The Jesus Prayer is a very simple prayer that dates back centuries. Used by many Christian traditions, the Jesus Prayer comes to us as an older practice that was formalized by the Orthodox Church in the 5th Century but really stems from Biblical roots. In Matthew 20:31 we find the two blind men begging Jesus for mercy and in Luke 18:13 we see the tax collector crying out to God. This is the same kind of prayer we try to achieve with the Jesus Prayer. When we look at these passages in accordance with 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we see the reasoning behind the repetition of this prayer.
The Prayer is simple, it is, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” This simple phrase is repeated multiple times during a prayer time.
Praying the prayer itself can be a learned process, because although it is simple, we really should not mindlessly repeat the phrase. It requires a humble and honest approach for it to be useful. Just as we see in the scriptures listed, we need to approach prayer with a sense of need for the real presence and life changing power of Jesus in our hearts. The prayer is meant to be spoken on the lips, not just within our thoughts. If whispered quietly, the first part of the the prayer can be spoken while breathing in and the last part can be spoken while breathing out so that we can visualize ourselves breathing in Christ and exhaling ourselves as sinners. This is just a variation and is not a requirement to the prayer.
A Prayer Rope
can be very useful for concentration during the prayer as well as setting a goal for yourself regarding how many times or how long you will say the prayer in a day. In the Orthodox tradition the use of knotted prayer ropes is an integral part of the Jesus Prayer. Orthodox prayer ropes (Chotki in Russian) can be purchased
, but a simpler beaded version can be tied as well using wooden beads and hemp. Our youth ministry recently practiced making these at a prayer retreat and most of the students made them with little to no problems. The Prayer rope that I like to use has 50 beads and a fringe and cross at the end. When I have prayed all the way around the rope, I take a minute while holding the cross to speak my worries and cares to Christ. After having said the prayer at least 50 times I find that those prayers while holding the cross are much more heartfelt and meaningful. If you are interested in learning how to make the simplified version, you can contact me and I can give you instructions.
The Jesus Prayer is simply put, a statement of faith or a creed. The words themselves speak to what a Christian believes and what his attitude should be.
Lord –we give Jesus the Lordship of our life; Jesus-we invoke and call on His name; Christ-we call him the Messiah (that’s what Christ means); Son of God-we recognize His place as the only begotten; have mercy-we plea just as the tax collector or the blind men did; on me a sinner-we recognize our state and need for Him.
When we look at the prayer this way, it seems a powerful statement of faith, worthy of writing in our hearts.
When I first tried this prayer as an experiment, it seemed wrote and repetitive to me. In a word, I called it dumb. Only after having repeated it for a time did I find a sense of peace and connectedness to God. When I had repeated the prayer for about a half hour I felt more at peace than I had in a while during personal prayer times and I finally realized that this would be of great use to me. The longer I have practiced it the more and more I have become fond of it and it has grown to be an integral part of my private prayer times. During some recent months of increased stress in my ministry I have relied on this prayer heavily to give me the strength, peace, and patience to make it through the day.
I hope that you give this prayer a try. I almost didn’t but because of a book that I was reading I decided to give it a try and it proved a lifeline to me during a difficult stage of ministry. I hope and pray the Jesus Prayer is as meaningful and useful to you as it was and is to me.