“By the grace of God I am Christian man, by my deeds a great sinner, and by calling a homeless rover of the lowest status of life.” This is the beginning of The Way of a Pilgrim. This book is about a peasant’s journey to find out how to achieve incessant prayer and what this idea is. Incessant prayer is a mysterious thing and took the monk many days to understand. This kind of prayer can be achieved, but the process can be long and difficult. After incessant prayer is achieved though, the presence of God can be felt at all times, as seen in the above mentioned book.
According to the Apostle Paul, in his first epistle to the Thessalonians we are to “pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). When the peasant finds this out he travels to see many church fathers to find out exactly what incessant prayer is. Finally a certain gentleman tells him “Incessant inner prayer is a continuous longing of the human spirit for God. But in order to succeed in this sweet practice we must pray more and ask God to teach us incessant prayer. Pray more and with fervor. It is prayer itself that will teach you how it can be done without ceasing.”(pg. 6)These wise words confused the poor peasant who continued to search for guidance. A while later, the peasant comes upon an abbot who explains the gentleman’s words to him. The abbot tells the peasant of a prayer, called the Jesus Prayer, that will help him, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!” This simple, but powerful, prayer is meant to help one humble oneself to God in asking for His mercy and love.
The peasant had a hard time learning incessant prayer. At first the abbot tells the peasant to find a quiet place and to close his eyes and look into his heart. The peasant is to let all his worries go away and focus on God while praying the Jesus Prayer. Unfortunately, he is not able to do so. He is bombarded by the troubles of this world and cannot focus on God. Most Christians have this problem today. We are so immersed in social media, work, and school that we cannot focus on God. The abbot tells the peasant of a different way to pray incessantly, where prayer will teach him to do so as the gentleman said. The peasant is to pray the Jesus Prayer 3,000 times a day. He does as he is told, though hard at first. After some time the peasant finds praying very easy and pleasant to do so much. The abbot then has the peasant pray 6,000 times a day, and then 12,000. After the peasant became used to praying 12,000 prayers a day, the abbot declares that he can say the Jesus Prayer as much as wanted. The peasant had finally learned the art of incessant prayer!
As the peasant travels the countryside he begins to realize that his heart is beating the Jesus Prayer. The peasant has some hard times though. He travels as a nomad because he cannot find work. One day the peasant is traveling through a forest when two soldiers knock him out and steal his knapsack. The knapsack held the peasant’s Bible which he had had since youth. Though sad at first, the peasant soon realizes that all will be fine and is filled with the joy of the Lord once again. He soon finds his Bible in the hands of an officer in charge of keeping track of things stolen by convicts. The officer is a Christian and he asked the peasant to spend the night. If the peasant’s soul had not been filled with the incessant Jesus Prayer, he might not have found his Bible. The peasant’s joy in hard times and praying to God helped him find his precious, lost possession. Even now, if we pray to God He will help us with our needs, as long as they are to His glory.
Incessant prayer should be practiced by all Christians, but unfortunately that is not the case. Most Christians do not pray as much as they should, and definitely not incessantly. God wants us to ask for His help and humble ourselves before Him at all times. We should be like the peasant, and pray incessantly to God, no matter what our situation.
Toumanova, Nina A., trans. The Way of a Pilgrim. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2008. Print.
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