The Jesus Prayer Project

W h i l e the Jesus Prayer has a long and venerable history, I’m not heading that way at all. I simply want to share about my current experience with the Jesus Prayer. Oddly enough it was abstract art, specifically the abstract art I make myself (Facebook/ Instagram: Carolyn Ellis Art), which has headed me in the direction of the Jesus Prayer, toward what I am calling the Jesus Prayer Project! Ofcourse I could easily skip the whole abstract art connection and just go directly to how the Jesus Prayer is influencing my life but who can skip sharing such
an unlikely path?

Here’s what happened: Though I realized a few years ago that I paint best when I “get out of the way,” that is, when I empty myself of any controlling elements and paint from fearlessness and vulnerability, instead of logic and calculation, I only recently applied this thought to emptying myself, getting out of the way, in my personal prayer, namely the Jesus Prayer as I pray it — “Lord, have mercy.” Letting go of any kind ofgoal, for example, 100 prayers, or even intention, I decided to try and enter more deeply into the prayer, to rest in it, rather than get stuck in the speedy chanting or praying of “the formula.” What I discovered is that by breathing in deeply, lingering at length on the name of Jesus, opening myself up to’ presence as much as I can, I could feel places in me relax which I didn’t even know could relax. My experience of the latter part of the prayer — “have mercy” — also deepened through this new approach.

While deep breathing alone can bring relaxation and peace, as I continue with the project I see that I am not just getting more relaxed I feel very much encouraged to go deeper into the Jesus Prayer. The way this is coming about is that I find myself hungering to get free of the many distracting thoughts I allow myself to get lost in
throughout any given day and head more toward making room for the Jesus Prayer.

Painting by Carolyn Ellis

There is this fancy word, “logismoi,” a Greek word which refers to pointless, perhaps even destructive, thoughts which assault us, take us captive, eventually becoming an entrenched behavior, which I think perfectly
describes what happens to me when I get lost in fantasizing about how my artwork is going to be “discovered,” or some article I submitted to a major magazine or newspaper is going to get published, a book I am working on is going to become a big seller.

For many years I was so busy raising children I thought I was free of enslavement to personal fantasies of success but as the children have grown up and I have begun to paint and write I see now that I have unwittingly gotten mired in way too many distracting thoughts about myself. Recently receiving the grace to pray instead of fantasize is a thrilling, new direction for me.This is not to say that I have turned a corner and everything is perfect from here on, not at all!

What has happened is that I have been given the grace of an insight — open the door to Christ in whatever way He wants to enter — and a whole new spiritual world reveals itself! My job, make that my joy, is now to try and cooperate with Christ and let Him overtake my distracted, dominant, overly opinionated character and fill it with His gentle presence and loving kindness by way of the Jesus Prayer. I don’t see this as an easy goal but the last thing I want to do is resist! Lord, have mercy