Recently, a young man that I mentor told me a story about his use of the Jesus prayer during a recent struggle. It illustrates the effectiveness of prayer and the Jesus prayer in particular.
I had a very disturbing dream, in the vein of an ongoing struggle I’ve had for years. In the dream, filled with alarming distress, I began praying the Jesus prayer (while still asleep). At that point, I awoke praying the prayer audibly, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It was then that God’s peace and a deep experience of His mercy quietly filled me. I was able to fall back to sleep. For the rest of the night I slept soundly.
The Jesus prayer is a spiritual weapon that can be used against any temptation and in any situation calling for an immediate, powerful cry for help.
One of the advantages of the Jesus prayer is that you do not have to try to remember it once you’ve been using it for a time. For many years, I tried to memorize verses that would help me overcome sins and faults in my life. As effective as these were, I struggled with instantly recalling them to mind when I needed them. After many frustrating and failed experiences, I realized that I was trying to deal with temptation and my own fleshly passions with an intellectual weapon – my thoughts. Even though these thoughts contained scripture, I still fumbled when pulling the bible gun from my holster. I needed something more readily available; something from the heart.
What makes the Jesus Prayer effective?
- When used properly, this prayer aligns the heart and mind forming a “double-barrel” shotgun that can kill the most ardent temptation. It’s more than merely thinking about what to do or exerting will power to overcome the struggle, neither of which are effective. When spoken frequently (silently or audibly), the prayer begins to flow from the heart and is readily available to be used when needed.
- It aligns your heart with God’s heart since, in this moment, you are acknowledging Jesus Christ, inviting Him into your struggle. It’s like the disciples going to Jesus asleep on the boat and asking for His help during a storm.This simple prayer does all of this when you need assistance the most.
Can’t I just quote scripture like Jesus did when He was tempted? Let’s not forget that when Jesus directly faced Satan’s temptations, He was in total communion with the Father and Spirit. His use of scripture was in the context of a complete participation in the Trinity. He was also prepared through prayer and fasting. He didn’t just hit Satan over the head with Bible verses out of the blue. There’s a whole lot more going on here than just quoting verses.
Besides, you and I are not Jesus. We struggle mightily to be in communion with God. We need help. The Jesus prayer allows you to commune with God while crying out for His mercy. It’s the perfect tool for what you need during intense struggle.
St. Paul exhorts us to wear “the whole armor of God” praying always with all prayer and supplication in [spirit], being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication [concerning] all the saints (Ephesians 6.18). In praying the Jesus prayer, you obey St. Paul’s instructions and enter the sphere of the saints who know the beneficial leverage of prayer during struggle.
From your spirit comes the necessary and effective cry for mercy that helps defeat temptation and passions.
Practice the prayer often during your day’s activities. Then use it in those moments of intense struggle. See how God’s mercy sustains you in every situation.