Most of you are probably familiar with the words of the Jesus Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
This prayer originated with the Desert Fathers and Mothers as a form of unceasing prayer, as Paul urges in 1 Thess 5:17.
How does one pray the Jesus Prayer? Have you ever tried it? St Gregory of Sinai (1260s-1346), an Eastern Orthodox monk, gives many instructions, including these:
Sitting in your cell, remain patiently in prayer, according to the precept of the Apostle Paul. Collect your mind into your heart and send out thence your mental cry to our Lord Jesus, calling for His help and saying: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me’ until you are tired. When tired, transfer your mind to the second half and say: ‘Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me!’ Having many times repeated this appeal, pass once more to the first half.
Centuries earlier, the Church Father John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407) indicated that this prayer was to be said not just while sitting quietly but also while going about the many tasks of monastic and daily life. It is to be repeated until it becomes part of one’s very being:
I implore you, brethren, never to break or despise the rule of this prayer… A monk when he eats, drinks, sits, officiates, travels or does any other thing must continually cry: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy upon me!’ so that the name of the Lord Jesus, descending into the depths of the heart, should subdue the serpent ruling over the inner pastures and bring life and salvation to the soul. He should always live with the name of the Lord Jesus, so that the heart absorbs the Lord and the Lord the heart, and the two become one…
Reflection: Do you pray the Jesus Prayer? How has it shaped your spiritual life?