Tammy sat in front of the desk in her pastor’s office with hot tears coursing down her face. The frustration of the past 10 years gushed out. “I do everything I know to do! I come to church. I read my Bible and pray almost every day. I teach Sunday School and attend our small group. I give and sometimes sacrifice for others. I do mission trips, children’s programs, nursery work, church work days, and even bring my best dishes for church dinners. I’m living a moral life. I try to do what’s asked of me.” She paused and took a deep breath as the tears continued to flow. “Then, why do I feel so empty? What’s wrong with me? Is this all there is? Did Jesus save me so he could have one more worker? Pastor, I need some answers and I need them now!” Trembling, she put her head between her hands and wept tears of agonizing frustration.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
I sat on the other side of the desk dumbfounded and speechless, not so much at her desperate honesty but at her unanswerable questions. Why do I feel so empty? Is this all there is? Questions I had secretly asked myself but, of course, did not dare disclose to others. It’s job altering when pastors start down that path and I didn’t want to risk it. Yet, I couldn’t deny Tammy’s frustration and feelings of futility. I could give her no real answers and ended up praying with her. Yet, even those words felt empty and meaningless.
Even with all her activity, Tammy was disconnected from God. There was little communion; little ongoing connection with God.
An Ancient Practice for Modern Times
Over the past 10 years, I’ve engaged a couple simple actions that could have tremendously helped Tammy. I read about them first in some books on Christian spirituality. Then I heard about some holy men who engage these practices. Then I began to experience them over the next 8 years. I’m still learning and experiencing the benefits of their wisdom.
One noteworthy practice that stands out above the rest is a simple prayer, parts of which have been around since the time of Jesus. Its use developed during the sixth century and following. It is still used today by Christians all over the world.
The simple prayer is this:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
By way of introduction
- This is a prayer to Jesus Christ who alone is the way, truth, and life.
- This prayer is an invocation of the name of Jesus, always a good thing!
- This prayer is theologically sound – almost every word has a theological truth at its core.
- This prayer balances worship in acknowledging the Son with a petition for mercy.
- This prayer encourages repentance and humility by focusing on Jesus Christ, by recognizing your need for mercy, and by admitting your sinfulness.
- This prayer finds its roots in the Gospel story of the blind man of Jericho shouting out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Lk 18.38; Mk 10:48).
So, how could this help you (and Tammy)? If this prayer becomes a steadying force in your life by repeating it constantly, you eventually begin living your Christian life centered on knowing Jesus Christ and living in constant communion with him. All your doing, service, and moral living become re-oriented in light of a deepening and loving communion with Jesus Christ.
Begin saying the Jesus Prayer as consistently and often as you can. Start today. Let your heart be filled with Christ’s presence as you say these simple words. They can change your life!
Share your experiences of using the Jesus Prayer below.
(The story above is based on a true story shared by a podcaster yet experienced by many Christians.)