15 Aug Prayer 101: The Jesus Prayer
Jesus, have mercy on me…
This is the first in a series of short articles we’ll be posting on prayer, written by Friend and Oblate of Mucknell Fr Raymond Avent. Since the 4th Century the Jesus Prayer has been an integral part of the contemplative spirituality of Eastern Christianity, and in recent times has been re-discovered by Christians of other traditions.
The Christian Life is not about believing certain doctrines. It is about a relationship with Christ Jesus. St Paul writes : ‘Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ And, ‘Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ had.’ We are to be rooted in Jesus, immersed in his life, guided by his Spirit, until we are united with him: ‘hidden with Christ in God.’ (Colossians 3: 3)
This is our Christian vocation, a step by step journey into God. How do we do this? Our daily concerns often get in the way. Well, every time we think of God, every prayer we make, however short, whenever we attend to what we have to do, or call upon the Lord for help, when we truly want to become one with Jesus and when we get up and go on when things are difficult, we are taking little steps towards our goal.
We know that prayer must not be just words: it must be real, it must come from the heart. The essence of all prayer is really a call for help. There is one way among many which a lot of people find helpful – it is called the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me (us).
To ask for mercy is to ask for the gracious, loving-kindness of God. You can use it to call on God in need. Or just to help you to stay in God’s presence: to find silence and peace. Over time it can become part of you, drawing you into the heart of Christ. Just repeat the prayer, with attention, slowly and quietly in the silence of your heart, for as long as you like, whenever you think of it. Thoughts will crowd in; regard them as distractions and simply let them go. This prayer can also be used when we find we do not know what to say: it keeps us in the Lord’s presence.
This prayer can also be used to pray for others (Lord have mercy on her/him) – and when we do not know what to say : it keeps us in the Lord’s presence.
Part of us wants to be in the presence of God but a part of us doesn’t. The Jesus Prayer can help us. It reminds us of our complete reliance on God – that without him we can do nothing.
‘Son of David , Jesus, have mercy on me’ – Mark 10: 47-48
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