When you are in a tough spot, confused about what to do, or at the end of your nerves, how do you pray?
If you’re anything like me, it’s probably short, honest and to the point. There’s no time, energy or desire for prayers much longer than a few words, spoken from the heart.
That’s why I love the Jesus prayer, a prayer from the lips of a man who was truly good and stuck. Maybe you remember the story? Jesus was only miles from Jerusalem and a blind beggar cried out with one of the most elegant and honest prayers ever made: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. This simple prayer has found itself forming on the lips of many saints down through the centuries, the heart cry of any and all who find themselves lost for words and in desperate need.
The story of Blind Bartimaeus reminds me to pray in four important ways. (It’ll help if you take 30 seconds and read the story.)
1. Pray Honestly. Rather than dressing things up to look less desperate, Barty knew his need. His prayer was from a deep place of honestly. The Jesus prayer allows us to pray honestly — we need mercy! Come to Jesus and admit your need for him to make a difference in your life.
2. Pray Boldly. There were others who tried to shut this beggar down, but Mark tell us that “he only shouted louder”. I love that. There may be people in your life, or even your own internal voices, that tell you Jesus doesn’t care, to stop crying out to him, to just accept your lot in life and keep out of the way. Don’t listen to those voices. Trust the goodness and grace of Jesus and “only shout louder.” Jesus loves you and hears you.
3. Pray Simply. The Jesus Prayer is nothing if not simple. It captures the essence of who Jesus is (The Son of David is a Messianic confession, meaning that Jesus is the only true deliverer) and the reality of our need for him. Nothing less, but nothing more either. Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. This prayer is easy to memorize (you already have!) and can become a prayer of the heart as we ask Jesus to have mercy on us in our time of need. Your need might be for strength to care for your children at home, insight in a difficult situation at work, or grace to overcome a dark time of depression. Whatever your need, this simple prayer captures everything.
4. Pray Responsively. I’m struck by the fact that Bartimaeus left his cloak, received healing and followed Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. As anyone reading the Mark story so far would see, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem for one purpose: to give his life as a ransom for many. Bartimaeus joins Jesus as he continues on his way to do just that. When we pray to Jesus, we pray responsively, open to Jesus’ call to us and willing to go wherever he leads us as he brings mercy and healing into our lives. Our prayers are not just to “get” something (as desperately as we really do need his mercy); we pray so that we can follow Jesus more fully as he leads us.
So try it: The Jesus Prayer. Let this honest, bold, simple prayer lead you to receive from and respond to Jesus as he pours his mercy and grace into your life.
Have you ever tried the Jesus Prayer?
What prayers do you pray when you are good and stuck?