In the spiritual formation class that I teach we explore different approaches to prayer.
Most of my students are familiar with extemporaneous spoken prayer and liturgical prayer. Fewer are familiar with the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me [a sinner].” This prayer is most commonly associated with the Eastern Orthodox Tradition and is said to trace back to the Desert Mothers and Fathers of the 5th century, but biblically you can say its origins rest in Mark 10:46-52, when Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
I asked my students for other short, memorizable prayers that are familiar to them.
Some said, “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food. Amen.”
Others, to the tune of “The Theme from Superman:”
“We thank You Lord for giving us food (put one hand in the air), We thank You Lord for giving us friends (put the other hand in the air), (with both hands up swaying back and forth like flying) For giving us food, for giving us friends (hands up standing still) We thank You Lord, (both hands to hips in superhero pose). Amen.”
But one of my students raised his hand and said, “I know it’s kinda morbid, but…’Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.'”
Slowly, I replied, “Yeah, I think I know that one. It’s from a Metallica song.”