The Jesus Prayer – Part 2

Prayer & Fasting

Part 1 – (Click here)

Yesterday we learnt the introduction of the Jesus Prayer, as an ‘arrow prayer’ which is centered on the Holy Name of Jesus and when used specifically cab help us to just sit and look at God. There are two versions to the Jesus Prayer – Greek and Russian. Both versions are correct, but for this series we will use the Greek version – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” The Russian version adds the words ‘a sinner’ at the end of the prayer. Both versions are remarkably complete. Within this one short sentence we Matt find combined four ‘strands’ or important elements:

1. The cry for mercy;
2. The discipline of repetition;
3. The quest for stillness;
4. The veneration of the Holy Name.

What is the origin of these four elements, and how did they come together to form the Jesus Prayer? Let us look at each one of these elements individually.

1. The cry for mercy – “Lord, have mercy”
“Kyrie eleison” or “Kurielaison” is found in the liturgical worship from at least the 4th century and it’s use in Christian prayer may well be ancient. To ask for divine mercy is not to be seen as something gloomy and exclusively penitential. While the cry for mercy certainly involves sorrow for sin, it speaks also of divine forgiveness. It affirms that God’s loving kindness and compassion are greater than my brokenness and guilt.

Sometimes our Holy Fathers of old connect the word ‘eleos’ – mercy, with ‘elaion’ meaning olive oil. This is a very good theology where ‘mercy’ signifies precisely the love of God, poured out to heal and restore.

The Jesus Prayer is a prayer full of light and hope. St. Hesychius of Sinai in the 8th century (?) summed up its true spirit by saying, “If we unceasingly call upon Jesus with a keen yearning that is full of sweetness and joy, then the air of our heart is filled with rejoicing and peace.”

In the next session, we will try and understand the second element – The discipline of repetition.

Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon me a sinner.

Reference: The Jesus Prayer – Bishop Kallistos Ware

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