Elder Ephraim Katounakiotis once told the following story,
“An elder says to his novice:
– Read the Jesus Prayer.
– I read it, but I don’t understand it.
– The devil understands it and runs away.
– This is too difficult for me.
– Okay, do you want to see a miracle?
– Yes, I want to see a miracle, father.
– All right, – says the elder, – I will pray that the Lord will show you a miracle, so that you understand the power of the Jesus Prayer.
After praying and fasting for three days, the elder calls the novice:
– Come here. Now take this basket, go up to the spring and fill it with water.
– Forgive me, father, – the novice says, – but I haven’t lost my mind yet. Fill the basket with water?
– Didn’t you say you wanted to see a miracle and the power of the Jesus Prayer? Have you changed your mind already?
– No, I still want it.
– Well then, do as I tell you. Do not forget that you need to be reading the Jesus Prayer all the time.
– Your blessing. – says the novice and goes to the spring, repeating the words of the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me…” He puts the basket in the spring. The water fills the basket without spilling anywhere. In the meantime, the novice continues to pray, while the elder is also praying in his cell, that the Lord would show a miracle to His servant. Seeing the basket filled with water, the novice runs in a hurry to show it to the elder. While he is on his way, the devil in human guise appears to him and says:
– Where are you going, monk?
– To my elder.
– What is your name?
— How many years have you been a monk?
– Five or six.
– What kind of work do you do?
– I make seals for prosphora.
While the novice is busy talking, the water begins to pour out, and he returns to the elder with an empty basket.
– What happened?
– So and so, father.
– You have abandoned the prayer, my child, that’s why the water poured out. You see, while you were reading the prayer, the basket was holding water, but when you stopped and began idle talk, the water poured out.
If you want to become a good monk, do not leave the Jesus Prayer. Your prayer goes along with your merit.
Two phrases should always be on a monk’s lips: “May it be blessed” when you need to do something, and “forgive me” when you need to ask for an apology. At the same time, your mind must be consumed with prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”
Elder Ephraim Katounakiotis, — Russian Chronograph, 2002.
Holy Mount Athos. 2008 Orthodox Calendar. – Minsk: St Elisabeth Convent, 2007