The Jesus Prayer
Hiermonk Alexei (formerly Fr. Paisius Altschul) is the most Godly and Christlike person I know. A link to his ministry is: https://stmaryofegypt.net/category/monastery. Over 20 years ago, he introduced me to the Jesus Prayer and to a fantastic book, “The Way of the Pilgrim.”
The Jesus Prayer provides space for God to meet with us and to encounter us on his own terms. As a Baptist, my traditional method of prayer resembles placing an order at the drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant. I tell God what I want, say “thank you,” and go my way – often forgetting what I asked for in the first place.
Hiermonk Alexei taught me to wait before God and to allow him to address me with his presence. I have a mind that is easily distracted, so quiet contemplation is very difficult for me. The Jesus Prayer is a short prayer that can be repeated frequently. It is based on two prayers that were addressed to Jesus. It allows people to still their inner person, to return to inner stillness when distracted, and to give space for God to address us.
One of the two Bible passages that gave rise to the Jesus prayer was the prayer of blind Bartimaeus. He prayed, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10.48). The second prayer used to make up the Jesus Prayer came from Jesus’ story about the tax collector in Luke 18.9-14. This man prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Verse 13).
The Orthodox Church has combined these two prayers to construct the Jesus Prayer. The form of the Jesus Prayer that I use: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Other people simply pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”
How does it work?
Here is the way I approach the Jesus Prayer. I take ten minutes in the morning, after reading a portion of the Bible. I set the timer on my phone to ring in ten minutes. I ask the Holy Spirit for help and tell Jesus that I desire to meet with him in any way he desires. Then, I begin praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I pause for a beat and then repeat the prayer for the next ten minutes.
When my mind wanders, which is very often, I re-focus my attention to the presence of Jesus who is in my midst. When the ten minutes are over, I begin my day.
During the day, I return to the Jesus Prayer while driving, in stressful or boring situations, and at any other time I sense the desire to pray it.
I end my day the same way it began by praying the Jesus Prayer for about ten minutes. It is a great way to get ready for bed and to place the issues of the day into the hands of God.
What happens when we pray the Jesus Prayer?
Sometimes nothing happens. However, I find that a regular practice of intentionally drawing near to Christ, positively affects my inside condition.
Prayer for Today
The Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.