and sometimes through other people

by Andrea Elizabeth

After listing many benefits to invoking God’s name, Orthodox Interventions says this about the Jesus Prayer,

“The ‘Jesus Prayer’ is psychotherapy. As medicine, the ‘Jesus Prayer’ is destructive of passions and powerful in changing behavior (Bouton, 2004; DiLeo, 2007). Just as a doctor places a dressing on a patient’s wound, and the dressing works without the patient knowing or understanding how it works, calling on the name of Jesus ‘removes the passions’ in spite of wo/man’s inability to comprehend its power (Maloney, 2003). The holy name of Jesus when repeated quietly, penetrates the psyche like a drop of oil, spreading out and impregnating a cloth (Bouton, 2004; DiLeo, 2007).

“The modern translation of ‘mercy’ of the Greek word eleison is limited and insufficient. Eleison has the same root as elaion, which means ‘olive’ and/or ‘olive oil’. In the Middle East, olive oil is used to provide physical healing for many sicknesses, particularly respiratory (DiLeo, 2007). ‘Have mercy’ means to annoint the psyche with ‘healing oil’. The Holy Fathers teach that praying or invoking the name of Jesus changes personality (DiLeo, 2007). The ‘Jesus Prayer’ functions as therapy, much like healing oil, transforming the personality from overstrain to joy (see John 26:24). Through continued prayer, these changes become permanent.”

And then the thing that makes me want to give qualifiers:

[…] Just as a natural virtue that is aspired to can only be achieved by conducive means, so also this holy work requires some indispensable rudiments: (a) a degree of quiet; (b) freedom from cares; (c) avoidance of learning about and spreading news of things going on, or ‘giving and taking’ as the Holy Fathers put it; (d) self-discipline in all things; and (e) an overall silence which stems from these (Bouton, 2004; DiLeo, 2007; Maloney, 2003). This habit will not be unattainable for devout people who take an interest in this holy activity. The habit of a regular prayer time morning and evening, always about the same time, are a good beginning (Orthodox Christian Information Center, 2009a).” pg. 82-85.

Elsewhere Archimandrite Andrew (Vujisic) also stresses perseverance and commitment to the therapy. I will not argue with the priorities given here, but again, I have heard elsewhere that sometimes seeing a psychologist is necessary. I am not promoting secular psychologists, but I wish he would address more involved cases where there may be higher degrees of stress, disquiet, anxiety, and the felt inability to control onesself. Then someone may need help from another person if not her/his confessor, such as a friend or family member as well. Hopefully s/he has access to good counsel or someone qualified to help bear their burden. I feel the necessary relief most consistently when I tell my husband my troubles. The Archimandrite does however give this encouragement later on, “… the Holy Fathers also say that it lies with wo/man to seek and strive to enter the way which leads to the city; and if by chance s/he doesn’t arrive at the endpoint, not having kept pace or whatever reason, God will number him/her with those who finished (Bouton, 2004; DiLeo, 2007).