The Boondock Saints Prayer

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In the history of Christianity it is noted that, in numerous traditions, there was a teaching on the importance of the body and body positions for the spiritual life.

Great saints have talked about it, such as Dominic, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola …

Furthermore, since the fourth century, we have encountered advice in this regard from the monks of Egypt.

The Boondock Saints Prayer – Meaning

This tradition takes into account the rhythm of the heart, of breathing, of a presence to oneself to be more available to God.

It is a very ancient tradition that draws from the teachings of the Egyptian desert Fathers, monks who gave themselves totally to God in a hermit or community life with particular attention to prayer, asceticism and dominion over the passions.

They can be considered the successors of the martyrs, great witnesses of the faith at the time of religious persecutions, which ceased when Christianity became the state religion in the Roman Empire.

Starting from their experience, they committed themselves to a work of spiritual accompaniment, placing the emphasis on discerning what was lived in prayer.

Later, the Orthodox tradition has valued a prayer in which some words taken from the Gospels are combined with the breath and heartbeat.

These words were spoken by the blind Bartimaeus: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:47) and from the tax collector who prays like this: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Lk 18:13).

This tradition has recently been rediscovered by the Churches of the West, although it dates back to an era prior to the schism between the Christians of the West and the East.

It is therefore a common heritage to be explored and enjoyed, which interests us as it shows how we can associate body, heart and mind on a Christian spiritual journey. There may be convergence with some teachings from Far Eastern traditions.

The Stories of a Russian pilgrim allow us to approach the prayer of the heart. Through this work, the West has rediscovered Hesychasm.

In Russia there was an ancient tradition according to which certain people, attracted by a demanding spiritual path, set out on foot through the countryside, as beggars, and were welcomed into monasteries,

As pilgrims, they went from monastery to monastery, looking for answers to their spiritual questions.

This kind of pilgrimage retreat, in which asceticism and deprivation played an important role, could last for several years.


The Russian Pilgrim is a man who lived in the 19th century. His stories were published around 1870. The author is not clearly identified. He was a man who had a health problem: an atrophied arm, and was tormented by the desire to meet God.

He went from one sanctuary to another. One day he hears in a church some words taken from the letters of St. Paul. He then begins a pilgrimage of which he wrote the story. Here’s what he looks like:

“By the grace of God I am a Christian, by my actions a great sinner, by condition a homeless pilgrim of the humblest kind, who wanders from one place to another. All my possessions consist of a dry pan sack on my shoulders, and the Holy Bible under my shirt. Nothing else.

During the twenty-fourth week after Trinity day I entered the church during the liturgy to pray a little; they were reading the passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, in which it says: “Pray without ceasing” (1Th 5:17).

This maxim was particularly fixed in my mind, and I therefore began to reflect: how can one pray incessantly, when it is inevitable and necessary for every man to engage in other matters in order to obtain sustenance?

I turned to the Bible and read with my own eyes what I had heard, namely that we must pray “without ceasing with all sorts of prayers and supplications in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18), pray “raising pure hands to heaven without anger and without contention “(1Tm 2,8).

I thought and thought, but I didn’t know what to decide. “What to do?” “Where can I find someone who can explain it to me?” I will go to the churches where famous preachers speak, perhaps I will hear something convincing ». And I went. I heard many excellent sermons on prayer.

But they were all teachings on prayer in general: what is prayer, how is it necessary to pray, what are its fruits; but no one told how to progress in prayer. There was indeed a sermon on prayer in the spirit and on continuous prayer; but there was no indication of how to get there (pp. 25-26).

Here is what the starec tells him: The interior and perpetual prayer of Jesus consists in invoking incessantly, without interruption, the divine name of Jesus Christ with the lips, the mind and the heart, imagining his constant presence and asking for his forgiveness. , in every occupation, in every place at any time, even in sleep.

It is expressed with these words: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!” Those who get used to this invocation receive great consolation, and feel the need to always recite this prayer, so much so that they can no longer do without it, and it itself flows spontaneously in them. Have you now understood what continuous prayer is?

After meeting this monk, the Russian pilgrim reads other authors and continues to go from monastery to monastery, from one place of prayer to another, making all kinds of meetings along the way and deepening his desire to pray incessantly. He counts the number of times he pronounces the invocation. Among the Orthodox the rosary is made up of knots (fifty or one hundred knots).

It is the equivalent of the rosary, but here there are no Our Father and the Hail Mary represented by large and small beads, more or less spaced. The nodes, on the other hand, are of the same size and arranged one after the other, with the sole intent of repeating the name of the Lord, a practice that is gradually acquired.

This is how our Russian Pilgrim discovered continuous prayer, starting from a very simple repetition, taking into account the rhythm of breathing and of the heart, trying to get out of the mind, to enter the deep heart, quiet your inner being and remain so in permanent prayer.

The Boondock Saints Prayer – Symbolism

Of course, God’s forgiveness is always available to a repentant heart. The place where this repentance becomes true and deepens (it passes from “attraction” to “contrition”, says the Council of Trent) is the Sacrament of Reconciliation celebrated in the Church which at the same time objectively and officially sanctions the forgiveness granted by God.

“Receive the Holy Spirit. To those whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven; to those whom you do not forgive, they will not be forgiven “(Jn 20: 22-23).

I thought and thought, but I didn’t know what to decide. “What to do?” “Where can I find someone who can explain it to me?” I will go to the churches where famous preachers speak, perhaps I will hear something convincing ». And I went. I heard many excellent sermons on prayer.

“The whole work of returning to God, or conversion or penance, is under the action of the Spirit who prepares and brings to fulfillment in the Church the restored justification already received once in baptism:” It is the second table of salvation after the shipwreck of lost grace ”(Tertullian).

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God (Son of the living God), have mercy on me, sinner” The word “sinner” was added over time, expressing repentance and confession of one’s sins. The Prayer is to be repeated like a rosary to the rhythm of the breath.

“The prayer of Jesus, interior and constant, is the continuous and uninterrupted invocation of the name of Jesus with the lips, with the heart and with the intelligence, in the certainty of his presence in every place, in every time, even during the sleep. It is expressed with these words:

Those who get used to this invocation receive great consolation and feel the need to always say this prayer; after some time, he can no longer live without it and it flows in him by itself.

Do you understand now what perpetual prayer is?

To succeed in this beneficial exercise, it is convenient to ask the Lord often to teach us to pray without rest.

Pray more, and with more zeal; prayer will make you understand for itself how it can become perpetual; this takes a long time. “Anonymous

The Name of Christ is powerful and it is Christ who commands us to use it in prayers, promising that he will act with particular effectiveness. “Whatever you ask of the Father in my Name”, he says to his apostles, “I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my Name, I will do it” (Jn 14: 13-14).

“Verily, verily I say to you: if you ask the Father for anything in my Name, he will give it to you. Up to now you have not asked for anything in my Name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete” (Jn 16,23- 24).

“The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, because we don’t even know what it is convenient to ask, but the Spirit himself intercedes with insistence for us with inexpressible groans and he who searches hearts knows what the Spirit’s desires are …

The path of prayer is first of all a listening: “Listen, son” (Prol. Rule of St. Benedict): a listening that, from the head, descends into the heart, to convert life. The “heart” is the center of listening. The “heart” is the center of being.

The Philokalia frames the “prayer of Jesus” dominated by a constant reference to sobriety and asceticism and helps against an overly intellectual and rationalist vision of faith. Let us remember that God is not abstract (Bar 3, 37).


I heartily recommend reading the “Little Philokalia”, it helps to deepen and grow in the spiritual dimension and to find harmony between action and contemplation as well as the book:

“Tales of a Russian pilgrim”. It is a tale of oriental spirituality that suggests the prayer of Jesus to be repeated like a rosary to the rhythm of the breath: “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.