From the Jesus Prayer to Jumping Jacks

A certain monk asked one of the elders, “Why are my thoughts always inclined to defilement, so that they give me no rest even for an hour, and my soul is troubled?” The elder said to him, “If the demons inspire thoughts in you, do not give in to them.” It is their nature to tempt constantly. And even though they never leave off this temptation, they cannot force you to sin. It depends on your will to listen to them or not to listen.” The brother said to the elder, “What should I do? I am weak and the passion is conquering me.” The elder answered, “Guard against them, and when they begin to speak to you, do not answer them, but pray to God: Son of God, have mercy on me!” 

(Ancient Patericon, 5.35)

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My little four year old has a new spiritual battle. His thoughts. He wants to say “bad words” like shut-up and they keep popping up in his mind. He didn’t know how to overcome it, and he struggled. We advised him to ignore the thoughts. He tried and could not stop the thoughts. We told him to get busy. But, as he played or even watched T.V., the thoughts kept coming to him. Finally, we reminded him to say the Jesus Prayer.

For days after, when he battled his thoughts, he would whisper “Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” And then, he would look at me and say, “Mommy, it isn’t working, I still feel like saying those bad words.” We continued like this for days. Then, one morning, as we were all doing our morning quiet time, he just couldn’t stop the thoughts. My husband suggested he then do the highest spiritual practice . . . . .jumping jacks!

Now, I don’t think it would be normally advised as a spiritual practice to do jumping jacks but we did enjoy a good laugh! And we learned a lesson that day. To persevere. The spiritual battle is a long one. We must stay vigilant. To overcome. As we found out, the “quick fix” my son thought could work after saying the Jesus Prayer once does not work. The battle requires continuous prayer. To persevere. To overcome.

Thoughts are a hard battle. I hate to see my little one struggling already. But, I know as he grows up, the battle will only get worse. Satan will never leave him. I pray that I can equip him from now to fight the battles with prayer. To persevere. To overcome.

I am also reminded to keep up with the fight myself! I battle long and hard with my thoughts. Bad attitude. Negative thoughts. Angry thoughts. Prideful thoughts. Selfish thoughts. Lack of Contentment. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

May God strengthen us all to persevere and overcome our battles so one day we can be victorious in Heaven.

In what ways do you practice or teach your children to overcome the battle of thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “From the Jesus Prayer to Jumping Jacks

  1. Marianne says:

    My son has the same exact struggle with thoughts, and the devil is constantly tempting him to be afraid. I have tried praying with him, and asking him to pray and ignore the thoughts. Reading this post has encouraged me to give him a bible verse to repeat and meditate on. Someone once told me that Satan sees the pure heart of these kids, and their huge potential to serve God and that is why he tempts them that way.

    • Thanks for sharing, Marianne. The Word of God is a powerful weapon to equip our children to fight the temptations. Even Christ used the Bible to fight against Satan in the temptation in the wilderness. I am praying for your family. Please keep mine in your prayers.

  2. Veronica says:

    My son is only 2.5, but he has been tempted to be afraid and to think he ‘can’t’. So we have taught him a paraphrase of Isaiah 41:10 and when he says he’s scared, he quickly follows it up with “don’t be scared, God is with me”. It’s cute to watch him give himself a little spiritual pep talk, but I know that it is one of the fundamentals of spiritual warfare. I try to model Jesus’ example in the garden…each time he was tempted, he responded only with scripture. So lately with the introduction of the word “can’t” to his vocabulary we have been teaching him “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
    This was a good topic and really got me thinking about how to be even more intentional about teaching him how to “fight”. Thank you!

  3. Thank you Veronica. You always inspire me with your stories. I also love watching my son do the “spiritual pep talks” when he is afraid. He would say the same thing of how “God is with me” before sleeping or after a bad dream. I love it because they believe God’s words and His promises. How I wish we can have simple faith like a child! I pray they can always keep the Word of God as a weapon!

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