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President's Reflection

A request for the period August to December 2021: That we pray "JESUS HAVE MERCY” as best we are able, as often as possible. How?

Why is this important now? 

“Jesus Have Mercy”

In recent days I have listened to fine people who are urging deeper prayer and meditation, at this time of much distress.

My way of helping is by faithfully praying “JESUS HAVE MERCY” - The Jesus Prayer.

Hence, here I offer what I have learned in the hope it is helpful to others on our beautiful islands. 

We focus on saying the sacred name of Jesus.

Settle where you are comfortable. Sitting is best. Lying down induces sleep! Settle. Close your eyes.

A few deep breaths to help your mind and body settle together.

Deep breaths but not to the point of strain.

When settled, simply repeat over, to Yourself, the short prayer phrase: “Jesus have mercy”

“Mercy" means compassion. Our prayer takes us into the compassionate heart of God.

The only instruction is to repeat the prayer under your breath, rather effortlessly.

When you lose the prayer, find you are thinking of other things, gently return to praying over “Jesus have mercy”.

Meditate this way for some 10-15 minutes.

Then take your time to slowly open your eyes. Sit in silence awhile.

(This is an ancient technique of Christian meditation. Much is written about the Jesus Prayer or the Prayer of the Heart. You may know this already. There are longer versions at www.orthodoxprayer.org.)

The key is to practice the prayer.

We can pray “Jesus have mercy” anywhere, including whilst we are walking, even swimming! It is simple, yet profound, like Holy Communion.  

Over time, as a matter of grace, we may find the prayer is praying in us and has rather descended from the top of our head into our heart. Hence, sometimes the prayer is called “The Prayer of the Heart”.

TWO REASONS WHY TO PRAY “JESUS HAVE MERCY” NOW?

1. A PRAGMATIC REASON:

We do become what we think. Our thoughts shape our words and actions. We therefore must be careful regarding what we think about and what we let influence our thinking.

We are blessed with the capacity of self-awareness - the capacity to be aware of what we are thinking.

When we become aware of thoughts that are not our highest - that is, are not the most true, the kindest and most beautiful - we then can insert into our thinking ‘Jesus have Mercy’ before we lose that self-awareness and just become absorbed in lesser and more negative thinking. 

The crucial choice is to heal and not to harm...to give and forgive.

(This is our theme for NCCA  2022 Lenten Studies - so that we help foster a more loving, forgiving and understanding culture. We plan to build on the wonderful work of founders of National Forgiveness Week and of i4giveday, as well as on the therapeutic and educative work of specialists, including First Nation elders).

The human mind can become a closed system- rather totalitarian- unless we practice our gift of self-awareness. Destructive and self- destructive acts can follow if people get trapped in their thinking. Sometimes people look back and say, "What was I thinking?”

Praying inwardly ‘Jesus have Mercy’ is a circuit breaker that allows us to retain a greater freedom to choose what we will keep thinking about, then say and do.

At this pragmatic level, the Jesus Prayer is available for anyone and everyone to practice. No presumption of faith is required. Just a readiness, perhaps born of necessity, to follow the logic of these pragmatic statements. That many more are feeling some greater necessity to try such a practice seems an accurate reading of this pandemic period of heightened anxiety and uncertainty.

Necessity has a long track record and goes back to moments in the Gospels when desperate people called out, in varied ways “Jesus have mercy” as Jesus passed by. (Matthew 20:30-34; Luke 18:38-39; Matthew 15:22; Mark 10:47-48). 

These folks knew they needed help and had the hope that Jesus might be able to help, which He did, as a matter of divine compassion.

2 . A SECOND REASON TO PRAY CONTINUALLY, "JESUS HAVE  MERCY", IS MORE ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS .

There is such power and beauty in the name of Jesus. The New Testament says this is the name above all names. (Philippians 2:9) 

Mysteriously and wonderfully, because of the resurrection, there is a relationship between Name and Presence. 

As we speak Jesus' name, we can become aware of the presence of the Risen Jesus in Holy Spirit. This was and is Jesus' promise to us. (Matthew 18:20).

The Gospel of Matthew closes with the Risen Jesus saying to the disciples and to us all, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

Accordingly, as we pray ‘Jesus have Mercy' other promises of Jesus take on greater vitality. “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“JESUS, HAVE MERCY”.

WHY MAKE THIS REQUEST FOR DEEPER PRAYER AND MEDITATION NOW?

As mentioned, in recent days, different groups of people have been in touch as regards the importance of deepening our prayers and meditations, with a focus on these coming months.

One group is the CALM COLLECTIVE who note that leaders are concerned about the pressure and feelings of despair many people are conveying.

Their request is that we ‘gather' at 9pm to 9.15 pm each Sunday eve until the end of December, offering our prayers and meditations from wherever we are and in whatever time-zone. 

The second group is the NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING with whom our NCCA has held previous days of prayer, including with First Nation Christian leaders from around Australia. They too are responding to “the heaviness that pervades our society” and, while encouraging us to keep doing helpful and practical things, urge our special focus on the spiritual realm.

So let us pray and meditate as we are best able for our families and neighbours, our nation and all in need, through this month of August through to December. 

ONE LAST SUGGESTION IN THIS VERY VISUAL AGE:

I have pictures of loved ones where I pray. I look at them each as I pray ”Jesus have mercy”.

I also do this as images appear of places, species and people in need in our global human family.

Myself, along with loved ones, this includes the consequences of the pandemic here and in our Asia/Pacific region; images too of climate change effects and thus of the crucial UNCOP26 beginning in Glasgow on October 31.

Such images draw me to pray “Jesus have Mercy”

Each of us have matters laid on our hearts. Some we hold in common. Some are more personal.

This service of deeper, sustained prayer and meditation is what we are all requested to offer until the end of 2021. 

I have shared here what I find helpful. Others will have additional suggestions. We are encouraged to each pray and meditate as best we can - this August through to December. 

Bishop Philip Huggins 

NCCA President.

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