Theologically, the Jesus Prayer is considered to be the response of the Holy Tradition to the lesson taught by the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, in which the Pharisee demonstrates the improper way to pray by exclaiming: "Thank you Lord that I am not like the Publican", whereas the Publican prays correctly in humility, saying "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner" (Luke 18:10-14). The Jesus Prayer is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use being an integral part of the eremitic tradition of prayer known as Hesychasm (Ancient Greek: ἡσυχάζω, hesychazo, "to keep stillness"). The prayer is particularly esteemed by the spiritual fathers of this tradition (see Philokalia) as a method of opening up the heart (kardia) and bringing about the Prayer of the Heart (Καρδιακή Προσευχή). The Prayer of The Heart is considered to be the Unceasing Prayer that the apostle Paul advocates in the New Testament. St. Theophan the Recluse regarded the Jesus Prayer stronger than all other prayers by virtue of the power of the Holy Name of Jesus.
This gallery will focus on the monasteries that preserved this ancient tradition: St. Catherine's Monastery of Sinai, Mount Athos, and Bucovina. The 19th century Hesychast revival of Russia was inspired by the Jesus Prayer and St. Paisii Velichkovskii (December 21, 1722 ~ November 15, 1794). St. Paisii studied the Hesychast traditions in Ukraine, Mount Athos and Bucovina, and his translation of the Philokalia into Slavonic was a critical turning point in the history of Russian Orthodoxy.
Bringing the Slavonic Philokalia to Russia, the disciples of St. Paisii revived the seeds of Russian Hesychast spirituality, where the traditions of the Jesus Prayer and Starchestvo flourished (see the 2006 film by Pavel Lungin Ostrov ~ “The Island” or read Dostoevskii’s The Brothers Karamasov and The Way of the Pilgrim). This deeply powerful Hesychast movement of the Holy Spirit countered the repressive church reforms of Peter l and Catherine ll and inspired Russian monks to traverse the breadth of Russia, eventually founding monasteries in Alaska and California.