In the Catholic Church’s rich spiritual treasury of traditions, we often find little gems that can truly change a person’s life. In particular, there is one prayer that many Christians over the centuries have found helpful in the spiritual life and some claim it is the most popular prayer after the Our Father and Hail Mary.
What is the prayer?
“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!”
It is an ancient prayer that was popular among the Desert Fathers and is found in a collection of spiritual writings called the The Philokalia. This collection of writings dates back to the 4th century and contains writings from authors such as St. Anthony the Great, St. John Damascus, and St. Mark the Ascetic.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes a few paragraphs explaining this ancient prayer:
2667 “This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.’ It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light. By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Savior’s mercy.”
2668 “The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and ‘brings forth fruit with patience.’ This prayer is possible ‘at all times’ because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.”
The prayer is truly ancient and has its roots in Sacred Scripture. It focuses on the name of Jesus, his Divine Mercy and is one of the most powerful prayers of humility. It opens our hearts to recognize our own sinfulness and promotes a reliance on God’s bountiful Mercy.
The prayer is especially powerful when prayed throughout the day, bringing our attention back to God. Is a perfect prayer for one of the three moments of the day.
Practically speaking, the prayer has many forms (all of which are acceptable):
- Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!
- Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
- Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.
- Lord Jesus, have mercy!
Consider praying this prayer, especially during this upcoming Lenten season and allow it to penetrate the depths of your heart.