A Way into Silence

The Jesus prayer has been used since the fifth century, and is widely practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

It has a number of variations:

  • Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
  • Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.
  • Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.
  • Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
  • Lord, have mercy.

The words are based on several passages in the New Testament:

  • The cry of the blind man sitting at the side of the road near Jericho, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Luke 18:38
  • The ten lepers who “called out to him, “Jesus, Master, take pity on us.”” Luke 17:13
  • The request of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Luke 18:14
  • Paul’s recognition that “if we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth.” 1 John 1:8
  • Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The prayer is short enough that it can be repeated at many points in the day. However, it can also be used as a focus for extended meditation:


Sit in a comfortable chair, in a quiet place, where you will not be distracted.


Imagine that Jesus is seated in a chair across from you.


Quietly repeat the prayer.

If it helps, co-ordinate the words with your breathing..

Allow yourself to settle into a rhythm.

Let the process of repetition lead you into what St Teresa of Avila called “the prayer of quiet”, where words become superfluous.

If you become distracted ask God to calm the storms within.

Re-focus on the words of the prayer.

If one particular matter disturbs you repeatedly, ask God if it has something to teach you.


Be attentive, throughout, to what God is saying.


When the time of prayer naturally draws to an end, offer the experience to God. This may lead you into a period of thanksgiving, petition, intercession, lament or praise.


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