Week Four: The Jesus Prayer

Illumined Heart cover

This month we’ve been reading The Illumined Heart: Capture the Vibrant Faith of Ancient Christians. In this short book, Frederica Mathewes-Green explores the wisdom and practices of the early Church to guide us on our walk of faith today. Our previous posts looked at repentance and fasting. Today, we’ll examine the Jesus Prayer.

The Jesus Prayer arose in the early centuries of eastern Christianity. The prayer involves repeating a single phrase: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”

Mathewes-Green explains the rationale behind this prayer:

The Jesus Prayer arose as a way to practice unceasing prayer. It offered a short and simple form that can be repeated in an unhurried way no matter what else a person is doing. Since the prayer is silent and interior, it can be kept going in all situations.


Why ask Jesus for mercy?

We keep lapsing into ideas of self-sufficiency, or get impressed with our niceness, and so we lose our humility. Asking for mercy reminds us that we are still poor and needy, and fall short of the glory of God. Those who do not ask do not receive, because they don’t know their own need.


What about when we just can’t do it?

Do not cease praying when prayer comes hard, for fear of doing it imperfectly. If you cease praying when you can’t do it right, the devil gets a victory. So keep offering a broken prayer, and remember that you are only an unworthy servant, and yet Jesus wants you.


Read more.

For Reflection:

Mathewes-Green week 4