Sunday, April 18, 2010

Repetition is the Key to Success

I have been reading The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality by Kyriacos C. Markides lately.

It revolves around the travels of Dr. Markides to Greece and Crete, and his interactions with a head monk named Father Maximos.  It is quite a fascinating book and explains Orthodox theology and practice VERY well.  I can honestly say that I am intrigued by the life of the monks and nuns, so much that a hermitic lifestyle has become appealing in some ways.

As I was reading, one of the practices that caught my attention was when Father Maximos was explaining to Markides how grace can be administered into one's life.  One is to be constantly in prayer, repeating, "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner."  You repeat this over and over, silently or out loud, in whatever you do - whether you are walking, sweeping the floors, cooking a meal, working in the field, etc.  As you do, God opens your heart to Him, grace pours in, and your relationship is formed.  For my Orthodox readers out there, I may have completely butchered the retelling of this practice, and if that is the case, I am truly sorry.  But I am pretty sure that I captured the basic gist of this.

In the movie Luther, that was released in 2003 with Joseph Fiennes playing the key role, a similar practice was installed in Luther's life where he would pray over and over, "I am yours, save me."  At one point, he prostrated himself on the floor and formed his own body into the shape of the cross as he repeated this prayer, again and again.

What is it about simple prayers that are repeated over and over that make them so effective?  Maybe it is the fact that you aren't trying to fill the space with words that are eloquently waxed, but that you are simply speaking to God, praying for Him to save you, to have mercy on you - and that's it.  I have had this experience before God's throne a few times.  The simplicity of the prayers have affected me so much that I usually end up weeping.  Something overcomes me, whether that be the Spirit of God, His grace or my own womanhood, it happens every time.  

Maybe we should call it the Practice of Simplicity, or possibly the Practicing Prayers of Piety (PPP for short).  But I think I am ready to challenge myself to try this out for a while, in everyday life, while doing the dishes, or cooking dinner, or driving to and from wherever - prayer without ceasing, repetitive prayer, simple prayer.

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