Summary: A description of the famous short Orthodox prayer with a lot of insight into the Eastern Orthodox Church.
I read a lot of books on prayer. I found The Jesus Prayer on a random amazon surfing trip. I have had it on my kindle for a couple months reading a little bit at a time before finishing it up this week while on vacation.
The Jesus Prayer is one of the early prayers of the church. There are variations of it, but it is essentially, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” The history of this prayer goes back to at least the fourth century.
The first third of the brief book (less than 200 pages total in print) is about the history, content and theology of the Jesus Prayer. Frederica Mathewes-Green is writing from a particularly Eastern Orthodox perspective, which is the arm of the church that is most closely associated with the Jesus Prayer. So not only is this book a very interesting history and theology of this particular short prayer, it is also a good introduction to Eastern Orthodoxy.
It is the last two-thirds of the book that I find most interesting, however. This section is just a long series of questions and answers about prayer, the Jesus Prayer in particular, but also prayer in general. I am intrigued by these questions and answers in large part because Mathewses-Green is from a perspective that is so very different from mine. Prayer is a universal in the church, but it is clear that the theology of how we pray, what we pray for, and why we pray is different among different parts of the church. This book does much to help fill out the theology of prayer for those, like me, that primarily understand prayer from a low-church Evangelical perspective.
If you are interested in prayer or in Eastern Orthodoxy this book is well worth picking up if you are interested in either the Jesus Prayer or the Eastern Orthodox Church.