When the Jesus Prayer confronts us
WHEN THE JESUS PRAYER CONFRONTS GROWLS
DURING AN AFTERNOON WALK
As I was out for my daily power walk at sunset, I decided to listen to a YouTube channel of the Jesus Prayer repeated 1,000 times in a whispering voice. The soothing prayer gave me a sense of deep peace and connectedness with God. I highly recommend this ascetic practice if you are walking alone or doing something that doesn’t compromise your physical safety.
Well, since this was the first (rather, second) time I walked with the Lord reciting and hearing the Jesus Prayer, it was also the first time that the devil made his displeasure quite known. A middle-aged man walking right behind me angrily yelled out at me (since I was wearing earbuds), “On your right!! Get the f**k out of the way!!” I could have almost heard a growl as he passed me and kept walking, avoiding eye contact. My volume was adjusted so I heard everything. And then, about a minute or so after passing me, it seemed like he just disappeared from my line of vision.
Was I shaken up? Very, very little to hardly at all. I kept reciting the Jesus Prayer in a soft but audible voice. I felt a deep sense of serenity inside of me and simultaneously sadness for this man. He was either perturbed about something else in his life (perhaps a sickness or trial he was going through) or he was emotionally unstable. I am sure I was not the root cause of his anger. My mind even entertained the thought of the demons whose fury at those close to God or seeking to become closer to Him is the very cause of their voluntary suffering. For a brief moment, I felt pity for them (more so for the man than for them) but then refocused on Christ.
Whether this was a man violently affected by demonic influence or not, I made the priestly gesture of blessing with my gloved hand (see photo) and dedicated the rest of the Jesus Prayer to him. Never before in my life have I ever felt such calmness, lack of fear, and pity all rolled up into one. St. Paul was so insightful in telling the Christians of Corinth that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
As easy as it is to find blame with others and think convincingly that they are always at fault and deserving of our judgment and retaliation, we must think again. Sin, like the Covid-19 virus, does not discriminate. When our defenses are down, any one of us, at any given place or time, may be susceptible to evil and take down each other. In our manic fury, in which we imitate the demonic image and likeness, our inner stillness can vanish in less than a nanosecond and our worlds can easily be turned upside down. The Jesus Prayer can allow us to preserve not only our inner peace but can help us attain a sort of divine vision of what is really going on in a dilemma, which can help us make prudent choices and embrace a suffering world within our heart.
Clearly what happened to me today was NOT coincidental. Bad-natured individuals require our blessing and prayers; the demons require our complete ignorance and disdain of their ways. And we require nothing more than to focus on the Name that is above every name (cf. Philippians 2:9).
About the author
Father Doctor Stel Muksuris is a Greek Orthodox priest. He currently serves as the Chairperson in the Department of Liturgy & Professor of Liturgy and Theology at Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius, Pittsburgh, PA.