The Lord moves in mysterious ways. As a good evangelical, I never thought I would be using prayer beads and saying the Jesus Prayer. It started when an old friend decided he wanted to make me a set of beads. It surprised me, but I said, “Why not?”
In my thinking, I laid down a single stipulation, I wasn’t open to a Catholic rosary, and wanted nothing to do with devotion to Mary. So, he scrounged up his materials and fashioned me an Orthodox, or Anglican chaplet of 33 beads. And they are beautiful. I have other friends who are Orthodox and I’ve always had an affinity for their faith and practice.
Of course, I didn’t know how to blend them in my prayer times. It seemed to be a tad peculiar for this “evangelical-charismatic” pastor to be using them. I felt like a grown man getting caught trying to ride his toddler’s tricycle. But since I was already familiar with the “Jesus Prayer”, and since I knew God wasn’t going to strike me down with lightning, I forged on ahead.
For many, the “prayer of the heart” or the “Jesus prayer” is understood as a practice of personal devotion, a response to Paul’s admonition to “pray unceasingly,” a prayer said with the lips which descends from the head into the heart. Our prayer is to become eventually so much a part of us that our very breathing, our very living becomes prayer. At least that was the theory. But, since I was unhappy with my prayer life on my own, I decided I had nothing to lose and so I gave it the green light.
The Jesus Prayer is this, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” It is based on Mark’s account of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. I certainly could relate to the tax collector, especially with my battles with depression and bipolar disorder nipping at my heels.
I began praying, using the beads and the Jesus prayer. Instinctively, I knew that I was about to learn something valuable. But at first it was awkward. I did not want it to become formal or religious. I was wary of praying religiously. I did not want to parrot a phrase to get some kind of “religious buzz”. I was really cautious, with a somewhat skeptical eye on the whole affair.
What I found was a considerable breakthrough! Using the prayer beads and focusing on just talking to the Lord began to be something I really, really wanted to do. I found, improvising, I could adapt it to what was right for me. I found that rather then being repetitive, it infused my time with insight and blessing. The whole thing was like a track, a train track, that for the first time gave my prayer time structure and continuity.
As depressed and mentally ill Christians, we can be a bit unstructured and vague when it comes to praying and meditating on the Word. For the most part, we can be pretty undisciplined people. We require something a little different to help us in a relationship with the Lord. I guess I want to challenge you, to experiment with this.
Some links to help:
For general info: http://www.norian.org/jesus_prayer.html
Interesting–To try using the Jesus prayer, with “Cyber-beads”: http://www.kingofpeace.org/prayerbeads/trisagion.htm
From an artisan and a retail outlet: http://www.blue-mariano.com/id16.html