After some correspondance with our dear Father B— last night I’ve realized once again how lightly Christianity treads the tense wire between challenging and effortless.
Everyone has sins and failures. My own tend to be of that very obvious sort that everyone notices – which frustrates any subtle designs on my part to hide my faults and make pretense to sanctity I don’t actually possess. In fact I tend to go to the opposite extreme. As I mentioned elsewhere in blogdom, I am the type of person to whom temptation usually comes in religious garb. If it’s time to pray I’m going to choose the most demanding prayers and linger longest over those “for I have never done anything good in thy sight” phrases.
Those words of repentance are great phrases. And I naturally gravitate towards them, not only in a bid to feel that I have repented thoroughly enough, but also because they are wordy. And I am a person who loves words and who has an almost superstitious belief in their power.
And therefore it’s quote appropriate (now that I think of it) that it is the Jesus Prayer – all dozen words of it – that my father in the Lord prescribed for me last night.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Whisper the words without trying, born up on them as they come into the mind. Wait and then after a while whisper or think them again. This is a regimen that seems to require no effort. All burdens and desires and confusions given over to Christ in a single, simple, timeless posture: the verbal phrase (in which the only thing that is explicit is my relationship to Him and His to me) opening a door to a gesture of the heart that has probably been there for a long time, smothered in my ironic effort to “express myself” to One who knows me better than I will ever know myself.
Just be with God and the saints; just pray Father B— told me.
I still believe that the kingdom of God is taken by force and that those who would enter must grasp swords and draw on running shoes. And I know very well that the training prayers I’m leaving aside for a time are good and beneficial and might be just the thing for someone else at any moment. But I’m less eager to try and tell anyone what any of that means right now as I find myself led by still waters.