A Simple Prayer for Lent
Sometimes there’s nothing better than to turn to prayers tested by time and experience. The “Jesus Prayer” is one which you might wish to try this Lent. While it has ancient roots, it is probably best known in the West from a 19th century Russian book, The Way of a Pilgrim. The pilgrim uses the Jesus Prayer in his spiritual journey, attempting to pray without ceasing by repeating this prayer.
The words are simple: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There is some scholarly debate on whether the prayer originated with calling upon the name of “Jesus,” or with the experience of remorse for sin. Either way, the prayer reflects an expression of faith from our liturgy, “Lord, have mercy,” the Kyrie. It also evokes an ancient practice (known in Judaism as sheviti) of putting the name of God, the object of your prayer, in front of you.
It seems especially suited to Lent. Despite its depth, it is a simple prayer which addresses some of our most basic needs. A frequent method of praying it is to let the words of the prayer ride your breath. Breathe in the Lord, by inhaling on “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,” and let go of what binds you by exhaling on “have mercy on me, a sinner.”
As you enter the prayer, you will find your own rhythm, and discover where it – and Jesus – are leading you. Trusting in the name of Jesus, you can be sure the journey will be blessed. A Monk of the Eastern Church, writing about this prayer, says that “The name of Jesus, once it has become the center of our life, brings everything together” (The Jesus Prayer, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997, p.96).
Wishing you a holy Lent, as we journey with Jesus in prayer and in life.