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How to attain the prayer of the heart – Metropolitan Naum

dn“Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me”

(01.07.2020 15:46)


I was thinking about what is the best way to show you how much the prayer of the mind in the heart is very close to each one of us and how to make the effort of the prayer itself our real daily routine. So I put it together as follows:

First, in its ascetic dimension, this struggle (labour, feat) is enabled to us by the Orthodox faith; and secondly, in its graceful dimension, this struggle is enabled to us by the Holy Sacrament of Baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as by the Holy Communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

More specifically, every person who joins the Church is obliged to put his mind in the process of healing, through obedience to a spiritual father. Consequently, harmonization (coordination) takes place between one’s way of life and the level of the spiritual development he is at. This first stage of spiritual development is called purification of the heart from the passions. When the spiritual heart is sufficiently purified through the struggle of obedience and prayer, the grace of the Baptism will appear in it. The place where the grace appears is called the “place of the heart,” and the energy of the mind, attracted by the beauty of the grace, naturally and by prayer connects in that place with its essence. The Holy Fathers call this phenomenon the prayer of the mind in the heart, and the stage of the spiritual development where this occurs is called the enlightenment of the mind.

But let’s start from the beginning of this struggle.

The inner word with which a person speaks within himself and creates the prayer silently springs from the heart as our spiritual centre. In addition to the essence of the mind being in the heart – the heart is also the source of the inner word. If instead of having any other thoughts, we pronounce the prayer with the inner word, we will make our heart the source of the personal prayer. It means, we should try with the inner word to say constantly the short prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, and the attention (i.e. the energy) of the mind though the words of the prayer to be focused on Him, but at the same time on the source of the prayer, which is the heart. In this way, we will come very close to what the Holy Fathers have pointed out to us as an ideal, and that is the collection of the energy of the mind in its essence in the heart, or the so-called non-delusional circular prayer movement of the mind.

In order to understand the aforementioned and to make it easier for you to apply in practice, you need to distinguish between the graceful opening of the heart for the prayer of the mind in the heart, which takes place at the second level of the spiritual development – the enlightenment of the mind, from the ascetic break through and keeping our mind in its proximity, which can be reached at the first level of the spiritual development. The graceful openness of the heart for the prayer of the mind in the heart is a gift of God that we humbly, in asceticism (labour), expect, while the breakthrough (infiltration) and ability to keep our mind as close as possible to our heart is a gift of God that we already have – at the first level of the spiritual development, purification of the heart from the passions.

Why is it important, according to the Orthodox anthropology, to make this distinction? Because all that shows us that even without the grace to open our hearts for the prayer of the mind in the heart and without knowing the place of the heart, we can still keep our minds in the vicinity of the heart, in front of the gates of The Holy of the Holies, and we can humbly await for the promise of the Lord:

For everyone who knocks it will be opened and he who seeks finds. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  (see: Matthew 7,8-10).

How much more will the Lord give to those who seek Him alone? Furthermore, because this distinction shows us our personal responsibility for the supposedly missed struggle (effort) and the lost time. There is no justification for this.

Collected saying of the prayer inside the heart causes some related effects, and above all, a certain kind of warmth. Attention and the warmth attract each other and complement each other in the gathering of the mind in the heart, and significantly help us to dwell in the memory of God. The question is: Is it natural or spiritual warmth, and what should be our attitude toward that warmth? It is an ordinary warmth that comes from the blood, it is not some kind of spiritual warmth. Saying the prayer and the warmth in the heart are the means only. It is not what we are waiting for. As I have said before, by offering ourselves in prayer, we seek only Him, not some of His gifts. If we shift our main focus and desire from the awaited goal (Christ our God) – to the means or side effects, we deviate from the right path, in to the realm of death, delusion, sin, and of the demon who is lurking us.

We need to know the following so that we do not get confused: When we start the prayer in this manner, we will encounter darkness and indifference, that is, a closed door in the heart. This should not discourage us, but on the contrary, we should continue persisting, at least until we start to feel the natural warmth. Natural warmth along with the tears of repentance (spiritual prayer movements on which we are forcing ourselves to do), will certainly be a hope that we will achieve our goal. This kind of prayer can already be called ascetic prayer of the mind in the heart, but only as a technique of praying, before the real, i.e. ascetic-graceful prayer of the mind in the heart, when the heart is really opened whilst the manifestation of the grace takes place. The mind, from being proud, scattered, and darkened, (because it can be kept focused only through the words of prayer in the heart, in Christ our God,) it humbles, collects, and slowly enlightens because of the purification of its energy. In other words, this kind of prayer is available to everyone and anyone who wants and puts in an effort can attain it. For this type of prayer, for better concentration, some spiritual fathers advise the ascetic, on the place of the spiritual heart, i.e. on the upper part of the physical heart to put his hand or to press lightly on that place with one finger; at least until the natural warmth appears


If a person has a weaker concentration, he can begin to say the prayer orally, as is the case in some of the monasteries of Mount Athos, which hold the tradition of the Holy Elder Joseph Hesychast and the Holy Elder Ephraim of Philotheus and of Arizona. Prayer is constantly said orally until the mind naturally takes over and, henceforth, what we have written before is valid.

Unlike the natural warmth, graceful or divine warmth appears and acts in what we called before the graceful opening of the heart to the prayer of the mind in the heart, which takes place at the second level of the spiritual development – enlightenment of the mind. At this stage of spiritual development, the heart is sufficiently purified of the passions and the grace of the Holy Baptism is manifesting from it and attracts the mind to descend into the indicated place. This is the end of the ascetic penetration and retention of the mind inside, before the heart, before the gates of the Holy of Holies. The manifestation of God’s grace is the moment that makes the heart to open, for the mind to enter while praying, recognizing the non-delusional place of the prayer in the heart. This is followed by an ascetic stay and retention of the mind, but now, in the Holy of the Holies, inside the heart, until the spiritual warmth that will take place transfigures (inspirits) the whole ascetic person of the prayer into the uncreated light, which is constantly burning.

In the usual struggle (effort), inhaling and exhaling in the prayer of the mind in the heart naturally synchronizes with the utterance of the words of the prayer. There should be no deviation from what is normal. Only those monks who already have the gift of this prayer need careful attention when inhaling and exhaling, but in the case of hiding of the grace, that is, in the case when its signal in the heart weakens.

We all know that at the beginning of our spiritual life, God’s grace openly and clearly supports us in our struggle, and then everything seems easy to us – the prayer, the fasting, the obedience and the love. And we all got the experience of when the grace hides from us, or secretly supports us in the struggle, and everything afterwards seems hopelessly difficult to us. Something similar happens at the level of enlightenment: Grace knows how to manifest so strongly in the heart and so strongly to draw the mind to itself thus, no matter what a person does or what happens around him, prayer flows from within. Also, the grace knows how to hide so much that suddenly some external conditions and supplementary methods for the realization of the prayer of the mind in the heart suddenly become very important, such as: silence, lonely and dark place, low sitting, breathing in harmony with the words of the prayer and other things – to which man had previously paid no attention.

We also need to be very careful about the basic conditions: obedience within the monastic rule, which allows us conditions for extreme renunciation of the world, i.e. monastic alienation (separation from the world) for the monks; and obedience to the spiritual father for the faithful in the world, connected with the conscientious performance of one’s duties. We need to be especially careful not to judge or condemn people. Both those we know and those we have never met in our lives. The first one was done by the Pharisee, and the second one – I don’t know what to call such a person.

Let us pay attention to the “last place”, to the humility and anonymity. And most important of all – for every evil to be returned with good and with love. In order to be allowed to say this prayer, we need to be at peace with any one person in our thoughts and feelings, no matter how bad/evil someone might be doing to us. A religious neurotic, and never a religious sociopath, can ever be engaged in this prayer. And they know it. Even any kind of mentioning of this kind of prayer is repulsive to them, and they react accordingly to their condition.

I wrote this text so you can see how much the ascetic prayer of the mind in the heart, as a technique of praying, is very achievable and depends only on the will and the effort of each one of us – even at the first level of the spiritual development. Due to lack of experience and ignorance, we think of this prayer as something miraculous, and by not having it, we do not believe that others can have it. However, some people have it. They have it as a gift of an open heart, and not just as a technique. Indeed, I am talking to you, above all, about the faithful of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric; the Church in all of its fullness, which does not lack a single gift of God. It is from the gift of the prayer of the mind in the heart that exists in our Church that we draw the strength to defend and bear witness of our special pastoral identity and mission.

The essence of the prayer of the heart is the repentance, not the technique of utterance. Even if we know all the techniques, and not have repentance, we will never have it. And on the contrary, if we have genuine repentance without knowing the technique of keeping our minds in the realm of the heart, we will receive the gift of the prayer of the mind in the heart. By true repentance I always mean the synchronization of our way of life with the level of the spiritual development in which, at the first level, is the seeking of God’s justice in obedience and anonymity, and at the second level, the love towards our enemies.

Most-Holy Bogorodica (Mother of God), save us!

Metropolitan of Strumica Naum

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