Aloha Friday Message – October 25, 2019 – Pray for us sinners

1943AFC102519 – Pray for us sinners

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     Luke 18:13 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Grace and Peace be to each of you from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus the Christ, in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Recently (← Check it out!) we shared a few common prayers that can be used in our Daily Offering. Today we will look in particular at one very special prayer and some variations on that prayer. It is most often known as “The Jesus Prayer.” One common format is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” There is a popular musical setting written by Tom Booth The Jesus Song (↔ Music Link).



     How did this “Jesus Prayer” come into being? The Jesus Prayer combines three New Testament Scriptures: [1] The Messianic theological hymn of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians  Philippians 2:6–11 (See verse 11: “Jesus Christ is Lord”), the Annunciation of Luke 1:31–35 (See verse 35: “Son of God”), and the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Tax Collector) of Luke 18:9–14, in which the Pharisee demonstrates the improper way to pray (See verse 11: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican”), whereas the Publican prays correctly in humility (See verse 13: “God be merciful to me a sinner”). Once again, it is useful to see what this looks like in Greek, so here is a little table showing the actual content:

Θεός ἱλάσθητί μοι τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ
ho Theos hilasthēti moi hamartōlō
O God be merciful to me, the sinner

The combined scriptural excerpts give us this short and powerful prayer – I would call it a Prayer of Surrender – which is also a prayer of contrition. In it, we recognize Jesus Christ is Lord – which no one can say except through the Holy Spirit (See 1 Corinthians 12:3) – and also recognize that we cannot expiate our own sins, but rather depend on Grace. When I think about grace I consider it to be something like Justice tempered with Mercy that is gifted to all who will accept it. Who would not accept it? Persons like the Pharisee who cannot even fake humility in the presence of Almighty God. Jesus is the ultimate model of humility and the Apostle Paul shows us just how that happened in his letter to the Philippians.

We’ve mentioned Philippians 2:5-11 several times over the years, but I don’t recall spelling it out for you so, let’s have a go at it: Philippians 2:5-11 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It does indeed take humility to pray The Jesus Prayer. It takes nothing of conscience or spirit to recite this prayer. Recitation of prayers is a convenient trap for the devil to get into our heads and hearts. Catholics are often criticized for using “vain and repetitious prayers” as referenced in Matthew 6:7 When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. (Take a look at the New Living Translation version of this verse.) The verb here for “heap up empty phrases” is βατταλογήσητε (battalogēsēte) which comes from Βάττος – battos (stutter, stammer, repeat without purpose) and λόγος – logos (word). A good literal translation is “Do not babble on and on …” (And I really do like the English near-pun babble on for Babylon!) Repetitive prayer is not babbling. It is a form of meditation when properly used. The scriptural basis for this practice is found in Matthew 6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Christian Hermits of the Eastern Orthodox Church have used this form of prayer by “withdrawing” from the present and praying without being attentive to their surroundings. It is another contemplative way to “open the heart” to make a “prayer of the heart” (Καρδιακή Προσευχή) which is considered to be a method for “unceasing prayer” as described by the Apostle Paul (See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) – a way that a well-disposed earthling can be intimately united with our Trinitarian God through the Grace received and perceived in one’s heart. The repetition of The Jesus Prayer, for some, can open this pathway. That intensity of prayer, of course, does not make one any less of a sinner – although it surely might lessen the sins committed – and this means we still need that Mercy of God for without it, we are lost as was the Pharisee in the Gospel account. It is significant that both men were praying to God about themselves. That is also the effect of The Jesus Prayer – “be merciful to me.” What about praying on behalf of others? Is that a valid practice? Can we, should we, will we intercede for others?

The title today is “Pray for us sinners.” I love this phrase because it functions on multiple levels:

  • Sinners, pray for us (we ask other sinners to pray for us)
  • Sinners pray for us (sinners pray as we have asked)
  • Pray for us sinners (someone needs to pray for all the sinners)
  • Pray for us, sinners (same as “Sinners, pray for us)

We know for certain we can and do intercede for others – after all, what is “Church” all about? Do we pray that every living soul will perceive and receive (accept) the Mercy of God? Do we not have an Intercessor in Christ Jesus? Turn to Romans 8:26-27 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Or Romans 8:34 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? Or Hebrews 7:25 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save [completely] those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. If God, in Christ, intercedes for us, shall we not intercede for others? May we also pray “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on us.”? And if we were to pray that repetitively, what effect might we expect? MERCY! That’s what we expect when we intercede! We want the Gift of Mercy because the Perfect Justice of God allows Grace upon Grace (See John 1:16). Intercession is praying with, for, or about someone on behalf of others. Are there any others beside Jesus who will intercede for us? Let’s list a few:

  • The Church
  • The MBN
  • Our loved ones
  • The Saints in Heaven (and on Earth!)
  • Our angels in Heaven
  • You and I can also intercede

How do we know what intercession is? Praying is an action, a deed; intercession is how God guides us in the action of praying … so, when we pray we place our being in the presence of His Being. Get it? We connect with him so he can connect with us; and, being connected to God is the practical application of God’s Mercy: “Let the constant Hope I have in you be the Light that drives away the darkness and draws me and everyone I meet to your Perfect Integrity, Endless Mercy, and Eternal Salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Belovéd, we are called to Intercessory Prayer which means we must first put our very selves in the Presence of our Almighty Ever-Living God. This requires humility. Humility comes only through humiliation; as is said, “You can’t make this stuff (humility) up.” Who among us is not “Standing In The Need of Prayer?” (↔ Music Link) Pray for us, sinners! We need all the prayers we can get! Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us, as sinners.”

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —

at your service, Belovéd!

Please pray with us here at Share-a-Prayer

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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