The Jesus Prayer

hands lifted

By Chuck Hall, President

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

The Apostle Paul admonishes us, “Pray without ceasing.” One prayer helpful in obeying that admonition is The Jesus Prayer. This prayer, one of the oldest prayers of the Church, has been practiced for 2000 years; however, few in Protestant churches of the West have heard of it. It is most familiar to Eastern Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic. The Jesus Prayer is prayed so often by monks in the Orthodox Church that it has become one with their heart and soul, as natural to them as breathing.

The Jesus Prayer is based upon the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Jesus said, “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:13-14).

Over the years there have been variations of the Jesus Prayer. Some do not use “Son of God”; others delete the words, “a sinner.” The traditional version is
, “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Others are: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me” or simply, “Lord, have mercy.” Years before I ever heard of the Jesus Prayer, I often prayed, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on my soul.” You may pray whatever is comfortable to you.

The Early Church Fathers and Mothers taught us to repeat silently or aloud, “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I am reminded of the song of the redeemed, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). When I recite the Jesus Prayer over and over, it causes me to focus on Christ the Merciful One and my need for Him. I receive peace and a sense of well-being. Especially at night, if I cannot sleep, I pray over and over again, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me and my family.” After praying that prayer all during the night, I feel a closeness to God when I awake in the morning.

The Psalmist tells us, “His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136). Mercy is a biblical word full of meaning (i.e., kindness, favor, unfailing love, tenderness, faithfulness, and lovingkindness). The beauty of the prayer is that you are asking Jesus for mercy and favor, to experience God’s unfailing love and kindness, to know His tenderness and faithfulness, as you acknowledge Him as the Lord, the Christ, the Son of God.

Why don’t you take a day and practice praying without ceasing by using the Jesus Prayer? You can pray at work, as you drive, walk, at any time or in any place. You can know that when you pray, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

“O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on World Indigenous Missions.”

 

 

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