Beyond the “Jesus Prayer”

The 'Jesus Prayer' is a short formulaic prayer advocated especially within the Eastern churches: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." The prayer is particularly prominent in the Orthodox Church. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, and was particularly esteemed by the fathers and mothers of this tradition as a method of opening up the heart. This Prayer of the Heart is considered to be the Unceasing Prayer that the Apostle Paul advocates in the New Testament.

Who can argue with such an ancient and venerable prayer? Yet, I have this thought…

For me at least, it is easy for the focus of this prayer to be me me me, my sins, having mercy on me me me. Instead, isn't one of the major tasks of climbing the Sacred Mountain to get over myself, to get over my self-importance and self-obsession?

A standard prayer in Islam is to recite the 99 names of Allah (perhaps with the aid of prayer beads):

Ar-Rahman 1 The All-Merciful
Ar-Rahim 2 The All-Beneficient
Al-Malik 3 The Absolute Ruler
Al-Quddus 4 The Pure One
As-Salam 5 The Source of Peace
Al-Mu’min 6 The Inspirer of Faith
Al-Muhaymin 7 The Guardian
Al-‘Aziz 8 The Victorious
Al-Jabbar 9 The Compeller
Al-Mutakabbir 10 The Greatest
Al-Khaliq 11 The Creator
Al-Bari’ 12 The Maker of Order
Al-Musawwir 13 The Shaper of Beauty
Al-Ghaffar 14 The Forgiving
Al-Qahhar 15 The Subduer
Al-Wahhab 16 The Giver of All
Ar-Razzaq 17 The Sustainer
Al-Fattah 18 The Opener
Al-‘Alim 19 The Knower of All
Al-Qabid 20 The Constrictor
Al-Basit 21 The Reliever
Al-Khafid 22 The Abaser
Ar-Rafi’ 23 The Exalter
Al-Mu’izz 24 The Bestower of Honors
Al-Mudhill 25 The Humiliator
As-Sami 26 The Hearer of All
Al-Basir 27 The Seer of All
Al-Hakam 28 The Judge
Al-‘Adl 29 The Just
Al-Latif 30 The Subtle One
Al-Khabir 31 The All-Aware
Al-Halim 32 The Forebearing
Al-‘Azim 33 The Magnificent
Al-Ghafur 34 The Forgiver and Hider of Faults
Ash-Shakur 35 The Rewarder of Thankfulness
Al-‘Ali 36 The Highest
Al-Kabir 37 The Greatest
Al-Hafiz 38 The Preserver
Al-Muqit 39 The Nourisher
Al-Hasib 40 The Accounter
Al-Jalil 41 The Mighty
Al-Karim 42 The Generous
Ar-Raqib 43 The Watchful One
Al-Mujib 44 The Responder to Prayer
Al-Wasi’ 45 The All-Comprehending
Al-Hakim 46 The Perfectly Wise
Al-Wadud 47 The Loving One
Al-Majíd 48 The Majestic One
Al-Ba’ith 49 The Resurrector
Ash-Shahid 50 The Witness
Al-Haqq 51 The Truth
Al-Wakil 52 The Trustee
Al-Qawi 53 The Possessor of All Strength
Al-Matin 54 The Forceful One
Al-Wáli 55 The Governor
Al-Hamid 56 The Praised One
Al-Muhsi 57 The Appraiser
Al-Mubdi 58 The Originator
Al-Mu’id 59 The Restorer
Al-Muhyi 60 The Giver of Life
Al-Mumit 61 The Taker of Life
Al-Hayy 62 The Ever Living One
Al-Qayyum 63 The Self-Existing One
Al-Wajid 64 The Finder
Al-Májid 65 The Glorious
Al-Wahid 66 The Only One
Al-Ahad 67 The One
As-Samad 68 The Satisfier of All Needs
Al-Qadir 69 The All Powerful
Al-Muqtadir 70 The Creator of All Power
Al-Muqaddim 71 The Expediter
Al-Mu’akhkhir 72 The Delayer
Al-Awwal 73 The First
Al-Akhir 74 The Last
Az-Zahir 75 The Manifest One
Al-Batin 76 The Hidden One
Al-Walí 77 The Protecting Friend
Al-Muta’ali 78 The Supreme One
Al-Barr 79 The Doer of Good
At-Tawwab 80 The Guide to Repentance
Al-Muntaqim 81 The Avenger
Al-Afu 82 The Forgiver
Ar-Ra’uf 83 The Clement
Malik al-Mulk 84 The Owner of All
85 The Lord of Majesty and Bounty
Al-Muqsit 86 The Equitable One
Al-Jami 87 The Gatherer
Al-Ghani 88 The Rich One
Al-Mughni 89 The Enricher
Al-Mani’ 90 The Preventer of Harm
Ad-Darr 91 The Creator of The Harmful
An-Nafi 92 The Creator of Good
An-Nur 93 The Light
Al-Hadi 94 The Guide
Al-Badi 95 The Originator
Al-Baqi 96 The Everlasting One
Al-Warith 97 The Inheritor of All
Ar-Rashid 98 The Righteous Teacher
As-Sabur 99 The Patient One

No mention of me me me! Excellent!

In a previous blog I mentioned an ancient version of the Jesus Prayer, "Kyrie Eleison" (KEE-ree-ay eh-LAY-ee-son), a prayer meaning "Lord have mercy" in Greek which by the 2nd century was already so established and venerated it was incorporated verbatim into the Latin Mass. So in that same spirit may I suggest a 'one word prayer' that focuses on God and not me, which is millennia more ancient still, namely "Hallelujah".

"Hallelujah" was originally an imperative, an invitation to praise God ("Let us praise Him") but it has come to be a statement of praise in and of itself. One way to use this throughout the day is to say "Hal-le-" on your inhale, and "-lu-jah" on your exhale. The beauty of it is that it contains no focus on me, indeed no mention of me at all.

And we have 99 candidates listed above (the 99 names of God) that would serve very well as one-word prayers/affirmations.

NOTE: I like the ancient prayers because they remind me of the millions of spiritual ancestors who have gone before me, a lineage extending back to time immemorial. I like modern prayers/affirmations too!