Monday, April 8, 2013

Prayer of the Heart

Today is the first day of week fourteen, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures this week are:
  • Joshua 14-17; Luke 17
  • Joshua 18-21; Luke 18; Psalm 15
  • Joshua 22-24; Luke 19; Psalm 116
  • Judges 1-3; Luke 20; Psalm 16
  • Judges 4-6; Luke 21
In Luke 17, Jesus cleanses ten lepers.

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  The prayer that the lepers pray is perhaps one of the most pure prayers that we find in the Bible.  There's no pretense in it, and no ego.  Nothing but a simple appeal to Jesus.  It recognizes that He, and no other, is able to bring relief.  It owns Him as Master, and as such it means that He has the power to help.  It is a simple appeal for mercy.  It doesn't tell Jesus what they expect Him to do on their behalf, but lets Him decide on His own how to respond.  Those who pray this prayer are content with whatever response the Master might give--as long as it reveals His mercy towards them.

This prayer reminds me of another prayer that we'll have to jump to tomorrow's reading to find.  In Luke 18...

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"  Here, we find another prayer from the heart that speaks more than the puffed-up and pretentious petitions made by the pharisees.  Simple prayers like these are often more pleasing to God than anything that poets might pen.

Then, in Luke 18 we also find the following:

 35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

My spirituality professor in seminary taught us about an ancient Christian prayer called the "Jesus Prayer," or the "Prayer of the Heart."  Simply put, it is based on these prayers in Luke 17 and 18.  It goes:  "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."   Orthodox believers have prayed this prayer for centuries, preferring its simplicity to elaborate words that are designed to impress God or others.

Whatever words you use, I hope that you keep your prayers simple, and that you pray from the heart.  I hope that your prayers are a simple recognition of Jesus as Lord, and that you just reach out to Him for mercy.  Give up pretense and ego.  Give up your own agenda.  Simply cry to Him, and watch the healing and forgiveness He brings to your life.

No comments: