Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A prayer for Presence


The Jesus Prayer comes from the Eastern Orthodox tradition but I first learnt it a few years ago during a Lenten series on Isaiah 55.

It was taught as a breath prayer, breathing in on the first part of the phrase, breathing out on the second half. More on that in a moment.

I struggled with it because it seemed to reflect a dated, medieval view of God. In truth, it was because I didn't want to acknowledge my faults.

The version I learned was this:
(breathing in) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God
(breathing out) have mercy on me, a sinner.

I hadn't yet come to the understanding that I was broken, that we all are in some way. Nobody's perfect. (Your mileage may vary on what "sin" means for you.)

The traditional prayer (which I'm bringing up before someone else does) goes: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." and it isn't used as a breath prayer either according to one website I read.

Another version is: "Lord Jesus Christ, be gracious to me, a sinner."

It's a powerful prayer. That first night learning to pray it, I had a very real sense of the presence of Jesus for a brief moment.

But it became a firm part of my practice when I used it to calm myself. I'd be on the verge of a anxiety attack: the praying to Jesus, the controlled breathing, and it took my mind of the problem.

I don't use it that way much any more, having learned better ways to handle it.

I still use it as part of entering silence, as a way of transition from work problems to being with God.

As I've written this, I am now curious to make a prayer practice in an of itself: not a cry of help, or a method of transition.

Have you ever prayed the Jesus Prayer? When do you use it?


Oh -- on Friday, I'm starting a weekly series on The Prayer of St. Francis, one line at a time. Stay tuned!


[edited to add the link I forgot to add. Oops.]

I am linking this to Ann Voskamp's "Walk with Him Wednesdays".

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