The Jesus Prayer is from the Eastern Orthodox tradition going back to the Desert Fathers. “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a miserable sinner” is the heart of it.
It’s easy to learn and so short you can repeat it in your head without anyone knowing you’re praying. I find it a godsend when I’m sitting in a meeting, going cross-eyed trying to follow some boring PowerPoint presentation. Who needs to know I’m praying silently?
I’ve found it useful in church meetings too (just because a meeting happens at church doesn’t mean it can’t be a trial of Christian charity). “What am I doing?” I ask myself. “Why am I here?” The Jesus Prayer restores my focus.
It’s the easiest means I’ve ever found of satisfying that command of Paul’s to pray without ceasing. There are times you need to think quite consciously about what you’re praying. You need to do a moral inventory, an emotional self-exam. You need to come clean. There are other times when you just need to connect. God knows what’s wrong, you don’t, but if you could just get in touch you’d feel a lot better.
I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve prayed this one at work tons of times. I’ve prayed it often enough over the years that I don’t have to concentrate on the words. I can simply flick the on switch and the prayer will be there.
There is a lot of talk these days about multi-tasking. Quite frankly multi-tasking for me means doing several things at once and none of them well. I am best off if I’m one hundred percent present with the task at hand and that could mean sitting in a meeting and offering some insight, if I have an insight. But it means silencing the inner monologue. It means listening, paying attention, understanding.
To pray “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a miserable sinner. Make haste to help me, rescue me and save me, let thy will be done in my life” isn’t adding a task to a multi-tasking day. It’s taking away the needless tasks and distractions. It’s asking God to be very present right where we are.