Sometimes I struggle with prayer. How to pray. What to pray. When to find time to pray. And how on earth can I accomplish prayer without ceasing?
Recently I discovered a short prayer that has been used for centuries. This short prayer is derived from the words of Blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:47 and the tax collector in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:13. The prayer is simply,
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.
This short prayer expresses the heartfelt need of God’s grace. It voices the confidence that Jesus, the Son of David and Son of God, can pour out His mercy upon us. It is a prayer to be prayed in times of great need and in small ordinary moments of the day.
I read about this prayer in several books about Christian spirituality. A couple of friends told me how praying this prayer throughout the day kept their thoughts centered on God. But I bristled against this prayer at first. Reminding myself that I am a sinner didn’t seem particularly comforting. But in breathing out this prayer I remember I can do nothing without God’s grace. Offering this petition opens my heart to receive the mercy and love I so desperately need every minute of every day. Author John Kleinig’s words in his book Grace Upon Grace makes this clear:
In our spiritual life we are much like helpless babies…Apart from Jesus, we can accomplish nothing spiritually…However, unlike babies, we do not outgrow our helplessness before God…If there is one thing we discover as we grow older and gain in experience, it is that before God we are nothing but beggars…we can only cry out to Jesus, as beggars did in the ancient world: “Lord, have mercy!” (p, 182-183)
The more I use this prayer, the more my spirit soars to the love of Christ. The more I repeat these words, the more I realize how vast God’s mercy truly is. The more is plead, “Have mercy on me” the more I realize there is nothing I can do to earn the Father’s mercy. It is all a gift. I can stop striving to get it. He longs to give it to me. I only need to open my hands to receive.
Just as we can do nothing physically without breathing, we can do nothing spiritually without Jesus. Breathe in your Savior’s name and breathe out a desperate prayer for grace. Receive what you need in the moment.
What prayer do you pray when you don’t know how to pray?