The Jesus Prayer, also known as the Prayer of the Heart, is the central prayer for monastics. One of the early desert fathers, Saint Macarius the Great, said of the phrase from the Psalms, “The meditation of my heart is in your sight,” “There is no other perfect meditation than the saving and blessed Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ dwelling without interruption in you, as it is written ‘I will cry out like a swallow and I will meditate like the turtledove!’ This is what is done by the devout (person) who perseveres in invoking the saving Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The profound simplicity of the Jesus Prayer—“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”—makes it the perfect prayer, allowing us to follow the injunction of the of the Apostle Paul, that we “should pray always.”
The prayer can be said in various shortened versions, such as “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” or simply, “Lord Jesus Christ.”
Over the years I’ve heard so many people tell me that they have difficulty concentrating on their daily prayers. They’ve shared that they struggle with thoughts coming into their minds that distract them from prayer. Others have said the same thing happens during the public services in the temple. The Prayer of the Heart can help, for it is a way to dispel outside thoughts and bring our attention back to the Holy Name of Jesus.
This Prayer enriches our lives in every way as it can be used throughout the day and in every situation. We can pray the Jesus Prayer while working, driving to the store in heavy traffic (it is a splendid way to refrain from road rage), and even while sitting in boring meetings at the office. I use this prayer when hearing confessions or when counseling, since it is a way of seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit when giving spiritual direction.
I promise you, if you take up this Prayer for yourself, it will contribute to a peaceful heart, stillness of the mind, and keep you centered on the things of God. It will also allow you to participate in a spiritual practice that is as old as the Church herself.
In this Prayer we are not only asking for God’s mercy but declaring a confession of Faith. The Lord Jesus Christ is God and is able to grant mercy and forgiveness of our sins. He is the Lord of our lives and the imparting of his mercy gives us life.
“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.”