The Jesus Prayer
& My Spiritual Practice

By: Brian Robertson

After some 30 years of journeying through a variety of traditions and approaches to God, as I get older I find simplicity wins out. When I was younger, I was always attracted by the opportunity to debate, study, experiment and, to my embarrassment now, even teach.

But health and time have made many things impossible for me, personally, and so I have found that it is enough to approach God simply and directly. One part of this journey has always been the use of a prayer or, in other traditions, a mantra to quiet the mind and heart, for it is always in the silence and not in the words that one finds the Presence of God.

Given the fact that I am, through none of my doing, a person born in the West, I have a cultural and traditional base that has come to me (as a different and certainly beautiful one is homegrown in the East). As such, I am extremely interested in The Jesus Prayer, which comes in various forms. According to tradition, the full form is “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

For me, I am not very comfortable with that particular version, and prefer the simple, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy.” Why? Because the prayer which I repeat can, at any moment, become not self-directed but rather other-directed. For instance, the other day I was standing in line at a fast food restaurant, the Jesus Prayer running quietly in me. Out of nowhere, a man worked his way through and drifted in front of as I was about to take my turn. He was in very sad condition, obviously one of the men who lived homeless in this area.

I was not in the least upset to have somebody “cut” in front me, but the “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy” was suddenly said not with myself in mind, but as a blessing and hope for the gentleman who I felt needed the words.

It’s a small thing. But it seems, for me, to point to something much larger for which, in the moment, I become a transparent part.

– Brian Robertson


[I was blessed by your relating this story Brian. I have been amazed at the thoughts running through my mind lately as well. In traffic, in contentious meetings, in family situations, I have been finding myself asking blessing for those, and their behaviors, that could offend me rather than being angery. I, too, liken it to the mantra I have adopted through the music of Shaun Grove. It is the refrain in his beautiful song Abba Father it simply coos “I Love You Daddy” over and over over. I believe that mantra has helped me increasingly see the Light of God in everyone. His Peace – John]


[Have you read THE JESUS PRAYER by a Monk of the Eastern Church? According to this book the power of the prayer is contained primarily in the name Jesus Christ and so truncating the prayer is perfectly legitimate. I too have a problem with the supposed full line which, I feel contains the spiritual masochism which puts me off so much organised Christianity.

The book is excellent and bears out your words about the prayer working outwards as well as inwards. It explains how the power of the Divine Name is such that it can be used to heal nature too as well as oneself and others. The book also goes into the history of the Jesus Prayer, its use by the Desert Fathers and Byzantine monks for spiritual purification and a tool for meditation as well as its roots in Jewish Mystical Traditions as well.

Its good to discover that our own spiritual tradition contains Meditative Mantras which can enable us to access our deepest selves just as the East does. Jewish Kaballah has a whole system of Mantras based upon the Tetragrammaton or Divine Name, for instance. In fact the Jewish Shema, the Christian Paternoster and the Islamic Shahadah all have meditative power when spoken in that context. Its worth trying to memorise the Paternoster in Greek and speaking it out loud for this purpose. Tradition has it that Greek and Hebrew where the two languages of God or at least Divine Revelation. There is a reverberation in reciting the Greek of the Paternoster which is very moving and powerful and, for we who have grown up with the Western Church, can liberate the words from negative historical connotations.]