangerous, if spiritual experience becomes the focus rather than pleasing God and fulfilling our call as witnesses to the world of God’s love, and intercessors to God for the world. All the same, I believe its benefits have been clear in my own personal sanctification and in my life.
I have stopped praying this prayer, because I am not sure where the Church stands on it. It would seem odd for the magisterium to be opposed to this seemingly legitimate penitential prayer to Our Lord. Instead I have begun praying the Seraphic Rosary, but am still finding a spiritual dryness where this element of my prayer life used to be.
Can anyone enlighten me as to whether the Jesus Prayer is allowed, whether the idea of prayer of the heart is allowed, and if not, why not?