The Jesus Prayer (Matthew 9, 27-35)9 August 2021
‘Have mercy upon us, Son of David’
Many miracles have been performed through the invocation of the name of Christ. The Lord himself, on his way to the Passion, said: ‘Whatsoever you ask in my name, I will do’ (Jn. 14, 13). And when he was being taken up into the heavens and giving his final instructions to his disciples, he again stressed: ‘In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues…’ (Mark 16, 17). In the name of Jesus, the Apostles were to work wonders. And they did. The lame man who sat outside the Temple was healed by the Apostles Peter and John through the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 3, 6). Let’s look, in simple terms, at the name of our Lord.
The name of the Lord Jesus
In the Gospel for the 7th Sunday of Matthew, we hear of two blind men who call out the name of the Lord, asking him to have mercy on them (Matth. 9, 27). Saint John Chrysostom says that they didn’t merely go to meet him, but called his name very loudly, asking nothing else of him but that he have mercy on them. The sweet name of Jesus isn’t human, but divine and heavenly. It wasn’t given to him by people but by his heavenly Father (Matth. 1, 21). It is the sweet study of the mind, the tongue and the heart of us humans.
Saint Nikodimos the Athonite mentions a certain Christian who died on the Lord’s tomb, crying: ‘Jesus Christ, sweet love’. It’s true that the energies of Christ are made manifest in names, such as ‘wisdom, peace, joy, Lord, King, God’ and so on. Our faith isn’t abstract, but is directed towards a specific person who has a name, is a living individual, can love and wishes to establish communication with people. This person is Jesus Christ. He came into contact with us, loved us and became a human person just like us.
His name is linked to our salvation, as the Apostles told the leaders of Israel. The name of Jesus has inexhaustible potential and is ontologically bound to him. It’s a channel through which grace comes to us and fills the whole of our being with the presence of God. It gives us life and strength.
The Jesus Prayer
The exclamation of the two blind men, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David’, is a variant of the well-known prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us’, usually called the ‘Jesus Prayer’. This prayer wasn’t invented by monks, but, as we saw above, was recommended by Christ and used by the Apostles. It’s the bane of the demons: ‘In the name of Jesus, scourge the demons’, writes Saint John of the Ladder. The prayer contains within it the mystery of the Holy Trinity: Jesus is the Son of the Father and his mercy and grace come to us through the Holy Spirit. To those who say it frequently, the prayer of the name of Jesus gives, strength, watchfulness, purity of mind, life-giving tears, love for our brothers and sisters and desire for our salvation. In general, it links us to God.
How to use the prayer
If the Jesus prayer is to bear fruit, we have to humble ourselves and we have to love Christ. There was an Athonite who used to say that, when we say the Jesus Prayer, we should emphasize the verb, that is ‘have mercy’, as did the blind men in the Gospel. We must humble ourselves, weep over our sins, recognize God as the priority in our life so that we bear fruit. If we say the words with a spiritual dryness, without love for him whom we’re addressing then we can’t bear spiritual fruit. Prayer without attention leaves a void within us.
My brothers and sisters
The words spoken by the blind men can be taken as a fervent ‘Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us’. Through them the men found a boundless ocean of salvation. Let us also say the prayer with fervor, so that God may have mercy on us.