This series of reflections is on The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God by Frederica Mathewes-Green.
Khouria Frederica answers a number of questions in her book that explore the differences between the practice of the Jesus Prayer and some of the practices and goals of Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. I think many people might find those sections helpful. They are, in my estimation, as well done as everything else in the book. I’m skipping past them in my own personal reflections, though, because I’m reasonably familiar with those religions and that perspective, and don’t really suffer any confusion. The differences between those religions and, once I began to understand it, Christianity, have always been apparent to me.
Can someone fall into delusion, even though trying sincerely to practice the Jesus Prayer?
That’s a serious question and the short answer is telling.
Only if spiritual pride seeps in, so be on guard against it.
Pride is subtle, though, and we easily deceive ourselves. Are we seeking Jesus or are we seeking spiritual power? I never assume the former is true. After all these years, I know myself better than that. Khouria Frederica shares an excellent quote from St. Macarius of Egypt.
This is the mark of Christianity: however much a man toils, and however many acts of righteousness he performs, to feel that he has done nothing; in fasting to say, “This is not fasting,” and in praying, “This is not prayer,” and in perseverance at prayer, “I have shown no perseverance; I am only just beginning to practice and to take pains”; and even if he is righteous before God, he should say, “I am not righteous, not I; I do not take pains, but only make a beginning every day.”
Humility, though, doesn’t really fit in our culture. We carry within us the image of the self-sufficient and self-made American. We are bombarded with images and messages that promote pride. Even when we’re embarrassed, it’s often pride that shows up as anger or hurt feelings.
The kind of person Christ will make of you is the kind of person our culture does not even notice, much less admire.
Love for enemies is one of the main tests for true humility. Quoting St. Silouan:
The Lord is meek and humble, and loves his creatures. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is humble love for enemies and prayer for the whole world.
If a spiritual manifestation or encounter produces anything else, I would question whether or not it is the Holy Spirit.