Life of prayer : Warfare and Prayer (n°19)

After having evoked distractions in prayer and periods of drought, we cannot keep silent about the Ennemy’s action, for whom the  ractice of orison is a real threat: he will do everything to prevent it, or at least disturb it. Some distractions are psychological in nature but thers are inspired by the evil spirit; it is up to us to learn to detect it in order to better cope with it.

“For we are not contending against flesh and blood,(…) but against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6,12).  With this exhortation of Paul we are warned: Christian life, of which prayer is the peak, calls us to engage in real spiritual warfare. We are
not alone in this fight. God himself protects us with the shield of his love, and we receive from him the weapons to resist and win the victory.

We know, prayer is the pre-eminent way to be one with God. The stakes, therefore, are vital. It is the place where the torrents of divine
tenderness are going to pour down into us. A great part of the fecundity of our apostolate will depend on the quality of our prayer. Is it that simple? No, because there are many hindrances, the most usual ones come from without, the most subtle ones from within.

Obstacles to overcome

Some of these obstacles will manifest themselves externally to us: thus, at the chosen hour, we can think that there is better to do than to pray, like those very concrete things whose immediate effectiveness we see: we can feel suddenly sleepy; have an urgent phone call to make or an email to send that becomes, all of a sudden, essential and urgent; meet somebody who is going to hold us up, and so on.
These impediments coming at the very moment we are going to the chapel bear often in themselves the mark of spiritual warfare, which can be aroused by the Evil One: delay, diversion… Everything is good enough to make us lose sight of the absolute urgency of prayer.

While we are settled and collected, we will let ourselves slide into purring in the recitation of beautiful formulas without putting our heart into it. Other distractions can occur, stray thoughts, such as the perfect menu concern for the next day, an indispensable purchase or an ideal way to solve such and such an ongoing problem!

The evil spirit within us can suggest to our conscience that our prayer is worthless and useless, tormenting us with the throbbing memory of sins yet already confessed, locking us in a guilt that certainly cuts us off from God’s love.

Another great classic is imaginary conversations. We are caught up in endless discussions with one or the other person who makes us  angry, who makes us suffer, or even with people, we love and with whom we project ourselves into an illusory situation. So many arasitic thoughts that draw us out of the present moment, that precise moment when God is here and gives himself to us.

Temptation can also occur through impure thoughts, or put on our noses magnifying glasses that distort situations and then everything
becomes dramatic, we lose peace, and with it the presence of God. This inimical spirit makes us anticipate, through imagination, a difficulty, a pain, even a great misfortune, which will never happen! All that to harass us. In prayer, the evil spirit can also try to infect our wounds, old or actual ones, and make us feel all kind of negative emotions. There again one recognizes the tree by its fruits. The good Spirit, he will urge us to offer our wounds.

Weapons to achieve victory

Our perfect model is of course Jesus Christ himself. He truly lived all things like us, except for sin: «For as he himself suffered when he  was tempted, he can help those who are tempted. » (Heb 2:18) He was especially tempted in the desert and at Gethsemane. His weapons? The Word of God and surrender to the Father.

For us too, the weapons of victory are not lacking invocation of the Name of Jesus, prayer of the heart (hesychaste), sign of the Cross  made slowly and fervently, prayer in tongues when the Holy Spirit himself intercedes in us. An act of faith in the manner of Ste Therese, (« I believe what I want to believe… ») will dissolve the temptation of doubt. Sometimes a vocal prayer, in which each word is weighed, will rein in the suggestions of every accusing spirit.

What is important is the discernment of spirits. To recognize, understand the subtlety of God’s action in us and nourish it, rejecting what does not come from Him. The spirituality of St Ignace can help us a lot in that respect: it has a close connection with the practice of keeping watch over one’s heart, so dear to the Eastern tradition.

On the other hand, the Virgin Mary, our Mother, received from God Himself, the mission « to crush the head of the serpent ». Reciting the rosary with the heart is a powerful weapon the saints practiced, as well as invoking our guardian angel, who constantly sees the face of God.

At least, and above all, let us never forget what st François de Sales enjoins us. Even if we can use distractions in orison as material for our prayer, we cannot meet the temptations face to face, because they are going to get stronger and we shall be vanquished. We have to slip out of their reach, to duck « under the wave » (cf.Bonus)

The victory belongs to God

God only allows the spiritual fight if it can make us grow and unite us more with him.

All these weapons are necessary but let us not ever forget that God remains always the master of everyting « (…) the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s » (1 S 17,47). He keeps always everything under control even if, sometimes, everything seems a deadlock. Job has only been tempted with God’s permission and the fruit has been huge blessings, a new creation for Job, as orison is for us.

 

Quotation
« Better to die while fighting than ti live victim of a downfall » » Hl Isaac the Syrien

 

To go furthur…

Only for today:

  • Have I been able to spot, in my life, some of the devil’s strategies: to make me unfaithful or unpunctual in my life of orison ? In orison itself to discourage me from persevering ? To make me leave the presence of God when I pray (worries, dreams, false insights, etc) ?
  • Which of my human weaknesses does he use for that ? Which pretext (situations, special events of my life) is he accustomed to use to draw me away from prayer ? What is the answer I have found fto counter those strategies?

Books:

 

Find the previous articles in our “Life of prayer” series.
(publication edited by brothers and sisters of the Community of the Beatitudes – © rights reserved).

Oraison

Ces articles sur la vie d'oraison sont extraits du bulletin mensuel "Il est là !" publié à l'usage des membres de la Communauté des Béatitudes et de leurs amis. Il est rédigé par un collectif de laïcs, prêtres, frères et sœurs consacrés, membres de la Communauté, avec le désir de stimuler la vie de prière, essentielle à la vocation aux Béatitudes comme à toute vie chrétienne authentique... C'est pourquoi nous sommes heureux de vous partager ces contenus simples.

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