Saturday, March 24, 2018 8:47 AM
Readers may be familiar with what is known as “The Jesus Prayer,” the short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated especially within the Eastern Orthodox tradition: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." This a good and worthwhile prayer. It is based on ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Luke 18:13 and ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Luke 18:38.
Lately, I have been keeping one eye out for other Biblically based “arrow” prayers, as they are sometimes called. The point of this endeavor being that I am seeking to improve both the quantity and the quality of my prayer life. (This is important since prayer is communion with God.) It is said, for example, that St. Gregory Palamas achieved illumination through the prayer, "Enlighten my darkness".
In any case, it seems to me that Peter’s prayer, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” would be a good arrow prayer. Upon seeing the miracle of the great catch of fishes, Peter immediately realized he was in the presence of a pure and holy man of God (for how else could this miracle have been wrought?). He was struck with fear because of the great chasm that existed with respect to his own sin and God’s righteousness. Now, for Jesus part, he obviously did not take Peter’s request to depart from him literally (or, even if it was intended literally, Jesus had other intentions). Jesus, the Son of God, was faithfully coming to a sinful fisherman in order to make him a catcher of other sinful men - and the chief one, at that. This is because he knew (and still knows) that mankind needs to caught up in God’s net. Mankind needs to be captured by the love of Christ and brought to shore of his kingdom in union with him. Just as Simon Peter fell down at Jesus’ knees, may we also fall down on our knees before Christ with the same realization - both of our need (one that would drive away merely a holy God) and of God’s love (that compels Christ to stay with us, to change us into his own image, and enable us to serve in his mission of glory). Maybe, because this prayer began such a good and Spirit filled work in Peter, we should call this prayer, “The Peter Prayer” (and use it to emulate the ultimate faith and missionary efforts of this Apostolic follower of Christ who prayed it).