Who Am I?

The Jesus Prayer, A Journey of Faith 2

Posted: January 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Prayer | Tags: , , | Comments Off on The Jesus Prayer, A Journey of Faith 2

I mentioned in my first post that I had been praying the Jesus Prayer for years before I discovered it was an actual prayer of the Church. That makes an interesting story itself, so I thought I would share it.

First, I want to make it clear that my own personal prayer rule and practices have never been that great. I’m hardly someone to emulate. My intentions to pray normally exceed my actual prayer itself.

Prayer is one way we are present with God. It’s an unmediated mystical experience of God. About a decade ago, I first read Brother Lawrence’s letters and discussions collected as The Practice of the Presence of God. I was particularly taken by his description of the use of breath prayers, very short prayers you could say during the course of your activities during the day. I began to develop and incorporate breath prayers of my own. These were short prayers, like “God is love” and “Love never fails.” But the prayer I seemed to return to again and again, drawn from the parable of the publican, was “Lord Jesus have mercy on me” or sometimes simply “Have mercy on me.”

In the summer of 2006 I was reading Scot McKnight’s book, Praying With The Church, for the first time. From my own reading and experience, I was already familiar with the ancient Jewish practice of set prayers, how it permeated the NT, and the long tradition of set prayers in the Church. I appreciated the way he tied it together and explained, but I didn’t expect any surprises. Then I got to Chapter 7, How the Eastern Orthodox Pray with the Church, and as he described the Jesus Prayer, I remember a sense of astonishment growing within me. I had not only stumbled onto a tradition I didn’t know existed, my favorite prayer over the course of every day was among the oldest continuing prayer traditions of the Church.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I had missed the connection before then. I suppose that things like that happen when your reading and experience are largely self-directed and somewhat haphazard. It was at that point that I really began to look at modern Orthodoxy, but that’s a story for my next post.

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