Some Protestant believers are surprised to find that most Orthodox prayers are rooted in both the Old and New Testaments. One common prayer in Orthodox Tradition is known as the “Jesus Prayer.”
The Jesus Prayer acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ, while confessing our sinful nature and requesting God’s mercy upon us. For those who have trouble focusing their thoughts while praying, the Jesus Prayer can help one center their prayers on Christ and our need for repentance.
The Jesus Prayer is discussed in both the Philokalia and the Way of a Pilgrim — two spiritual classics.
“The continuous interior prayer of Jesus is a constant uninterrupted calling upon the divine name of Jesus with the lips, in the spirit, in the heart, while forming a mental picture of His constant presence, and imploring His grace, during every occupation, at all times, in all places, even during sleep. The appeal is couched in these terms, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.’ One who accustoms himself to this appeal experiences as a result so deep a consolation and so great a need to offer the prayer always that he can no longer live without it, and it will continue to voice itself within him of its own accord. Now do you understand what prayer without ceasing is?” (Source)
“The two levels of the Way of a Pilgrim, the prayer method and the life of the wandering hermit, give readers of either disposition entry to fresh approaches to prayer and to eremitism. The authenticity of the homeless wanderer is well sustained by his simplicity of belief and practice. Whether the reader is prompted to incorporate the Philokalia into a short list of religious classics or to count the narrative as a heartfelt testimony of the eremeticall life, The Way of a Pilgrim has universal appeal. The work complements and extends the traditions of spiritual simplicity while confirming the simplicity and insightfulness of the hermit life.” (The Way of a Pilgrim: a Russian Orthodox Hermit’s Path)
Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, Υἱέ τοῦ Θεοῦ,
ἐλέησόν με τὸν ἁμαρτωλόν
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me a sinner.
“Jesus Christ is Lord” — Philippians 2:6–11
6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; 10 that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“called the Son of the Most High…the Son of God” — Luke 1:31–35
31 And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 And Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God.
“God, be thou merciful to me a sinner” — Luke 18:9–14
9 And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get. 13 But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner. 14 I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.