The Jesus Prayer

Luke 18: 35-43: As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Luke’s Gospel account does not give us the name of this blind beggar. Matthew’s gospel informs us that there were two blind men who were healed. Mark’s Gospel actually names the man who was given his sight back, Bartimaeus, or blind Bartimaeus as he is called. I’m not sure that the man’s name is important, there is a deeper message that the Gospel writers wish to convey.

Bartimaeus was from the town of Jericho. Jericho, from the Jewish perspective, was probably the lowest town on the face of the earth. And Bartimaeus was surely among the least of the lowest people, he was blind, dependent on others for support. Many of the disciples who were with Jesus everyday were not able to fully comprehend just who Jesus was, but blind Bartimaeus did.

The cynic would say that Bartimaeus had lost all hope and that believing in Jesus was his only option, it was out of desperation he hoped that Jesus could restore his sight. However, scripture points out to us that it was the faith of Bartimaeus that Jesus recognized and it was his faith that healed him. Bartimaeus didn’t just believe that Jesus could restore his sight, he believed that Jesus would give him the gift of sight.

Imagine this blind man yelling at the top of his lungs, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Bartimaeus was apparently shouting this over and over again, desperate to get the attention of Jesus. While those around him repeatedly scolded him and told him to be quiet, Bartimaeus continued to shout even louder. And Jesus of course took notice. Jesus asks the blind man what it was that he wanted from him. Bartimaeus responded, “Lord, I want to see.” Jesus then said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”  Faith is what blind Bartimaeus possessed and he continued to beg and shout for mercy from the one who is able to supply us with enough mercy and grace to carry us through each day.

The Greek Orthodox Church still uses a simple fifth-century prayer sometimes called the Prayer of Jesus: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. If you add Paul’s Philippian hymn, “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11), you’ve got the Jesus Prayer. The Orthodox tradition calls short prayers like this “breath prayers” because they can be spoken in a single breath.[1]

In your daily walk with God, try using this breath prayer or other types of short prayers to continually seek and call upon the name of Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior. Sensing or recognizing the presence of Jesus is crucial to me, every hour of every day. Jesus is with you as you drive to work, while you shop for groceries, as you struggle through your work day, as you deal with difficult people, as you meet others who need to know Christ. Cry out for mercy to the one who is waiting to supply you with the mercy and grace that you need in your particular situation. Jesus, have mercy on me! Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner! Call out to Christ and He will answer.

[1] Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, page 68, 2009, NavPress, Colorado Springs


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