Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Prayer’

Art by Lilis Boyer

Art by Lilis Boyer

The Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) found its place in the Jewish canon by its sheer beauty and poetry. It is not really a complete piece at all, no matter how artfully publishers identify the man speaking or the woman speaking, it’s still just a series of fragments. We will never know the whole of it. And so it is about a fragment that I will respond.

Set me as a seal over your heart,
        as a seal upon your arm,
for love is as strong as death,
        passionate love unrelenting as the grave.
Its darts are darts of fire—
        divine flame!
[Song of Songs 8:6, CEB]

And another, repeated twice in the book:
Make a solemn pledge,
        daughters of Jerusalem,
        never to rouse, never to arouse love
        until it desires. [Song of Solomon 2:7; 8:4, CEB]

Love is powerful force that has gotten washed out by dime store romances and flimsy chick flicks. It’s been downgraded by pornography and trivialized by teen angst. Even Valentine’s Day has played a part in corrupting its message. Purveyors of cheap love are laughing all the way to the bank.

When love is roused at the wrong time or at the wrong place, the power of it and the joy are sucked out of it. It is sex without love, masking the truth of it, manufacturing a feeling but it is not transformative love. But when the moment is right, when there is a mutual selflessness, when it is about the giving away of it moreso than the absorption of it, then the power of God can be unleashed. This I believe.

I know, there are different words for love in Greek, but in the Hebrew, both verses use the same feminine noun, ‘ahabah אַהֲבָה which can be translated as love: human love for a human object (man to man, man to himself, man to woman, sexual desire, and incidentally, God to man too).

And so I ask myself and all of us, is my love toward others with the same intent as God’s love?

God shows love to people over and over again whether its through grace or miracles or the sacrifice of the One Son, Jesus. God’s love is pours out without measure. Jesus taught, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” [Luke 6:38, NIV]

But no, not me. I confess, I am hungry to be loved more than to love. Lonely. Overwhelmed. Shaken by circumstances. Distanced by disappointment still. Hardened by losses, speaking into the wind.

I am no stronger than the one beside me. My years in Christ clear my vision and for this reason, I understand why the saints and desert fathers of old cried out, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Art by Cyra R. Cancel

Art by Cyra R. Cancel

Or why St. Francis wrote:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Let me know and give love as strong as death.

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Acts 10:43
“…All the prophets testify about him [the Messiah] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” [Peter speaking to the gentile family of Cornelius]

My daughter is in English 12 and apparently, most of these classes are reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (a wonderful book in my estimation) and I was looking forward to discussing it with her. What was striking to me was her lack of mercy… in the sense that she and her class spent a lot of time discussing the lead character’s flaw/mistake and how he spent the rest of the book “seeking redemption.” In her mind, there was no true redemption possible: his boyhood friend was dead and gone. That was his burden to bear.

Two things came to mind as we were talking. First and foremost, of course, as a believer, is that this is the whole point of the Messiah, Christ Jesus, the great redeemer. No sin is too great that it can’t be covered by the blood and promise of the Christ.

But secondly was the realization that very few teenagers have experienced something in their lives, so horrible, so wrenching that they would need to search with all their hearts for the peace of forgiveness and redemption. They cannot imagine making such a huge mistake that someone would die or be permanently injured or lost. There is no room for true mercy and grace.

I am also reminded of an old friend whose husband broke their marriage covenant and had an affair. She, too, was unable to extend forgiveness or grace. And all I could think was that someday it would be she, herself, who might face her own unthinkable sin or crime. Then she would be the one who needed redemption.

In fact, we are all capable of great sin. We are fooling ourselves to think that we couldn’t act selfishly in the face of difficult circumstances.

Naturally, people may also act nobly. I am not saying that we, as humans, always choose the evil way. There are many who have lost their own lives or lived sacrificially. But I think they are able to do this because they have faced the truth of themselves.

For many years, I have never felt comfortable praying the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I just couldn’t identify with this concept of calling myself a sinner… what had I really done so bad.

But now, the longer I am a follower of Jesus, I see the truth within. I am no better than any other. My sin is no less than another person’s sin. Even Paul bemoaned this state in Romans 7:19, “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Oh yes, I am in need of a redeemer. I am in need of forgiveness and mercy and grace every day. My sin is too great for me to carry alone.

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