A few years ago, I learned about the practice of the ‘Jesus Prayer’: a way of meditating whilst repeating over and over again the short prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, or some variation on that1. Fr. David recommended it to me in a conversation on the topic of contemplation, but this particular counsel seemed downright dangerous to me, as it involves a certain letting go of your own thoughts. It would mean a surrender of the control so important to me.
So I went back home, full of doubts, quite sorry about being such a disappointment to anyone trying to help, when I heard God, as if in exasperation: “Will you please for once just do what someone tells you!?”2 That was quite convincing, so I gave the Jesus Prayer a try, and it helped! Every time I sat down to pray, I resolved to release my own firm grip on my frantic thoughts, trusting that Jesus would be a friendly influence. This helped me see things in new light, and is the start of all my writings in result.
This story will probably suffice to explain that the Jesus Prayer became important to me. But with me, things are never simple, I always struggle, wishing to see all sides of everything. I bumped into problems, fears and questions. So, in order to understand these better I’ve now taken up the task to explore my journey with the Jesus Prayer, and evaluate where it has brought me. For something so close to heart, I always resort to pictures, and the result can now be seen here.
So, what does this prayer mean to me? Repeatedly saying the same few words may sound strange, and far removed from common sense. I have certainly had my doubts too. And still, actually, because it seems to make me fragile, over-sensitive, out of balance. But it also seems to me that there is nothing like this prayer to bring me immediately to the point where all that matters is only that which is between me and Jesus. This may be fear, worries, a sense of guilt that may or may not be justified, pain, desires. All these things then immediately demand all my attention, and if I let that happen, I am worse off than before. But if I remember Jesus and ask his blessing, I receive some breathing space, which helps me relax and heal.
Perhaps the most important lesson learned from drawing the cartoon, is how dear the prayer is to me. Never before have I felt such a drive to get something right. To do it justice. To make it beautiful. In the past weeks I have spent hours, even days, trying to express both my love and my struggles with this prayer. At the end, as you can see in the last picture, it helped me create a space where new life grows.
- For a really good introduction on the Jesus Prayer, see this book. I also found this blog-post very helpful.
- See also my cartoon