I was in the car that morning, running errands of some variety. Nothing of great importance. My four-year old wasn’t with me at the time but I knew she was safe and sound with her grandma and grandpa. I heard the report of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and it took no effort at all to put myself in the shoes of those parents. I could not listen to one more word. With a trembling hand, I reached for the knob of the radio and turned it off.
Lord, have mercy.
Those were my first words. The only words I had for the horrible tragedy. Since then, there have been countless other pointless shootings. Our world seems incredibly screwed up at times. It’s almost as if it's, well, a fallen place. The Lord is making me a woman of prayer. It does not come naturally to me. Maybe it’s time we realize it’s not natural for any of us. I think the more we place our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, in the hands of Jesus, we realize we must pray. These words we offer up to God bring His power and might into a situation. It calls on hundreds of angels to do battle on behalf of what’s right and good. On behalf of WHO is right and good. Prayer rights our focus.
The more I pray, the shorter my prayers get. I rely on fewer words of my own, because any words I offer fail. My words overcrowd an empty space that Jesus could fill if I would but get out of the way.
I’m partnering in spiritual battle right now with a couple whom I love dearly. Another marriage is in trouble and there’s only one to blame, the father of lies. As I knelt beside my bed in prayer on behalf of this man and woman, God kept whispering one word every time I would start a sentence. I’m a writer and I love a good sentence. God said, “Truth.” Then, He reminded me, “I Am Truth.” So, I uttered those words over and over again.
In Jesus’ name, be Truth in this couple’s life. I refute our enemy, a liar. Truth. Truth. Truth. Amen
My brothers and sisters in Christ can upset me. We’re held to an impossibly high standard and I could choose to focus on all the ways we have it wrong. We spew anger and judgment on social media. We get overly settled in our church pews. We live easy, comfortable lives where it can be incredibly difficult to see any difference between us and our non-believing neighbors. Oh, I could rail on these things and I’d be pointing the biggest accusatory finger right back at myself. You know what Jesus says to me? Again, it’s not lengthy. I don’t hear Him recite The Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed.
Grace. Grace upon grace.
We sang a song the other day in church and a part of me thought to yell, “Stop!” right at the moment we sang that word as a congregation. Let’s just sing that one word, “grace.”
These simplified prayers aren’t new. They may be new, and life-changing, to me, but the idea is thousands of years old. When I read about the Orthodox “Jesus Prayer,” I knew I’d found like-minded brothers and sisters. The very best we can do is call Jesus into our circumstances.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Often, this short prayer is recited while holding a prayer rope in a believer’s left hand. When not in use, this same rope might be placed around the left wrist (or in a left pocket) to remind an individual to pray without ceasing.
In addition, the Eastern Orthodox have breath prayers they offer up at various times. Here are some examples:
Lord, have mercy.
Come Lord Jesus.
Lord, I believe… help my unbelief.
Lord save me.
Without knowing of their traditions until recently, I’ve been praying like an Orthodox Christian. All day long, I’m reminding myself to usher in more of Christ, less of me. I don't have answers. I can't fix all that's broken. But God....