A common form of the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me” can be said silently in your mind or out loud. The Jesus Prayer can even be used as an intercessory prayer substituting the prayed-for-person’s name for “me.” But the question remains, “Why should you pray the Jesus Prayer?”
In her excellent book, The Jesus Prayer: The Ancient Desert Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God, Frederica Mathewes-Green states, “It is really possible to sense the presence of God—continuously” (p.xii). This statement is in response to St. Paul’s urging us to “pray constantly” (I Tess. 5:17). Again, “The Prayer’s goal is to help you keep always in touch with the presence of god” (ibid. p.viii). “The process of assimilating the presence of God is called theosis . . . . Theos means “God,” and as a cloth soaks up water by osmosis, we are saturated with God through theosis. Progress in theosis is a gift from God, not won by any effort, of course” (ibid. p.12).
If you desire to experience the continual presence of God, gradually through God’s grace, then pray the Jesus Prayer. If you want to eventually experience the gift of discernment, then pray the Jesus Prayer. The evil one is tricky. To be given, through grace, the ability to discern the subtleties between good and evil thoughts and actions is invaluable. Mathewes-Green believes with time an inner stillness can be developed (ibid. p.19).
“The French philosopher Leon Bloy said, ‘There is only one tragedy: to fail to become a saint’” (ibid. p.167). Should anyone strive to be a saint? Or would the striving itself nullify the possibility of reaching sainthood? If holiness is your calling, then praying the Jesus Prayer will help you discern your path. Or if you want to simply and humbly be closer to God, praying the Jesus Prayer may be your guide.
Photo Credit: Photo by Horia Varlan at Flickr Creative Commons.