Praying on the Tram

I just finished a few days of research in Leipzig. Leipzig is an interesting city, with contrasts between beautiful and less-so, between ultra-modern and Baroque, between the boarded-up buildings in some quarters and the shining skyscraper in the city centre.

My first full day was May 1, and May is the month of prayer, as discussed in this post. Besides continuing with Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines, my journey into the disciplines involved journeys into Leipzig.

Every morning, after scuttling from my hotel to the tram, I had a 25-min tram ride ahead of me. And so, when better to pray? My spiritual mentor has recommended I spent no fewer than ten minutes and no more than twenty praying the Jesus Prayer. A 25-min tram ride is perfectly suited for this. So out would come my prayer rope, my fingers slipping along each knot:

 Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I have been told that one can also pray for others in the cycle, so sometimes I would insert my wife or a friend who was on my heart instead of me, me, me. Sometimes I would also replace me with everyone on this tram.

I think it is a rule that should be more widely observed that commutes are excellent times for prayer. We should never, of course, abandon the recommendation of our Lord to go into our secret place and shut the door (Mt 6:6). Yet why not redeem the time spent between A and B through communing with our God who is everywhere and fills all things?

Here are some other commuting prayer ideas:

  • Imagine Christ walking through the bus/tram/train and blessing everyone, resting his hand on their heads and blessing them or standing beside them. Maybe even giving someone who looks really sad a good hug.
  • Pray for the people around you more consciously – this is something Richard Foster recommends in Celebration of Discipline. Ask God to impact the people around you. So pray that the guy across from you on the train will know that he is deeply loved, more than he can imagine. Pray that the sad-looking lady may know that there is joy available that will never run dry. That sort of thing.
  • Pray for safety for the vehicle and alertness and wisdom for the driver.
  • Pray for the neighbourhoods you pass through – for all who live and work there, that they would know the truth of God’s real blessings in this life, and in the life to come everlasting joy.

These are but a few ways we can all try to bring the Spirit of the living God with us on the way to work. What suggestions might you have?

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13 thoughts on “Praying on the Tram

  1. Dear Sir
    With all respect to your blog and “studies” dont use Jesus Prayer in such a trivial way and with such a trivial explanation. U can pray in tram and everywhere else as you wish while its between you and God..but being so educated you should know more. Never visualize image of Chirst..especially hugging and kissing those in tram..And putting names instead of ME, – thats only pride. Not humbleness.
    “Pray for safety of the vehicle” – no comments

    disgrace((

    You are telling by your heart a name of God and…what do you think ABOUT???? should be nothing. noone. silence. Listen to silence. And Holy Spirit may be with you and be your teacher

    Sorry for “bad” comment, but what to expect from “un-educated” in “religious studies” ppl then…

    ((( sad sad

    • Dear Vera,

      When I pray the Jesus Prayer, I do not visualise Christ in the tram. That is an entirely different exercise. I know that the Orthodox do not approve of imagining things in prayer; I am not Orthodox. However, I respect the Orthodox tradition enough not to mingle things that may be my own whims or from other traditions with it. My suggestion to pray for safety for the vehicle was likewise not attached to the Jesus Prayer; there is no reason why, outside of the Jesus Prayer, we cannot pray for those around us.

      I do believe that in the silence we will meet the living Christ, as Moses ascended into the cloud on Mt Sinai. And when I pray the Jesus Prayer, I do seek to focus on the words, hoping for the silence. When I pray the Jesus Prayer, I do not pray for the vehicle, I do not imagine Christ, I try not to think of other things. I’m sorry if this post made you think otherwise; that is perhaps my fault for being unclear.

      I’m sorry that you do not agree with inserting any name other than, ‘ME.’ The Jesus Prayer is not as ancient as the Tradition itself, and in today’s narcissistic age it seems a wise enough choice to remember others before the throne of grace. Furthermore, this recommendation was made to me by an Orthodox priest (my imaginings came from a Quaker — this same priest warned me against imagining things in prayer), who is a very godly man and does not engage in trolling on other people’s websites.

      I am, in fact, a Classicist by training, not from religious studies. Most of my encounters with the Christian tradition, Orthodox and otherwise, have been through living persons and the books from their own traditions. Any flawed appropriations come not from my learning but from my own weakness. I recommend you not jump to conclusions when commenting on people’s blogs in future, and avoid implied verbal abuse.

      Please re-read this post and note that the recommendations about imagination and praying for the driver are NOT in any way connected to the Jesus Prayer. They are suggestions of OTHER things to do.

      • I personally found the post inspiring and a great attempt at “redeeming the time.” In fact, I was a bit convicted of how I view people in public situations (such as a train) and thinking about how every person I see is someone Christ died for, and to gloat about a better manners, habits, or cultural predilections can be borderline Pharisaical…good post and response.

  2. Hey Hayes,

    Thanks for your words. It is, in fact, a struggle I have as well, to look upon other people on the train or walking along the street beside me with grace and charity! As I commented on another of my posts recently, these are writtent to encourage me as much as to encourage my readers! 🙂

  3. Thank you for the reminder of the various ways we can stay connected to the eternal in our everyday routines. While going to day home for our little one each day, we stop the music we’re listening to and pray, making sure to include a blessing to on the day home provider and family.

    • Thanks for the comment, Leah! I’m glad to know that you guys stop to pray in a bit of silence when you drop off your wee one at the day home! 🙂 These little things keep us in touch with our eternal Lord, indeed.

  4. Scholiast
    Changing one single word in Jesus Pray…hmmm))
    Its about “good intentions” – how much u feel above all selfish others..)
    but if u r really familiar with Orthodox tradition and desert fathers u would know that expression :save yourself and thousands around you will be saved
    Or you already apriori decided that once u have read and learn anything and “think” u can pray u r saved?)
    Bless u, sorry for no praise to your post where u mixed unmixable, sorry for not being “lovely and charming” in best protestant traditions, as im an orthodox
    Truth is often doesnt have sweet taste.

    • It’s not that you’re not ‘lovely and charming’ that is the issue, but rather that your first comment misread what I had written and that you constantly assume things about me and are condescending.

      I actually don’t know what most of this second comment has to do with anything I’ve yet said. I think it best that we leave this here. Nothing further I can say will help you understand what I intended, and what you say tends to leave me baffled.

      • Im sorry if you feel I tried to be critical or misunderstood.
        Its just orthodox opinion. Only pure people’s prayer “for others” can make a difference otherwise its just blah blah blah and shaking the air.
        Other thing that it helps YOU to think that you are good person and deeply care. So of course its an exersise for sake of own pride.
        Well, in extreme situation of life and death everything can happen, but on daily basis when you sit after nice cup of tea and thinking what else wonderful to do, ohh i will pray for others, bless me))
        Monks in Greece, Serbia and Russia stay on knees all nights of the life repenting every moment, AND praying for the world. as there is no ME, but the world in me.
        As for you, me, lots of other people, we do love God, we do want to do our best but better not to lie to ourselves and mislead others.
        If you think that my words are wrong look in desert fathers. But read them, not what you want to read IN them by your own interpretation.
        Peace be with you, my brother

  5. This way of praying the Jesus Prayer with inserting other people’s names was taught to me by a priest (fully Orthodox Father!). I came to him for confession and told about my struggle with internal dialogues. This is a type of an imaginary quarrel with another person that plays non-stop in my head, but never actually takes place in real life. Still, such imaginary dialogues still have power to poison relationships.

    So I talked to Father about it; he asked me what my usual “techniques” were. I said that when I find myself in the midst of such internal dialogue, I’d force-interrupt it with the Jesus Prayer, but I also said that it was more of a temporary remedy, that it didn’t work long-term, and that the dialogues would creep back in. Then Father said, “Try this: use the same prayer, but insert the other person’s name instead.” He also explained that it has an added benefit of praying for another human being.

    I started using it. Honestly, it’s like after months of suffering from headaches discovering that there is something called “Advil”. Sometimes there is a relapse, but it is not as severe as in the past.

    • That is fantastic! Thank you for sharing. This is why the Fathers recommend the Jesus Prayer and why we should all have a spiritual father near at hand to help us learn to pray. 🙂

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