"Let all your thoughts be with the Most High and direct your humble prayers unceasingly to Christ." ~Thomas a Kempis
in anne lamott's fantastic book Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, she recounts that sometimes she has only two prayers in her arsenal: help me help me help me and thank you thank you thank you. this summer i have really come to identify with the simplicities of those cries to God, and i've added a third prayer: Jesus, mercy. sometimes those two words are all i can manage to utter.
i've learned that this kind of repetitive, meditative prayer has a rich history in the church. The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life, by tony jones, which i used as a foundation for investigating spiritual disciplines with the staff this summer, tells about the Jesus prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." its recitation has been a practice of eastern christianity since at least the sixth century and central to the understanding of how to be obedient to Paul's exhortation to "pray continually" (1 thessalonians 5:17).
The prayer is a variation of the two prayers uttered in these gospel passages:
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more,
"Son of David, have mercy on me!"
Jesus stopped and said, "Call him."
So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you." Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."
"Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52)batimaeus is not deterred by those who wish to silence his plea, and his persistence is met with "cheer up! on your feet! he's calling you!" Jesus is calling! Jesus listens to his desire and meets his immediate need. bartimaeus receives the healing and responds by following Jesus.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)in jones' book, he quotes frederica mathewes-green:
The problem is not in God's willingness to have mercy, but in our forgetting that we need it. We keep lapsing into idea of self-sufficiency, or get impressed with our niceness, and so we lose our humility. Asking for mercy reminds us that we are still poor and needy, and fall short of the glory of God. Those who do not ask do not receive, because they don't know their own need.if i've learned anything parenting a baby, it is that self-sufficiency is certainly an illusion. i cannot make dylan be well and i cannot make her sleep, no matter how much she needs it. motherhood has certainly been a humbling experience. the upside to the desperation has been that in recognizing my inadequacy and desperate need, i have seen God pour out great grace and mercy to help me in my helplessness and to forgive me in my ugliness.
God is good, and God is certainly merciful. dylan would not nap in her crib, but she is napping soundly in the sling, oblivious to my typing, movement, and sydney's barking.
thank you thank you thank you.