All of us who are striving for holiness by the grace of God are often frustrated by certain persistent sins. These are the sins – sometimes minor, sometimes not so minor – which plague our daily lives. Perhaps it is gossiping at work, or impatience with others, or wasting time. Whatever it might be, persistent sins have the ability to rob us of spiritual strength and lead us to the very dangerous sins of acedia or even despair, which can be fatal to our spiritual lives.
A while back my confessor gave me some great advice regarding persistent sins. He recommended the use of the Jesus Prayer as a weapon against these nagging faults we can’t seem to overcome. For those unfamiliar with it, the Jesus Prayer is an ancient prayer based on the prayer of the Publican which goes:
“Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
My confessor recommended that I say this prayer when I am tempted to commit one of these persistent sins. If I fall anyway (usually because I forgot to beg for God’s mercy), then say it immediately after I do so. Saying it before I fall reminds me that I am just a sinner and without God’s mercy I would never be able to overcome my faults. Saying it right after I commit the sin begs God to be merciful to me even though I am a great sinner. Either way, it is a powerful weapon to use to combat those nagging, persistent sins which are extremely difficult to root out.
In practice, I find that at first I usually forget to say the prayer when I am tempted, so I say it immediately after I fall. But eventually I begin to remember to say it during the temptation, and over time I find that it helps me avoid the sin altogether, which leads to less temptations in that area. God is looking to pour out His mercy on us – we just have to avail ourselves of that abundant mercy.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!