THE JESUS PRAYER
Over the past few weeks, I have shared some thoughts on devotion and spiritual practices. We’ve looked at Lectio Divina and Praying Luther’s Catechism. I’d like to continue this theme with a look at one of my favorite prayers called simply “The Jesus Prayer.”
The words of The Jesus Prayer are simple.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
The prayer is based on words and concepts found in these verses: Psalm 123:3, Luke 18:13, Luke 18:38 and others. The idea of The Jesus Prayer is to repeat the words over and over using the opportunity to meditate on the phrase and listen to God’s response. Prayer after all, is a two-way conversation. We need to leave space to hear God’s response.
I like to use The Jesus Prayer as a ‘Breath Prayer.’ A breath prayer takes a short prayer phrase breaking it into two parts and matching the parts with your breathing, creating a very natural, meditative rhythm.
Using this technique, The Jesus Prayer works like this:
On the inhale… “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,”
On the exhale… “have mercy on me a sinner.”
Breath prayers can be easily adjusted to other short phrases or scriptures. Other possibilities include:
“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
"My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."
"When I am afraid, I will trust you."
"Not my will, but your will be done."
Believe it or not, my favorite place to practice breath prayers is in the dentist’s chair. I have a dentist phobia that leads to high stress when I’m in the chair for the simplest of visits, but I have found that the meditative practice of breath prayer is a true blessing that offers the gift of calm and an opportunity to focus on God’s amazing gifts to me.
I hope you find these spiritual practices beneficial in this time of physical separation from your Calvary family, but find comfort in knowing that your family of faith loves you and raises you up in prayer. God’s richest blessings to you all. Peace, Deacon Hurst
During this time of separation I have made it my goal to suggest ways for the Calvary family to stay spiritually active. One way to remain spiritually active is to have regular conversation with the Lord, we call this prayer. One of my favorite prayer activities is to pray the Ten Commandments. Yes, I know that it sounds odd, and the first time I tried it, I struggled, but the following article written by LCMS President Harrison for the 2017 Reporter is an excellent primer on how to pray the commandments as Martin Luther taught in a letter to his barber. I have edited the article slightly, but kept the parts that will be helpful in adding this prayer technique to your prayer routine. God be with you all. I sincerely miss my Calvary family.
How to Pray the Ten Commandments
Here’s a little piece I wrote as a preface to a collection of biblical texts. It teaches Luther’s method of prayer, which interestingly encompasses both rote and free prayer! — Pastor Harrison
The method anchors prayer in the texts of Scripture or the catechism but allows the Holy Spirit to prompt thoughts via the Word, which may be chased more freely by the mind at prayer. . . .
Luther explains his method, using the Ten Commandments:
First, I think of each commandment as instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly. I do so in thoughts or words such as these: “I am the Lord your God, etc. You shall have no other gods before me,” etc. Here I earnestly consider that God expects and teaches me to trust him sincerely in all things and that it is his most earnest purpose to be my God.
Second, I give thanks for his infinite compassion by which he has come to me in such a fatherly way and, unasked, unbidden, and unmerited, has offered to be my God, to care for me, and to be my comfort, guardian, help, and strength in every time of need. We poor mortals have sought so many gods and would have to seek them still if he did not enable us to hear him openly tell us in our own language that he intends to be our God. How could we ever—in all eternity—thank him enough!
Third, I confess and acknowledge my great sin and ingratitude for having so shamefully despised such sublime teachings and such a precious gift throughout my whole life, and for having fearfully provoked his wrath by countless acts of idolatry. I repent of these and ask for his grace.
Fourth, I pray and say: “O my God and Lord, help me by thy grace to learn and understand thy commandments more fully every day and to live by them in sincere confidence. Preserve my heart so that I shall never again become forgetful and ungrateful, that I may never seek after other gods or other consolation on earth or in any creature, but cling truly and solely to thee, my only God. Amen, dear Lord God and Father. Amen” (Luther’s Works 43:200).
Luther’s advice to his barber, Peter, is brilliant. You can pray texts of the Bible, hymns, creed, catechism, etc. Start with the Ten Commandments!
LCMS Reporter Feb. 1, 2017
Lectio Divina-Divine Reading
I believe this time of extended separation and sheltering allows a great opportunity for us to grow in faith and try some new study methods and spiritual disciplines. One of my favorites is the practice of Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina is a meditative prayer, allowing God to speak through his living Word. It has been described as a way to “feast on God’s Word.” I’d like to suggest using Psalm 46 to practice this discipline. I have included the reading here for simplicity. Please note that I have used The Message translation as I believe its everyday language works well when focusing on specific words or phrases as we do in this technique. In the future, should you choose to continue this discipline, you can choose a familiar reading or even allow the Holy Spirit to direct you by simply opening your Bible and beginning to read. God Bless and keep you all.
Here are the basic steps. To begin, you might open with a short prayer, asking God to guide your prayer time. You may choose to light a candle. Then do the following:
1. Reading (lectio): Slowly and thoughtfully, read the Scripture passage several times, leaving room for the Holy Spirit to call your attention to a word, phrase, or line that God wants you to hear.
2. Meditation (meditatio): Think about the word or words that the Holy Spirit has called to your attention, holding them in your mind and considering them from different angles. What is God saying to you in this passage? offering you? asking you?
3. Prayer (oratio): Respond to these sacred words in prayer, either silently or out loud, or in writing.
4. Contemplation (contemplatio): Possibly read the passage another time. Rest in God’s love, and listen. Rest in God’s presence, quieting yourself and listening for God’s response to your prayer.
Psalm 46 (The Message Translation)
1-3God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, GOD-of-Angel-Armies protects us.
4-6 River fountains splash joy, cooling God’s city, this sacred haunt of the Most High God lives here, the streets are safe, God at your service from crack of dawn. Godless nations rant and rave, kings and kingdoms threaten, but Earth does anything he says.
7 Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, GOD-of-AngelArmies protects us.
8-10 Attention, all! See the marvels of GOD! He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, oving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”
11 Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, GOD-of-AngelArmies protects us.
Peace, Deacon Hurst