Why and How to pray the Jesus Prayer
By Fr. Daniel Pinell.
The Jesus Prayer is ancient and simple: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. The prayer is then repeated many times, as a way to focus on God, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and our need for His mercy. This prayer most likely originated in the 5th century and settled by the monastic Desert Fathers and Mothers in Egypt.
An objection that has been leveled over these sorts of prayers is Jesus’ injunction to not “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words”(Matthew 6:7). Jesus is warning against thinking that the mere repetitions of the right combination of words will get God to listen to us.
Of course, if we were to pray any prayer this way, it will be in vain.
What Jesus didn’t say, however, is to never memorize prayers or use other people’s prayers, or even repeat your prayers. If that were so, Jesus wouldn’t have taught us the Our Father. This prayer is repeated daily by millions of Christians around the world!
There are moments when extemporaneous prayer is needed, and there are others when the words just won’t come. We don’t know what to pray. We ran out of things to pray for and ask for. Praying only extemporaneously will lead to an unhealthy pressure of figuring out what to pray, and whether we are praying for the right things or not.
This is where the liturgy and memorized prayers can assist us and open up to us a new way of praying! These prayers have been passed down by holy women and holy men, and have been tested by our tradition throughout generations and proven beneficial to countless Christians.
Praying The Jesus Prayer is Quite Simple. Really
This simple prayer does not require great preparations. It can be said in private, sitting down in a room. It can be said and repeated while driving, walking, or doing your chores. It can be said while breathing out, as a form of meditation with your breath.
Some people find useful the use of Prayer Beads. Prayer Beads helps us refocus our attention. As we go through the beads with our hands, we can have our mind, body, and spirit involved in this prayer. The Anglican Rosary can be used and is often used with The Jesus Prayer!
However, you choose to do it, know that the most important part is a prayerful attitude, and a heart willing to give itself completely to God.
I hope this prayer proves helpful in your walk with the Lord!