Easter - 2018

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Finding the Peace and Direction!

 Last summer during our introduction to Spiritual Formation class with Dr. Jody Owens I was introduced to “The Jesus Prayer.” It is the simple words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It is a simple declaration of faith as well as a plea for mercy and grace. The presentation of the prayer is to follow the formula that repeats the phrase over and over in rhythm with one's breathing and heartbeat. It serves as a reminder of a believer's dependance on Jesus while also seeking a plea of Mercy from Jesus.

After Dr. Owens introduced it to the class, we were encouraged to go to a place on the Johnson Campus and experience the prayer as an offering with God. I remember that it was Thursday morning and I was able to gain access to the Glass Memorial Chapel. This was the main chapel when I was a undergrad student at Johnson. I sat in the same pew which I was assigned as an undergrad and started to recite the prayer. Recently, I have been praying for a new direction. The Holy Spirit led me to start singing as we had sung 14 years earlier and I started to sing the old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” while reciting “The Jesus Prayer” in between the verses. I surrendered to God and I laid out my desire. 
I began singing, “God is so good” and while I was singing the Holy Spirit interrupted me prayer. The interruption was not an audible voice, but a clear direction. The direction I received was as if God said, “If I am faithful, I have provided you with great opportunities in the past, and I am so good, then why would I stop being faithful, providing opportunities, and being good?” The amazing comfort of the prayer, the location, the renewal of the mind through his grace exposed me to how powerful “The Jesus Prayer” truly is. I discovered in those few minutes that God is a God that looks beyond my faults and failures. He is the One that has always used my service for his purposes. I also learned that I needed mercy. God's favor reminded me that it was not about “me” or my wishes but that the surrender of ministry is to surrender the “me” to God purposes in life, service, and ministry. 
Is there magic in the words?” Absolutely not! What the prayer does is quiet the mind, body, and heart so that the soul might be central in the prayer offered. Declaring Jesus as the son of God is a statement which contradicts the world around us. The use of this “apophatic” practice is “to direct personal encounter with God without images.” The images of the prayer are that of a blind man on the side of the road calling out to Jesus to come and have mercy on him. The use of this prayer combined with the natural rhythm of breathing with study brings the believer to a place of hearing from the Holy Spirit so as to receive and engage in divine direction. The wonderful aspect of the results is that the answer that God is faithful, that God is a great provider, and God will continue to be a good God is not new information or that it provided a new revelation. The message accomplished in my heart a divine mystery of trust. 
Trust is difficult when we seek independence with our lives. I certainly am not immune to an independent will. Thus, the prayer declaring that Jesus is the Son of God and then pleading for him to grant me mercy is a reversal of my independence. The learning experienced in the chapel that summer day was a reminder of my dependance on God in surrendering to him. I find a great comfort in knowing God will not bring about judgement in my prayer, instead he will offer mercy.

Holt states about the Hail Mary the following: “the mind operates on two levels: the repetition of the Hail Mary is a way of centering the attention, while the mysteries are imaginatively relived.” With my experience with The Jesus Prayer, I believe it applies even more. I do not see a need to pray to Mary. Yes, she was a special young lady. She grew to be the mother of God's Son. However, I do not see her as divine or as a deity. I do not see Holt believing that Mary should be prayed to either, he is simply explaining the Rosary and how it works. What is noted is the prayer offering of the Rosary and The Jesus Prayer produce results that focus the mind so as to reveal God's love. The Jesus Prayer certainly works in the same fashion.

Since the opportunity last summer morning in the chapel, I have had opportunities to use the prayer. At night if I cannot sleep, it is a simple tool which brings about comfort with the inevitable dosing off in sleep. I have recited in my mind as I sit in a difficult or long meeting. There is comfort in the words of declaration of faith that Jesus is the Son of God and that he will hear us when we ask for mercy. As sinners, we need his forgiveness on an individual level. The Jesus Prayer reminds the believer of his mercy, while the Holy Spirit humbles and places the believer in a submissive spirit to hear and connect with God.

"Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen"  You know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005).

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