The Jesus Prayer

The “Jesus Prayer” or the “Prayer of the Heart” is one of the most beloved prayers next to the Lord’s Prayer, but not many Protestant have heard about it.

The context of the prayer can be found in Luke 18:9-14, where two men are praying. The Pharisee says, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income” (Luke 18:10-12, NRSV).

The publican, or tax collector, instead prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13, NRSV). And Jesus points to this man and his prayer as the one accepted by God.

As early as the second century, the Desert Fathers and Mothers took the essence of this prayer and came up with the Jesus Prayer. There are different variations of it: the shortest: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me;” and the longest: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

By calling to mind this prayer throughout the day, the ancients put into practice the idea expressed in 1 Thess. 5:16 to “pray without ceasing.”

As St. Hesychios the Priest explains, “A ship does not go far without water; and there is no progress whatsoever in the guarding of the intellect without watchfulness, humility, and the Jesus Prayer. Stones form the foundation of a house; but the foundation of sanctity—and its roof—is the holy and venerable name of our Lord Jesus Christ…We write of what we know; and for those who want to understand what we say, we bear witness to all that we have seen as we journeyed on our path…. The sun cannot shine without light; nor can the heart be cleansed of the stain of destructive thoughts without invoking in prayer the name of Jesus. This being the case, we should use that name as we do our own breath.” (Philokalia, edited. by G.E.H. Palmer, et. al. p. 109)

Greek Orthodox author Frederica Mathewes-Green wrote an entire book about this prayer entitled, The Jesus Prayer: the Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God 

Watch the following videos and give the Jesus Prayer a try. Write about your experience.