The great composer Johann Sebastian Bach was known to pray a prayer out loud when he was beginning a new composition. The prayer was a simple one--just two Latin words: Jesus Juva.
Roughly translated, the simple Latin prayer meant: Jesus help or more specifically, Jesus help me.
And while he would often sign his compositions with his initials and the letters SDG (Soli Dei Gloria) which stands for "To God Be The Glory," there were times when Bach would place the letters JJ at the end of a piece, particularly if that piece had been commissioned by a powerful patron.
Jesu Juva - Jesus help me...
I've been thinking about the implications of that prayer for a while. I've prayed variations of Jesus Juva more than a few times in my life, and more often than not I prayed it specifically because I was facing something I wasn't sure I could handle.
Or I felt absolutely out of control...
Basically, I have prayed a variation of that prayer whenever I wanted deliverance from the circumstances I found myself mired in... hopelessly mired at times.
I have to admit, my prayers for deliverance on those occasions have rarely been answered in the way that I would consider them "answered," if you get my meaning.
Additionally, more often than not, deliverance didn't come at all. I would wade in and feel the waves of whatever was coming wash over me, toss me to and fro, and then eject me back on to the sand depleted, exhausted, and sometimes thoroughly defeated.
What I'm slowly coming to understand is that my prayer was always being answered after a fashion that tended to escape me. Furthermore, the prayer that I was praying was always the right prayer. Jesus Juva... Jesus help me...
How was this so?
Because those words---Jesus Juva---expressed something deeper than I could have ever imagined. They spoke to the shared experience that Christ has with all of humanity--a deep and abiding incarnational empathy with our suffering, our angst, our pain, sorrow, fear, dread, and even doubt.
In other words, when we pray a prayer like that, we are invoking the solidarity that we have with Christ who is not only with us in those moments, but truly, deeply gets why we are asking for help in the first place.
And the help comes when we come to believe that despite the fact that we might have to face dire circumstances and have to go through them and not around them as we might hope... we are not alone.
When we get this, at last, we find the courage and the strength to surrender and be at peace with whatever occurs because we know that not only are we not alone but like Christ, we will rise no matter what happens.
Fr. Richard Rohr puts it like this:
It’s easy to surrender when you know that there’s nothing but Love and Mercy on the other side.
Pray the prayer today, Beloved. Jesus Juva!
Pray it with confidence, and the kind of faith that comes after you pick yourself up off of the beach, and realize you survived the waves... and you'll survive them again... and even if you don't... all will be well.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.