Friday, November 19, 2010
Prayer of the Heart
 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves
that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:  "Two
men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax
collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus,
'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues,
adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week;
I give a tenth of all my income.'  But the tax collector, standing
far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast
and saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'  I tell you, this
man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who
exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will
This passage from our Lectionary reading today reminds me of the "Jesus Prayer", also known as the "Prayer of the Heart". It is said to have originated in Eastern tradition by a Christian pilgrim on the journey of a lifetime to the Holy City, Jerusalem. Whether created as a rhythmic accompaniment to his plodding footsteps or to lend strength and cadence to his measured breathing, it certainly seems to have been inspired by the divine.
Perhaps in its most simple form it is, today, the most sublime for the postmodern Christian:
"Jesus Christ, Son of God
Have mercy on me, a sinner."
I have learned that the lines of the prayer can be repeated silently according to the rhythm of the inflowing and outflowing of the breath. It is particularly grounding in the context of daily prayer, reminding us of prayer's purest essentials.
The sinner in the passage we just saw needs his Creator, and his Redeemer. The Spirit prompts him to recall that his great need dictates the simplest possible prayer.
We will enter the season of Advent one week from this coming Sunday. Many people, myself included, wonder how during this restless and busy season, we will have time to rest in communion with the Holy Love. Perhaps if we recall the humble pilgrim, and the repentant sinner in the back of the temple, we can pray the simple prayer and be comforted.
"Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on me."
You are invited to be a part of the pilgrimage through Advent. Join me every day on this site beginning November 28 for a few minutes of sacred space and time to reflect on daily scripture readings from the Common Lectionary as we approach Christmas, its lovely mystery, and the opportunity it gives us for renewal and spiritual refreshment.