The Jesus Prayer:

Oh Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner

This prayer also known as the ‘prayer of the heart’ is one of the most taught and discussed prayers in the Orthodox Christian Churches. This prayer is said to be exceptionally revered by the spiritual fathers and is habitually repeated as an essential component of one’s ascetic practice. Up to this day, this prayer is being utilized as a means of producing the Prayer of the Heart’, which means a heart that is naked before God.

Biblical Background
This prayer is found in verse 13 of the 18th chapter of the book of Luke where Jesus was teaching the disciples the kind of prayer that is acceptable to God by comparing the self righteous prayer of a Pharisee with the prayer of a tax collector. The Pharisee went straight into the temple and thanked God that he is unlike others who are not as righteous as he is. On the other hand, the tax collector, instead of going inside the temple, remained standing from a distance. He could not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner’.

The Jesus Prayer

Significance of this prayer
This prayer is short but it means a lot more than we normally understand. It teaches us the kind of attitude that God is looking for to all those who desire to come to him in prayer. Here are the reasons why this is also called the ‘prayer of the heart’.

It is an expression of humility          
Fear and humiliation prevented the tax collector from saying much.  He could only utter ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner’.  Sighs and moans have gobbled up his words as he realized the enormity of his sins. He didn’t compare himself with others just what the Pharisee did but he compared his righteousness with God’s and found himself lacking. He felt unworthy to even speak a word but he needed to as he sincerely desired to submit himself to the Lord.

It is an expression of repentance
Acceptance of one’s sin is one of the most difficult things to do. The tax collector did not only admit that he is a sinner. He has even asked for the Lord’s mercy because of his sins. He recognized that his sin will reap him punishment. Unlike the Pharisee who exalted his own righteousness before God, he humbly admitted that he has not done anything right. He knows that he doesn’t deserve any favour from the Lord. He recognized that the Lord knows every single sin that he has committed against Him and he is to be justly punished.

It is an expression of the need for the Lord
The tax collector expressed his need for the Lord more than anything else through this prayer acknowledging that nothing else matters to him more than God and His forgiveness. He knew that his sin has alienated him from God and he didn’t want to stay that way for the Lord is everything to him.  He can’t be satisfied and content without Him. But will the Lord accept him?

It is an expression of faith and trust
The tax collector uttered this prayer because deep inside, he believed that the Lord is merciful and gracious enough to forgive him. He believed that all that God needs is for him to sincerely repent from his sins and ask for His mercy. And true enough, he has asked only for mercy but he received more than what he asked for. Jesus said that this man went home not only forgiven but justified.  

Good to know:

The Jesus Prayer is also called the Prayer of the Heart

And did you also know that this prayer is the most popular prayer used while praying with the prayer rope?

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