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The Prayer of the Heart

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:27)

Many of us have a tendency to turn everything into a project – a discipline or an achievement. But prayer is not something we succeed in or fail at. Basically prayer is about ceasing to work as if everything depended on us, and leaving our heavy burdens with Jesus who is fully capable of carrying them.

People who are experienced in prayer very often use the prayers provided for us in the Bible. One of the most loved and most used ancient prayers is called The Jesus Prayer or The Prayer of the Heart. It is very simple and goes like this:

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
Have mercy on me.”

It follows the rhythm of breathing. While we breathe in we simply pray in our thoughts, “Lord Jesus Christ”, and while we breathe out, “have mercy on me”.

As we do this, we become aware of the breath of God breathed into us – the reason we are alive and signifying who we are – Yahweh, in the Hebrew language being the sound of a breath.

We also reflect on breathing in the life of Jesus and breathing out our burdens, and everything in our lives that calls on his mercy.

It’s a prayer of rest. We rest through a prayer formulated by someone else, and we rest in the rhythm of our own breathing.

Praying by Yourself

If you haven’t tried using The Jesus Prayer before, why not try it this week? To let the prayer settle in your mind you will need to invest some time in it.

Here is a suggestion how to do it:

  • Set your alarm clock so you have an extra 15 minutes in the morning.
  • Start the prayer by saying: “Jesus I love you and I want to be filled with everything you are and represent.”
  • Become aware of the rhythm of your breathing.
  • Following the rhythm of breathing, pray the prayer as described above.
  • Do this for about 10-13 minutes.
  • End the prayer by praying ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.

At various points during the day – on your bike, in a break, in the classroom etc. – become aware that the prayer is still in you. Repeat this for 5-7 days and see how it works for you.

Praying with others

Praying The Jesus Prayer would work very well as a Connect Group activity. Or you could ask some friends or your spouse to try it with you. Share your experiences with one another.

You may like to pray The Jesus Prayer together for 5-8 minutes. Decide who is the main voice and let the rest of the group follow the rhythm of that person.

Alternatively, you could have an organized time of prayer where you follow the order of the Jesus prayer. Start by thanking him for who he is and what he has provided. Spend about 5-10 minutes doing this, where everybody has an opportunity to pray very short prayers of thanksgiving. Then end by praying for the things in this city, nation and world that need his mercy. Do this for 5-10 minutes, giving everybody an opportunity to pray very short prayers.

Praying with Children

This week the children continued looking at The Lord’s Prayer, considering the phrase ‘Your will be done, on Earth as in Heaven.’

We talked about how great it is for God’s will to be done, and how we can make this world a better place by doing His will and sharing His love with others. You can download the take home sheet to find out what they covered.

When you pray with your children this week, why not see if they can remember all the lines of the Lord’s Prayer so far? And you may find it helpful to try this activity and prayer that we used on Sunday:

Write or draw a list of all the things that God would want in the world; for our lives, for our families, for the lives of the people we know, for the church, for the world. Then pray a prayer like this:

Parent: Even when I don’t feel like it…

Child: Your will be done

Parent: Even when it costs a lot…

Child: Your will be done

Parent: Even when I think my ideas are better…

Child: Your will be done

Parent: In our homes and families…

Child: Your will be done

Parent: In our schools…

Child: Your will be done

Parent: In our country..

Child: Your will be done

Parent: All over the world..

Child: Your will be done

All together: Amen

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