Have Mercy On Me, A Sinner

During the research and writing of What Your Body Knows About God, Rob got serious about prayer. In his research, he discovered that 12 minutes of focused prayer actually helped to rewire the brain; and he worked hard to carve out time to pray, often in less than hospitable locations. At work, Rob found a handy prayer closet under his desk. He’d sit cross-legged underneath it, making his cubicle look empty to passersby. At home, Rob prayed at night when he sat in our boys’ room, encouraging them to quiet down with his presence in the darkness.

In his prayer life, Rob relied heavily on the Jesus Prayer. Short and simple, this prayer is central to Orthodox piety. The repetitive nature of the prayer lends itself well to praying while running or praying with beads. Rob enjoyed doing both.

The Jesus prayer finds its roots in Luke 18, the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. In Jesus’ parable, two men come to the temple to pray. The religious leader, a Pharisee, makes a production of his righteousness, comparing himself to those around him. In his own assessment, he always seems to come out on top. The other, a socially marginalized tax collector, stands to the side and begs God for mercy. In a heartbreaking detail, Luke notes, “He would not even look up to heaven.” His profound knowledge of his sin weighs him down.

Today I’m honored to join the voices at RELEVANT Magazine talking about mask shaming in the midst of COVID-19. I’ll be honest, I’ve been guilty of mask shaming and have needed to repent. When it comes to wearing a mask, too often I have played the role of the Pharisee.

I look down my own masked nose and silently assess my neighbors’ character. I critique their intelligence, their political sensibilities, their empathy and love, even their spiritual depth. In the privacy of my car, the words of the Pharisee run through my head. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people.”

Saying No to ‘Maskshaming‘,” RELEVANT

These days, as I drive around town, I’m often needing to turn to the Jesus prayer. I need to be reminded of its elemental truth: I am a sinner in need of Jesus’ mercy. I don’t want to be the Pharisee in Luke’s story. Instead, I want to be the tax collector with the tender, repentant heart. What a grace that Jesus offers love and forgiveness in unending supply!

If praying the Jesus prayer interests you, I commend these other helpful resources from blogger Sarah E. Westfall for practicing God’s presence in your life. You can check out her upcoming podcast here.

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