Day by Day Through Lent: Day Twenty-five

"I was blind; now I can see!"

Praying the Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is a short, simple prayer that can put you in the right frame of mind to get closer to God. And, at one sentence long, it’s easy to memorize!

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

We find a version of this prayer in Luke’s Gospel in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Both of them are praying in the temple, yet the contrite tax collector is justified before God rather than the smug Pharisee, who was boasting about his religious achievements (Luke 18:9-14). What does the tax collector ask of God? “Be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

Outside of this Gospel account, the Jesus Prayer can be traced back to the Eastern Orthodox Church from the Fourth Century. It is still a staple of many in the Orthodox community, although it can be prayed by anyone, of course! Because of its simplicity, it is often prayed on knots in prayer ropes in the Eastern Church, as an aid to concentration to help people “pray without ceasing”, as Saint Paul urged Christians to do (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

The Jesus Prayer is a “prayer of the heart”. Speaking of your heart, keep these words from the prophet Joel from the Old Testament in mind: “Rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for God is gracious and merciful, patient, and rich in mercy” (Joel 2:13).

Let this simple mantra become your silent prayer today whenever you have a few minutes of quiet, or while you’re waiting in line at the bank, or stopped at a traffic light! Anytime, really! And all the time: Pray without ceasing!

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