In the mornings, I like to set aside time for prayer. My favorite place to pray is on my deck where I can hear the sounds of the woods reacting to the rising sun: the bird’s singing their morning songs, the cicadas rhythmic trill, and even the humming of the planes overhead journeying to unknown western destinations.
Maybe it’s simple habit. Perhaps it’s vain repetition. Call it what you want. I often begin this time of “formal” prayer with The Jesus Prayer.
Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me,
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”right”]I am a sinner, in need of mercy.[/pullquote]Why this prayer? I was introduced to it years ago when I read the book, The Jesus Prayer by Scott McKnight. I learned of its long use by the Eastern Orthodox Community. I’m drawn to its simplicity and yet it speaks to the very core of my need.
This prayer has a way of indicating to my body, soul, and spirit that prayer is my intention. My mind and heart begin to quiet and prepare for this time spent solely with God. It acts as a signal that I am entering into the House of the Most High God.
As I pray this, I am reminded of who Jesus is: God’s own Son. It leads me to the knowledge of the incarnation, that Jesus is also the Son of Man. He is the part of God who has lived this human life and can understand what living as a human in this crazy world is like.
Moreover, I am reminded in this prayer that unlike Jesus, I am a sinner, in need of mercy.
During moments of prayer, I can be overcome by guilt, anxiety, or hopelessness. The Jesus Prayer has a way of bringing me back to a place of humility and, possibly, empathy for myself. I am, after all, a sinner. I am weak in areas that sometimes I am not even aware of. In prayer, the Spirit gently shows me these areas. I know Jesus sympathizes with me and, in turn, gives me mercy.
Often I come back to this prayer when my thoughts have taken me off track. Again, I am reminded of my need for mercy. This morning prayer is my time alone and silence before God, and yet my mind often takes over bringing me away from God. Soon I realize I have gone into a space of daydreaming, or reviewing my plans for the day. Not that there is anything inherently wrong about this, but during this time I’ve set aside, my desire is to stay with the intention of prayer. This prayer becomes a re-set of sorts.
There are times in my life and in times of other people’s lives, that I have come to the end of my prayer rope. I simply don’t know what or how to pray for particular people or situations. Sometimes the best I can pray for in these places is for Jesus to have mercy.
I’ve started reading through the Psalms again. They are the prayers of real life. Full of true and honest emotions. I’ve noticed a correlation between the Psalms and The Jesus Prayer as it reflects the heart of David and the other writers as they cry out for mercy. David understood who his God was, and his need for mercy that only God can give. He was never afraid to ask for it. David speaks for me and for all of us. Our need for mercy, and boldly asking for it.
And that is why I pray The Jesus Prayer.