“When he [Bartimaeus] heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47).
In one of my past e-mail blasts, I mentioned praying the “Jesus Prayer” during my long-distance runs. “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!” This prayer has its Biblical roots in Mark 10:44-48, the Healing of Blind Bartimaeus. Jesus and His disciples are leaving Jericho, when a blind beggar, named Bartimaeus, begins to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus hears the cry of the blind man and grants Bartimaeus the mercy of healing. Blind eyes now see! “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!”
Exactly when the Jesus Prayer moved from the pages of Scripture to the petition of our hearts is unknown. Tradition tells us that the Jesus Prayer was used extensively in the monasteries of the Eastern (Orthodox) Church. In the late 1800’s, an unknown Russian monk wrote a book called The Way of the Pilgrim. It’s a great story about a monk who travels across Russia searching for a way to live out St. Paul’s challenge to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). He travels to churches and monasteries. He meets with priests and abbots, but no one can help him. Finally, his journey takes him to one of the startsi, a wise and experienced spiritual elder. The elder introduces the pilgrim to the Jesus Prayer, and teaches him how to pray it, over, and over, and over, as a spiritual mantra. “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!”
The old startsi instructs the inquisitive pilgrim, “Sit down alone and in silence. Lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe in and out gently, and imagine yourself looking into your own heart. Carry your mind, that is, your thoughts, from your head to your heart. As you breathe out, say “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” Say it moving your lips gently, or simply say it in your mind. Try to put all other thoughts aside. Be calm, be patient, and repeat the process very frequently.”
Dear Friends in Christ, give the Jesus Prayer a try. Set the timer on your phone for 3 minutes. As the prayer becomes more familiar you can add more time. Find a comfortable place to sit or kneel at home, at work, or in church. Slowly repeat in your mind and silently on your lips, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!” Pray this simple prayer again and again. Allow the prayer to flow from your mind and lips to your heart (this will take practice, but it will eventually happen). Thoughts and distractions will come. That’s ok. Just go back to repeating the prayer. “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!” The more you practice this prayer, the less frequent the distractions will be. When your time is up, give thanks to God, and get on with your day.