Variations on the Jesus Prayer

One of the most used prayers in Church tradition is the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  While running on Monday, I decided to meditate on the Jesus Prayer by repeating it several times, each time expounding upon one of the words in the prayer.  If you’re familiar with the Amplified Bible, think of this as the Amplified Jesus Prayer Exercise.   

If I were writing out the prayer exercise, the first time  through would look like this:  “Lord [Master, Ruler, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, true Emperor, only One worthy of obedience and worship, . . .] Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”   The second time would look like “Lord Jesus [Salvation, Savior, Deliverer, Conqueror, born of Mary, teacher, healer, miracle-worker] Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”   Christ brought to mind “Annointed One”, “King”, and “Messiah”.

The elaborations on Son of God that came to my mind sounded doctrinal (“begotten before all time”, “fully God and fully human” etc.) as well as biblical (“Beloved of the Father,”  “Light of the World”).  Have mercy felt much more earthy (“deliver ___”, “heal ___”, forgive, pardon, repair, reconstruct, free, liberate, save).

Each repetition brought more and more words to mind that expounded upon each word of the Jesus Prayer.  One thing that surprised me was how much came to mind when I got to the words “me” and “a sinner”.  For “me” I listed all the ways I could be identified: “husband of Eileen, pastor of Upper Room,  son of . . ., barista, guitar-player, etc.”  As I defined who I am, the rest of the prayer became more personal.  Looking back at the words I had used to expound on “Jesus” and “Son of God”, they no longer felt abstract.  Instead they felt both intimate and concrete.  At “sinner“, I did a bit of a moral inventory, confessing my sinfulness and brokenness, and asking God to reveal other places where I need repentance and healing.

The exercise took me about five minutes, and I think it could easily be adapted for prayer stations in communal worship, or for personal use in other settings.

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