The Jesus prayer

The one thing, that this period of crisis is giving us, is time for silence. I don’t know whether this fills you with joy or loathing. At this time, I’m drawn to the words in 1 Kings 19:11 – 13 where we hear about Elijah who was running away. God was not in the great wind, nor the earthquake or the fire. God was in the sound of sheer silence. But how can we find him?
One way of praying is known as the Jesus Prayer, it’s a simple way of praying, deceptively so because it can have the quite amazing effect of helping us reach that stillness. It’s not an academic prayer, it’s very simple. But it has the effect of helping us to remove any distractions coming into our minds.
The words are: Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
I was taught to use it by saying the first half whilst breathing in and the second part on a breath out. You use it on a repetitive basis, over and over again. It can be used throughout the day, any odd moment, whether in a formal prayer time or just in an odd moment here and there.
It’s especially effective in times of stress or when we are suffering in any way. It doesn’t require thought, we don’t feel that we have to prepare ourselves. It gives us a focus so that with the rest of our mind we can be with God, in that deep stillness that is within each of us.
As with all things, practice helps. Why not take a few moments each day to try it out? Sit down with your feet on the floor and still yourself. Make sure that you’re comfortable. Close your eyes. Silently, internally, begin to say the prayer. Listen to it as you say it. Keep saying it and don’t allow distractions to take your focus away. (I find that, if distractions keep coming, then I have to deal with them – write them on a piece of paper, and then return to the prayer.) The prayer should be continued for as long as you feel comfortable. Without practice you may not do it for very long, that is fine. Keeping going each day and it will improve. You may find that you don’t say the whole phrase – indeed some people just use one word, ‘Jesus’. That is also fine.
When you come to the end of saying the prayer don’t jump up and continue on with your day but stop saying the words and sit, quietly, for a short time.
When you’ve been using this prayer for some time you may catch yourself saying it at random times of the day (or night) without any idea of when you started. This feels to me like St Paul’s ‘praying without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17) It really is quite remarkable and can have a transformational effect on your life.