Repetition of any mantra or name of the Lord is known as japa. From Buddhists to Muslims, Christians to Sufis, this path is hailed as one of the most meritorious forms of prayer in many spiritual traditions
Testing the Jesus Prayer ‘‘It may seem a lot of effort over just seven words: Finding 110 Eastern Orthodox Christians, giving them a battery of tests ranging from psychology to theology to behavioural medicine, and then repeating the tests 30 days later. But the seven words—‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’ (a.k.a. the Jesus Prayer)—are among the most enduring in history. What Boston University psychologist George Stavros, wanted to find out was whether repeating the Jesus Prayer for 10 minutes each day over 30 days would affect these people’s relationship with God, their relationships with others, their faith maturity, and their ‘self-cohesion’. What Stavros was asking was whether the Jesus Prayer can still play a special role in a person’s ‘journey to the heart’. The answer—at least on all the scales that showed any significant effect compared to the control group—turned out to be a resounding yes. Repeating the contemplative prayer deepened the commitment of these Christians to a relationship with a transcendent reality. Not only that, it reduced depression, anxiety, hostility, and feelings of inferiority to others. His prescription? The prayer is best used within ‘a matrix of communal practices and interpersonal relationships’ in which one’s relationship with God is ‘subtly and continuously tutored’. In other words, going inside to find God does not, ideally, mean going it alone.
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