The Jesus Prayer 24 – Spiritual Pride

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.

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2 Comments

  1. John
    Posted June 6, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I am from Australia.
    My first rule in assessing what anyone has to say is to first check out their politics and the company they keep.
    If you do your homework you will find that Frederica is both indirectly and directly associated with the right-wing republican noise machine, the applied politics of which you generally seem to abhor.

  2. Posted June 8, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    That’s a pretty poor “first rule.” In fact, I would say it’s pretty much exactly the rule many of the ruling groups used to judge Jesus.

    Yes, I abhor what I would call the right-wing propaganda activists in the US today.

    No, Frederica Mathewes-Green is not a part of any such effort. I have read and listened to her (and corresponded a time or two) for years now. I’m quite familiar with her story. And while the topic may vary, her tone and approach don’t. She’s among the people I respect, whether I always agree with her or not. (But for the record, I do agree with her much more than I ever disagree.)

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