John Stamos And The Jesus Prayer

My wife and daughter are watching Fuller House. The show is a Netflix-only update of the ’90s sitcom Full House. With most of the original cast signed on, it’s a silly, simplistic throwback. My wife loved the show in her youth, and my daughter loves it because her Mom does. The two of them giggle, squeal and hug through the entire show.

Oh, and there’s John Stamos.

Stamos has aged incredibly well. His Mediterranean good looks and charm are intact, with some graceful wear and tear. I’m sure ’90s girls still quake when he utters his stupid catchphrase from the original series:

Have Mercy!

For my part, the show is like a tax audit while also having my wisdom teeth pulled. It’s bad. The jokes are bad, the acting hammy, and it’s an obvious cash-in by everyone involved. This is worse than a cynical play for money. It’s a war crime.

But at the same time I get the appeal. It’s a sitcom. It’s not trying to be Breaking Bad, it’s goofy fun. And for fans, it’s a brief break from the stresses of the day to have an easy laugh and a few minutes together. Its beauty isn’t in its complexity, it’s in its simplicity.

Lord have mercy.

The Jesus Prayer

When I first heard about the Jesus Prayer, I was still in the early stages of my journey to Orthodoxy. I was trying to get back to a place where I felt comfortable going to church, and trying to return to a habit of praying. My usual practice was a nightly walk with my dogs, where I’d have a brief conversation with God. These prayers took the form of patiently explaining my needs, desires and problems to the omnipotent God of the Universe.

Liturgical prayer was a very new concept to me. To my mind, prayer was a private, personal thing done with eyes shut. Reciting thousand-year-old prayers in unison with a congregation seemed impersonal and ineffective.

The Jesus Prayer has helped rid me of that notion. In one of its simplest forms, it’s three words long. But there’s so much depth in that simple sentence.

The complexity and ornamentation many find in Orthodoxy is offset by the simplicity of the Jesus Prayer. It’s a perfect prayer. It’s a reminder that I too should have mercy on others, and a connection to the eternal in a single moment.

Everything we have is ours through God’s great mercy. Every bite we take. Each night’s peaceful rest, and even our hope of life beyond these frail bodies is due to the mercy of Christ. It is God’s gift to us, and as Metropolitan Anthony Bloom states, it is the fullness of the message of Christ:

The prayer is profoundly rooted in the spirit of the gospel, and it is not in vain that the great teachers of Orthodoxy have always insisted on the fact that the Jesus Prayer sums up the whole of the gospel. This is why the Jesus Prayer can only be used in its fullest sense if the person who uses it belongs to the gospel, is a member of the Church of Christ.

A night time prayer

I’m a poor sleeper. Very often I wake up in the middle of the night to to find all of my worries waiting for me in the darkness. I’ve spent many sleepless nights going over my fears and regrets while I wait for sleep to return.

Now when I rouse before daylight, I say the Jesus Prayer. It’s simplicity is perfect for my half-conscious state. It’s a plea to my Father for rescue from my troubles. And it helps me remember that I am in His care always.

When my long day is done and I finally sit down for the evening, I can watch my family giggle at a simple TV show, and be reminded that all I have is granted me through God’s love.

Lord have mercy.

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