The “Jesus Prayer” Revisited

THE JESUS PRAYER, as it is called, DESERVES OUR ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Not to be confused with Jesus’ Prayer, The Lord’s Model Prayer “Our Father”…

IT IS MORE A PRAYER TO JESUS and how a Christian prays to God is much different than how non-Christians (lost, unsaved, outsiders) relate to God.

VERSIONS

The Greek Orthodox version: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, for Thou alone are worthy, now and forever, to the ages of ages.”

In the Catholic tradition the Jesus prayer is simply “Kyrie eleison”: “Lord have mercy”.

 

“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.”

This is the original prayer and recognized as early as 400 years after Christ’s death and resurrection. The words, “Son of God”, and “a sinner” were added later and became popular in the Greek traditions.

When Christians pray this prayer in repetitious fashion, we must be careful.

Reinstate the original version, omitting the words, “a sinner”, adding, “a sinful man/woman”.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinful man.”

WHY?

Because Christians (the born-again variety) are no longer “Sinners”. 

They do still sin? Yes and they will battle sin the remaining years of their lives.

They are sinful, yes, but this is wholly different from being a Sinner. (noun)

They now must daily acknowledge and confess sin as a means of open fellowship with God the Father, not as a condition for reinstituting God’s salvation and grace. (becoming saved again)

Christians do not pray any prayer to become a Christian once they have become born again into God’s family as His child. Their new family relationship is permanent and eternal. They now pray as one belonging to the family of God, secure and safe by the blood of Christ applied.

To be born again is to have the Son residing within one’s heart/life.

“We believe what people tell us. But we can trust what God says even more, and God is the one who has spoken about his Son. If we have faith in God’s Son, we have believed what God has said. But if we don’t believe what God has said about his Son, it is the same as calling God a liar. God has also said that he gave us eternal life and that this life comes to us from his Son. And so, if we have God’s Son, we have this life. But if we don’t have the Son, we don’t have this life.” — I John 5: 9-12

 

A CHRISTIAN CANNOT BE A SINNER AND SAINT SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Who are the Saint’s then?

Every Born-Again Believer who has repented and trusted Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation is a “Saint”.

SAINT- is not a term denoting moral character, but position in Christ because of Christ’s Redemption personalized in a ones life.

In the bible, NONE of the letters written to Christians in the fledgling churches were written to “SINNERS”.

Was this because people in these churches had ceased sinning all together? Of course not. When Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth,  

Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” I Corinthians 1:1-2

When Paul wrote to the believers at Ephesus, Philippi and Colossae, he addressed them as Saints, never Sinners.

Did Paul suffer from some sort of theological misunderstanding? Of course not. He addressed followers of Christ by their new position before God, not their moral behaviors, either good or bad.

 

Who Are the Sinners Then?

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24

All are “sinners” until some become “saints”.

No one is ever a sinner because of their moral failings, they have moral failings because they are sinners.

We were born in sin. (Romans 5-6)

___________________________________________

 

WHY CONSIDER NOT SAYING THE PRAYER AT ALL?

Because the prayer sentence has been promoted as an efficacious act of repetition as if it might offer some sort of protection and mystical union that dissolves quickly and must be reapplied to retain its abilities.

 The prayer is based upon the parable Jesus spoke:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you; this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” –Luke 18:9-14

As a Christian, calling oneself a “sinner” is supposed to reflect the humility of the Pharisee, yet it more accurately fuels the hypocrisy of the tax collector and self-righteous smugness and false self-deprecation.

WHY

Because generic confession agrees with false bravado and the individual goes away believing that Gods mercy was a result of his actions and that he is bound to repeat this scenario / prayer for life.

BETTER NOT TO SAY THE PRAYER IF ONE THINKS SOMEHOW THAT IT HAS THE POWER TO IMPART GRACE OR TO DO WHAT ONLY THE SPIRIT OF GOD CAN DO IN AND FOR US. Like any prayer, it is not a substitute for Christ’s death.

We can become a Christian only once—after that it is about the growth and character of our journey in Christlikeness, never about losing salvation. If we could lose our salvation, WE COULD NEVER GET IT BACK. He died only once.

“We die only once, and then we are judged. So Christ died only once to take away the sins of many people. But when He comes again, it will not be to take away sin. He will come to save everyone who is waiting for Him.” Hebrews 9:27-28

 

SALVATION FROM GOD IS ALWAYS PAST,

PRESENT AND FUTURE TENSE. 

I have been saved. I am being saved. I will be saved.

 

SUMMARY

A non-Christian may well pray the Greek Orthodox Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” because anyone outside the grace, forgiveness and mercy of God is indeed “a sinner”. This is in keeping with all the New Testament teachings on grace and salvation by grace, through faith in God alone.

However, once an individual is born again into God’s family (John 3), he/she becomes a new creation—a “Saint”.

None of these actions by God resulted from our moral behaviors, rather our humble submission and repentance as God draws man unto Himself for redemptive purpose.

“Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.”  —Romans 5:6-8

“God our Savior showed us how good and kind He is. He saved us because of His mercy, and not because of any good things we have done.” Titus 3:4-5

Since He saved us, “because of His mercy, and not because of any good things we have done.” we understand that we do not lose our salvation when we sin and do not do good things.

WE WERE NOT SAVED BY GOOD WORKS-

WE CAN NEVER BECOME LOST BY BAD ONES

Immediately we need to absorb Romans 6:12-16 

“Don’t let sin rule your body. After all, your body is bound to die, so don’t obey its desires or let any part of it become a slave of evil. Give yourselves to God, as people who have been raised from death to life. Make every part of your body a slave that pleases God. Don’t let sin keep ruling your lives. You are ruled by God’s kindness and not by the Law.  What does all this mean? Does it mean we are free to sin, because we are ruled by God’s wonderful kindness and not by the Law? Certainly not! Don’t you know that you are slaves of anyone you obey? You can be slaves of sin and die, or you can be obedient slaves of God and be acceptable to him.” 

 

WE MAY BECOME A CHRISTIAN ONLY ONCE IN THIS LIFE

From the moment of new birth, the Christian follower of Christ will always belong to Jesus. He/she will hear His voice and follow, but the lost will go away in stubbornness. Eternal life is not here granted by Jesus to the individual because they became “good people” or reached some moral state of goodness. Contrarily, they found grace as a beggar discovers food. Others remain lost as God continues to love them patiently.

“I already told you,” Jesus replied, “but you did not believe. The works I do in My Father’s name testify on My behalf. But because you are not My sheep, you refuse to believe. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:25-30

Just as an earthly child born into an earthly family will always belong (though their behaviors may be both good and bad through their life) so too the child of God will enjoy the journey to Christlikeness (called sanctification) knowing both the joys of fellowship with God and the pains of rebellious sin. God never abandons His children, rather He disciplines them.

Such correction is proof that we belong as a Saint.

“Be patient when you are being corrected! This is how God treats his children. Don’t all parents correct their children? God corrects all of his children, and if he doesn’t correct you, then you don’t really belong to him. Our earthly fathers correct us, and we still respect them. Isn’t it even better to be given true life by letting our spiritual Father correct us?” Hebrews 12:7-9

Being a Saint is the same thing as becoming all God has planned for us to become. He keeps us busy:

“So work with fear and trembling (because you are a Christian—not to become or remain one) to discover what it really means to be saved. God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey Him.” Philippians 2:12-13

 

MERCY

“For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.”

So rather than pray a man-made prayer in rote, repetitious fashion, perhaps we may simply read the scriptures and pray from them truths that quicken our lives in real-time?

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