Many are familiar with what over the centuries has been called The Jesus Prayer, which in the subtitle of a new book by Frederica Mathewes-Green is described as “the ancient desert prayer that tunes the heart to God.” It comes from the Gospels and we’ve used it in worship services, retreats, and prayer gatherings and many have incorporated it into their personal prayer disciplines. There are various forms, but I usually use the longer form: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
I had the joy of sitting in three of Frederica’s workshops in Oxford during my sabbatical a few years ago. We had coffee one afternoon. At that time I told her I felt she was one of those great “bridge authors” like Henri Nouwen who helps different faith streams glean from one another. I’ve been waiting for this book and I’m not disappointed. I wrote an Amazon review which I’ll put at the end of this post as well.
Paraclete Press, the publisher, has posted a long excerpt you can read here. It has the intro and first chapter that will help you get the idea of the history and helpfulness of prayers like the Jesus Prayer. Here is the link to the book excerpt. My review follows here:
Frederica is a bridge author between historic Orthodoxy and other faith streams like Evangelicalism the way Henri Nouwen was appreciated by both Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. I sat under her workshops at Oxford CS Lewis Institute and have read all her books and dozens of others on the Jesus Prayer. Eastern Orthodox spirituality, theology, and music have deeply impacted my own journey as a pastor. This book is direct, clear, and accessible for any Christian and even those seeking more understanding.
Matthewew-Green has chosen to have half the book be in a Question and Answer format which works well because of the many nuances and viewpoints even among the Orthodox on the practice of the prayer and the related principles of spiritual discipline.
I believe this will be the modern standard to introduce millions of Christians to prayer that moves beyond (both) shallow self-expressed prayers and formal written prayers to a place of constant presence with God so needed in our self-addicted world of miss-placed passions. I encourage you to read the book and more importantly, make the Jesus Prayer and similar scripture prayers the core of your prayer-practice.