Spiritual Practice

The Jesus Prayer

Richard Lawton

devozine, Arms StretchedYou’re nervous about an exam, an interview, an audition, a doctor’s appointment. You feel intense pain or fear. You can’t sleep, so you lie there tossing and turning. Or you have some time to spare, waiting at a traffic light, waiting for a friend or a meal. These are good times to connect with God through an old Christian tradition: The Jesus Prayer.

When I say “old,” I mean old. As far as we know, the prayer in its present form can be traced to a man named Diadochos, who lived in Egypt from 400 to 486 a.d. A sixth century book recommends that this prayer be prayed continually.

The classic form of the prayer uses these words: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Luke 18:13c (NIV)

I usually drop the last bit (it’s true, but who needs to rub it in?) and try to be more inclusive by praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.”

Many people breathe in deeply as they pray the first part of the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God.” Then they slowly breathe out as they pray, “Have mercy on us.”

The Jesus Prayer focuses the mind and spirit; helps with the pain, waiting, nervousness, and sleepless nights; and fills our minds and hearts with God.


Pray The Jesus Prayer Throughout the Day:

(Breathe in) Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,

(Breathe out) have mercy on us.

—from devozine (March/April 2009). Copyright © 2009 by The Upper Room. All rights reserved.
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