God almighty, Franny,’ he said. ‘If you’re going to say the Jesus Prayer, at least say it to Jesus, and not to St. Francis and Seymour and Heidi’s grandfather all wrapped up in one. Keep him in mind if you say it, and him only, and him as he was and not as you’d like him to have been. You don’t face any facts. This same damned attitude of not facing facts is what got you into this messy state of mind in the first place, and it can’t possibly get you out of it.
The part that stumps me, really stumps me, is that I can’t see why anybody–unless he was a child, or an angel, or a lucky simpleton like the pilgrim–would even want to say the prayer to a Jesus who was the least bit different from the way he looks and sounds in the New Testament… Who in the Bible besides Jesus knew–knew–that we’re carrying the Kingdom of Heaven around with us, inside, where we’re all too goddam stupid and sentimental and unimaginative to look? You have to be a son of God to know that kind of stuff. Why don’t you think of these things? I mean it, Franny, I’m being serious. When you don’t see Jesus for exactly what he was, you miss the while point of the Jesus Prayer. If you don’t understand Jesus, you can’t understand his prayer–you don’t get the prayer at all, you just get some kind of organized cant. Jesus wasn’t a supreme adept, but God, on a terribly important mission. This was no St. Francis, with enough time to knock out a few canticles, or to preach to the birds, or to do any of the other endearing things so close to Franny Glass’s heart. I’m being serious now, God damn it. How can you miss seeing that? If God had wanted somebody with St. Francis’s consistently winning personality for the job in the New Testament, he’d’ve picked him, you can be sure. As it was, he picked the best, the smartest, the most loving, the least sentimental, the most unimitative master he could possibly have picked. And when you miss seeing that, I swear to you, you’re missing the whole point of the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer has one aim, and one aim only. To endow the person who says it with Christ-Consciousness. Not to set up some little cozy, holier-than-thou trysting place with some sticky, adorable divine personage who’ll take you in his arms and relieve you of all your duties and make all your nasty Weltschmerzen and Professor Tuppers go away and never come back. And by God, if you have intelligence enough to see that–and you do–and yet you refuse to see it, then you’re misusing the prayer, you’re using it to ask for a world full of dolls and saints and no Professor Tuppers.
I love Franny and Zooey – and I’m still surprised by how much, given that I loathe Catcher in the Rye (which I read twice, just to be sure that it was complete balderdash). But I love them, especially Zooey and the way he argues.