He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Luke 18:13
Here we see Peter making a declaration of who Jesus is. It is the line-in-the-sand, the foundational truth of Christianity – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Peter was saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Deliverer, the anticipated King of Kings, Son of David, and Son of God. Making this declaration with Peter says that Jesus is both Lord of the world and Lord of your life— Jesus is Christ, the Son of God!
The other verse shows a person who realizes his standing before God. He knows he cannot boast or preen before the Holy and Righteous Creator God. So he cries out in humility, “have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is the proper posture to take in life and prayer, humility. God is God, and we are His created, His servants, and even though He has elevated us in Christ to adoption into His family, we are not Him—He is the sovereign, omnipotent One.
For many years followers have combined the essence of these beautiful verses into a simple prayer that is repeated to quiet the mind and fill the inner-most life with unceasing prayer. It is known as “The Jesus Prayer.”
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Some shorten the prayer to fit a breathing pattern so that with literally every inhaled breath, they silently invoke His majesty, “Lord Jesus Christ,” and then, with every exhale, is the silent plea, “have mercy.”
The Jesus Prayer is the subject of a little book called “The Way of a Pilgrim” (author unknown), about a Russian peasant who longed to know what was meant by the brief biblical admonition to “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. A verse that had captured his imagination in a sermon he once heard.
His journey is inspiring as he asks preachers, priests, nearly everyone he meets what that verse might mean— “How do I pray without ceasing?”
The Jesus Prayer is one answer to this question in that, with silent, constant repetition, it slowly, over a lifetime, becomes part of the rhythm of your heart. Actually, it is also called “The Prayer of the Heart.”
Start this way:
(inhale deeply) “Lord Jesus Christ” (exhale slowly) “have mercy.”
Repeat as often as you think about it until you are repeating it without thinking about it. It may take a while, but eventually, your declaration of the Lordship of Christ over your life and your humble plea for mercy will become the unceasing prayer of your heart.