Our teacher Jesus Christ, out of pity for mankind and knowing the utter mercilessness of the demons, severely commands us: “Be ready at every hour, for you do not know when the thief will come; do not let him come and find you asleep” (cf. Matthew 24:42-43). He also says: “Take heed, lest your hearts be overwhelmed with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and the hour come upon you unawares” (cf. Luke 21:34). Stand guard, then, over your heart and keep a watch on your senses; and if the remembrance of God* dwells peaceably within you, you will catch the thieves when they try to deprive you of it. When a man has an exact knowledge about the nature of thoughts, he recognizes those which are about to enter and defile him, troubling the intellect with distractions and making it lazy. Those who recognize these evil thoughts for what they are remain undisturbed and continue in prayer to God.
~St Isaiah The Solitary (Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 24)
*Remembrance of God-a state of recollectedness or concentration centered on God; contrary to a state of self-indulgence and insensitivity.
An excellent way to cultivate a state of concentration centered on God, and one that has been encouraged by many Church Fathers, is to practice a prayer of the heart such as The Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. Repeating this prayer to ourselves throughout the day within our minds and hearts can help us develop the vigilance and sensitivity that Christ commands. Also, by way of this type of prayer without ceasing, we place ourselves in constant relationship with Christ, and maintain an inner state of peace which enables us to more clearly perceive the thoughts which trouble or distract us, or cause us to lose interest in God. For further insight into the demonic origins of these types of thoughts read C.S. Lewis’s humorous classic, The Screwtape Letters.
Constant remembrance of God furthermore protects us from these thoughts by allowing us to recognize from where they originate, outside of us, as provocations. Seeing them for what they are, as arrows from the enemy, we can more easily ignore them, disengage from them, and maintain our focus where it needs to be: on our God.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.