The Way of the Pilgrim
After I came to Christ in a powerful way [https://www.northshorecm.org/MyTestimony.html] I began to read a great deal of spiritual material. One of the first spiritual works I read was The Way of a Pilgrim. This book is a very short work and can be read quickly.
From Wikipedia below is a short narrative regarding this work:
The Way of a Pilgrim, or The Pilgrim's Tale is the English title of a 19th-century Russian work, recounting the narrator's journey as a mendicant pilgrim while practicing the Jesus Prayer. The pilgrim's travels take him through southern and central Ukraine, Russia, and Siberia. It is unknown if the book is literally an account of a single pilgrim, or if it uses a fictional pilgrim's journey as a vehicle to teach the practice of ceaseless inner prayer and communion with God. The Russian original, or a copy of it, was present at a Mount Athos monastery in Greece in the 19th century, and was first published in Kazan in 1884, under the Russian title that translates as "Candid Narratives of a Pilgrim to His Spiritual Father”. The pilgrim's inner journey begins when he is struck upon hearing the words of Paul (I Thessalonians 5:17) to "pray without ceasing." He visits churches and monasteries to try and understand how to pray without ceasing. His travels lead him to a starets (a spiritual father) who teaches him the Jesus Prayer—"Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me"—and gives him practical advice on how to recite the prayer uninterruptedly, as a type of mantra. The book details the gradual spiritual development and struggles of the narrator, and the effect the narrator's spirituality has on those around him.
Following my own reading of this work I found myself attracted to the simple prayer practice of this traveling monk and decided to try to replicate his efforts. I did not have any expectation as to whether or not the Jesus Prayer could or would fall to my heart, but as a new believer I was hungry for more and willing to try.
At this time I was living in Marblehead, MA and traveled to Boston almost daily for work. As this travel time was “down time”, I decided to make use of it by audibly reciting the Jesus Prayer to and from work as personal prayer. It was not always easy to do, but over time I became more consistent and eventually I began to pray the Jesus Prayer without a lot of effort as the prayer itself was becoming—as it were, part of me. Then, one day, on a return trip home to Marblehead I am stunned and shocked as I hear my spirit quietly praying the Jesus Prayer from the center of my heart. That which I had a moment before been praying quietly with my lips was now being prayed from my spirit—it seems, from the core and very center of my being.
My initial response was incredulity and a sense of dismay. I thought: “How could this be?” How was it that my own spirit could actually pray and be heard by me. I was also a bit overwhelmed by the thought that I seemingly possessed—as it were, another voice. But, everything the traveling monk had sought after in his many journeys and had come to experience was now my own experience. Although astonished by this experience I continued to pray the Jesus Prayer for the remainder of my drive home thinking:
“So, this is what it means to pray from the heart!"
As a consequence of this experience I began to learn how to pray more from my spirit by praying softly a prayer in a repetitious manner allowing it to fall to my heart. Oftentimes, I would use a prayer like: “Lord Jesus Christ, I adore you, I praise you, I love you.”—allowing it, as it were, to fall to my heart where it would be prayed quietly. By this practice I learned how to “pray unceasingly”—just as did the traveling monk.
At other times I would become aware that my spirit was already praying ignited by some event such as a time of profound worship—as in a wondrous worship conference setting—or the result of just resting before the Lord. There have even been times when my spirit “burned” with love of God after an extensive time of prayer (like a retreat), or a powerful time of teaching joined to anointed prayer.
The spirit I possess, and which every human being possesses, is an eternal spirit bequeathed by God to every human being at the time of his or her conception. It can never be destroyed and shall survive eternally. It is the “essence” of who we are. But, according to the great Apostle Paul it matters a great deal to whom your spirit is wed:
"But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you." [Romans 8:9-11 RSV]
While every created living thing possesses “DNA” unique to itself (which is the soul of living things) this source of life ceases to exist at death. Only man possesses an eternal spirit which will transcend and survive death and decay. This God-given eternal spirit shall emerge from the corpse which held it—to be particularly judged by the Living God. It then awaits the resurrection of the dead when it shall be rewarded with a new and glorious eternal body—or the body of a damned soul.
Thus, as the Apostle Paul declares in the Scriptures—coming to faith in Jesus is of great value as this “living faith” obtains for us an unmerited “righteousness” which covers our sins because of the shed blood of Jesus. Such a faith "weds" your soul to Jesus providing an assurance of one's salvation and obtaining the forgiveness of sin.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.“ (Romans 5:9)
So then, my own personal encounter with Christ (through the gift of the Holy Spirit) opened up the possibility of coming to know and love God in a profound manner. Having "wed" my spirit to Christ I discovered that intimacy with the Living God is available to every believer who seeks the Father with his whole heart.
"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
I am not "special"—I was merely willing to try. So too—may you!