Desert Wisdom: “Tecnique” in Unceasing Prayer

If our call is to “pray without ceasing” (always and everywhere), it may seem odd or antithetical to speak of any technique.  But the early Christians realized that there was a connection between Mystery and method; that the two do not have to be separated.  Bunge makes this connection on pages 109-110.

The fundamental “technique” in early Christianity was to saturate the day with specific moments of prayer.  The rhythm of working and praying was seen to be a unified thing.  The simple way of praying in the midst of work was reciting the psalms.

Barsanuphios and John write of this in the Epistula, “When you have made three rows of the net, then stand up to pray…”  The prayer they commend is the recitation of Psalm 69:6.

As you can see, there is an employment of the body included in this rhythm, because the early Christians believed that gestures were instruments to enrich prayer.  So, standing up and sitting down were means of “exercising” the soul through the action of the body.

And the prayer they commended was, “O God, you see my affliction.  Come to my aid.”

This would evolve into what we today refer to as The Jesus Prayer:  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  But whatever it was, the technique of the early Christians was to connect working and praying.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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