Tuesday, January 30, 2018

how a combat medic uses the Jesus prayer to stay close to God in traumatic circumstances

"I thought I would share some thoughts on the Jesus prayer as for many of us in the East it is the bedrock of our devotional lives. This is only how I use the devotion currently after nearly 20 years of trial and error. Not that there's a wrong way to say a prayer.

In the mornings as I'm waking up, I begin the regular beginnings from "Heavenly King" till the "Our Father" with the blessing of layman "through the prayers of our holy fathers, oh Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us."
I'm a medic currently in a combat zone, so depending on the chaos level of the day, I grab a prayer rope and say the long form of the prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner." For about ten breaths. Each breath is about six seconds in coupled with the prayer and six seconds out coupled with the prayer. So that's about twenty times saying the prayer in a "focused" manner. I was a volunteer in a PTSD clinic years ago and this is an adaptation of that. 

At this point someone is usually "encouraging" me to get breakfast before the cook throws it out. As I go through the day I'll continue to say the prayer. As I dress I put on my prayer rope. (I have one I keep on me everywhere that I don't get wet that was given to me by a local on the first day I responded to an incident where four women were kidnapped and two killed and two men killed by a group of terrorists in a supply raid. So I often walk around with one rope on each wrist.) Throughout the day I will see the prayer ropes and be reminded to pray.
At some point in the day, I'll either go for a walk or find a corner where I'll use the rope and "breath match prayers" for a full loop. My ropes are 200 knots so this takes some time, about 20 minutes. I'll then do a loop not worried about breathing. This is followed by "most holy Theotokos, strengthen my weakness" for a loop. At night I'll tie a few dozen knots as I say the prayer as well. Then some short prayers before bed.

The purpose of the breathing is to help with the regulation of the emotional sections of the brain. Further, this creates a psychological anchor similar to what a hypnotist would use. As something unpleasant comes up, a deep breath "starts the prayer" and serves to calm the mind and control the stress hormones including adrenaline. 

It's important to set this anchor free of "negative" emotions. Don't allow the brain to wander into things that anger or frustrate or depress. Nor is it a good idea to allow "positive thoughts" to interfere with the prayer. I'm looking for God not casting a spell. 

I hope this helps those of you coming from the West to understand why we in the East have so few other "short" devotions. This is really the bedrock of our personal devotions. Everything else takes time. Paraklesis, hours, psalms, gospel and epistle reading... The only other "short" devotion I have is Bible memory work, chip by chip memorizing the epistles and Gospels." 

Thank you,  "Iubitor al lui Dumnezeu, " for sharing this snapshot from your prayer life! 
I recommend the book below written by an anonymous believer who used the Jesus prayer to remain close to God 

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