Praying the Jesus Prayer

St Paul asked us to pray without ceasing, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thessalonians 5, 16-18). We have hundreds of prayers at our disposal to help us pray without ceasing, but the Jesus Prayer is a great one to help us pray every time we have a spare minute, or 10...

The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”

Although this prayer is primarily used as a contemplative or centering prayer, we can pray it throughout the day. We can pray this short, yet powerful, prayer as we walk, while waiting for the elevator to open, while driving, and in many other idle moments. Instead of filling our mind and our heart with Facebook, busy chatter, or worries, we can pray the Jesus Prayer.

It is believed that this prayer was prayed by early Christians in the desert of Egypt as early as the 5th Century. It is a really important prayer among Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. They use this contemplative prayer to bring about the Prayer of the Heart, the unceasing prayer St Paul talked about.

First of all, this prayer invokes the name of Jesus. “To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him. By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior's mercy. The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and "brings forth fruit with patience." This prayer is possible "at all times" because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church).

This prayer also helps us acknowledge in humility that we are sinners. The mere fact that we pray it unceasingly helps us be strong against the very temptations that lead us to sin. It also helps us pray for Jesus’ much needed mercy.

The root of the prayer comes from the parable on Luke 18: 13-14, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2: 9-11