St. Barsanuphius of Optina on the Jesus Prayer

St. Barsanuphius of Optina 1845-1913

“The other day one of our skete schema-monks came to see me. ‘I’ve fallen into despondency, Abba, since I don’t see in myself– in one who bears the exalted angelic habit– a change for the better. The Lord calls one strictly to account if he’s a monk or schema-monk only according to his clothing. But how can I change? How can I die to sin? I sense my total feebleness.’

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘we’re absolutely bankrupt, and if the Lord judges according to works, He will find nothing good in us.’
‘But is there hope for salvation then?’
‘Of course there is. Always say the Jesus Prayer, and leave everything to the will of God.’
‘But what kind of benefit can there be from this prayer if neither the mind nor the heart participates in it?’
‘Enormous benefit. Of course, this prayer has many subdivisions, from simple utterance to creative prayer. But for us, even if we were to be on the bottom step, it would be salvific. The powers of the enemy run from one who utters this prayer, and sooner or later he’ll be saved all the same.’
‘I’ve been resurrected!’ the schema-monk exclaimed. ‘I won’t be despondent anymore.’
And so I repeat: say the prayer, even if only with your lips, and the Lord will never abandon you. The utterance of this prayer doesn’t require the study of any kind of sciences. Count Leo Tolstoy was a man of well-rounded education, but he didn’t have Christ in his soul– and he perished. Earthly knowledge didn’t help him. He rejected the Holy Church– and was rejected.” (Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, pgs. 454-456)

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