six: the Jesus prayer
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  This prayer exercise (also known as the pilgrim's prayer) has been a source of spiritual blessing to many people. The words are simple:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God
Have mercy on me, a sinner.

In some traditions, the words "a sinner" are omitted. Do not underestimate this prayer! It is especially useful at times when words fail you and emotion overwhelms you.


1. Go on a short, 15-20 minute walk. Try repeating the prayer in time with your breathing or with your walking. I pray: "Lord Jesus Christ" as I breathe in, "Son of God" as I breathe out, "have mercy..." as I breathe in, "on me" as I breathe out. Or you could pray each word in time with each step. Pray out loud or in your mind.

2. If you want to develop the potential of this prayer you will need to practice it. I found that after a couple of months and some very long walks it became part of me. Stay aware of the prayer. It is not a subconscious mantra or a self-hypnosis technique.

3. Once the prayer has become more automatic and internal, think about the meaning of the words. What different characteristics of Jesus do the words Lord, Jesus, Christ and Son evoke for you? What changes to you and those around you will asking for the mercy and loving kindness of God bring about?


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Peter Huchinson:
I have found the Jesus prayer a great help in becoming still. It has four beats and so after having thought about the meaning of the prayer one can let it become a mantra and so an aid to stillness.

I understand why in some traditions the final "a sinner" is omitted ... it is so that the prayer can become more God centred and not me-centred.

I have an exercise that begins
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.

After using the full text for a while, drop the "a sinner",
then later drop the "have mercy on me",
then "Son of the Living God",
then "Christ",
then "Jesus",
and you are left with a single invocation "Lord".

The spiritual movement seems to be away from one's sin, away from any sort asking, away from describing/theology,
and into an intensely personal awareness of God's presence.

©embody 2001