The Merciful Heart

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I’m guessing most of you reading this blog are familiar with this short prayer known as the Jesus Prayer…..

or the Prayer of the Heart…….

The prayer’s origins can be traced back to the Desert Fathers in the 5th Century.

It was taught to and among the monks who were seeking to understand contemplative prayer as a means of “praying without ceasing” as taught in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

The prayer is also reflective of the parable we read of the Publican and the Pharisee found in  Luke 18:9-14.

The heart of the prayer is two-fold:

The confession of Jesus as Lord, the Son of the Living God.


Our need of His mercy.

It’s the prayer of the humble of heart.

The merciful heart.

The heart that gratefully receives the unearned gift.


Only the self-righteous see no need to whisper this prayer.

Yet, others cry it out as if their next breath depended on it.


Jesus seeks not only our acts of mercy but that our hearts would be merciful.

For in the act, we can be tempted to take credit for our sacrifice to show such mercy.

But a merciful heart is altogether set apart……….

For it seeks no attention for what it has done.

Only for what’s been done for it.

I love what Richard Rohr says about this prayer:

This is not a self-demeaning prayer, nor a self-defeating prayer, nor is it a disempowering prayer. Relying upon mercy, in fact, protects you from the arrogance and pride that wants to judge others, even in your mind. It situates you in freedom from any sense of your own sufficiency or superiority, and affirms a non-need to justify yourself, and thus keeps your heart open for others and for God. It is basically a prayer for detachment from the self, both mind and heart, and its endless games of self-validation. “Lord, have mercy” seeks validation only from God and not from any inner or outer attempts to be worthy, independently “good,” or not-in-need-of-mercy.







1 Comment

  1. Nancy

    Mercy. Every single day. Thank you for your post.


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