To invoke the Name of Jesus, or to breathe it in prayer (as in the Jesus Prayer that comes to us from the Orthodox tradition) is a special and wondrous way of practicing the Presence. That is because:
The Name is the symbol and bearer of the Person of Christ. Otherwise the invocation of the Name would be mere verbal idolatry. ‘The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.’ The presence of Jesus is the real content and the substance of the Holy Name. The Name both signifies Jesus’ presence and brings its reality. [On the Invocation of the Name of Jesus by a Monk of the Eastern Church. Published by The Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, 52, Ladbroke Grove, London, W. 11, p. 9].
The full prayer is: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner,” but it is best shortened to simply breathing the Holy Name.
Before beginning to pronounce the Name of Jesus, establish peace and recollection within yourself and ask for the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Ghost. ‘No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost’. The Name of Jesus cannot really enter a heart that is not being filled by the cleansing breath and the flame of the Spirit. The Spirit Himself will breathe and light in us the Name of the Son [Ibid., p. 2].
It is no small joy to leave off breathing the Holy Name, only to hear the Spirit audibly speak it within.
This prayer, it seems to me, this holding of the Holy Name, is one of the most special ways of practicing the Presence. All this was quite forcibly brought to my mind as a way of not only preparing but safeguarding Christians in the event of persecution for their faith. I had been reading Revelation, chapters 13 and 14, and was horrified at the fate of the lost who are destined to wear the name of the Beast on their foreheads:
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world….
He [the second beast) was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name [Rev 13: 5 – 17, italics mine].
After such a terrifying word and image comes this beautiful one. It is for those whose names are written in the book of life, those in whom “No lie was found in their mouths”:
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had His Name and His Father’s Name on their foreheads [Rev 14:1].
Lord, may your Name be deeply inscribed on our foreheads even now.
And may Your Name be as a Holy Fire within us, one that not only purifies us, but spills over onto all around us.
May Your Name be so glorified in us that we can speak your truth with great authority and effect, even in the face of slander and persecution. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.
Reprinted with permission, copyright ©1999-2013 by Leanne Payne Literary Trust