Prayer is a Battle

Saint Michael in Battle - by RAFFAELLO Sanzio - from Musée du Louvre, Paris


It is an old custom with the Servants of God always to have some little Prayers ready and to be darting them up to Heaven frequently during the day, lifting their Minds to God out of the Filth of this World. He who adopts this Plan will get Great Fruit with Little Pains.

Saint Philip Neri

One single Act done with Aridity of Spirit is worth more than many done with Feelings of Devotion.

Aspire to God with short but frequent Outpourings of the Heart.

Saint Francis de Sales


Prayer is a Battle

from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

2725 - Prayer is both a Gift of Grace and a Determined Response on our part. It always presupposes Effort. The Great Figures of Prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the Saints, and He Himself, all teach us this: Prayer is a Battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the Wiles of the Tempter who does all he can to turn Man away from Prayer, away from Union with God. We Pray as we live, because we live as we Pray. If we do not want to Act Habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we Pray Habitually in His Name. The "Spiritual Battle" of the Christian's New Life is Inseparable from the Battle of Prayer.


Objections to Prayer

2726 - In the Battle of Prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us, Erroneous Notions of Prayer. Some people view Prayer as a simple Psychological Activity, others as an Effort of Concentration to reach a Mental Void. Still others reduce Prayer to Ritual Words and Postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard Prayer as an Occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "Don't have the Time". Those who seek God by Prayer are quickly Discouraged because they do not know that Prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2727 - We must also face-the-fact that certain Attitudes deriving from the Mentality of this "Present World" can Penetrate our Lives if we are not Vigilant. For example, some would have it that only that is True which can be Verified by Reason and Science; yet Prayer is a Mystery that overflows both our Conscious and Unconscious Lives. Others overly prize Production and Profit; thus Prayer, being Unproductive, is Useless. Still others Exalt Sensuality and Comfort as the Criteria of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful; whereas Prayer, the "Love of Beauty" (Philokalia), is caught up in the Glory of the Living and True God. Finally, some see Prayer as a Flight from the World in Reaction against Activism; but in fact, Christian Prayer is neither an Escape from Reality nor a Divorce from Life.

2728 - Finally, our Battle has to confront what we experience as Failure in Prayer: Discouragement during Periods of Dryness; Sadness that, because we have "Great Possessions" we have not given all to the Lord; Disappointment over not being heard according to our own Will; Wounded Pride, Stiffened by the Indignity that is ours as Sinners; our Resistance to the idea that Prayer is a Free and Unmerited Gift; and so forth. The Conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to Pray? To overcome these Obstacles, we must Battle to gain Humility, Trust, and Perseverance.


Humble Vigilance of Heart

Facing Difficulties in Prayer

2729 - The Habitual Difficulty in Prayer is Distraction. It can affect words and their meaning in Vocal Prayer; it can concern, more profoundly, Him to Whom we are Praying, in Vocal Prayer (Liturgical or Personal), Meditation, and Contemplative Prayer. To set about hunting down Distractions would be to Fall into their Trap, when all that is necessary is to Turn-Back to our Heart: for a Distraction reveals to us what we are Attached-to, and this Humble Awareness before the Lord should Awaken our Preferential Love for Him and lead us resolutely to offer Him our Heart to be Purified. Therein lies the Battle, the choice of which Master to serve.

2730 - In Positive Terms, the Battle against the Possessive and Dominating Self requires Vigilance, Sobriety of Heart. When Jesus insists on Vigilance, He always relates it to Himself, to His coming on the Last Day and Every Day: Today. The Bridegroom comes in the Middle of the Night; the Light that must not be extinguished is that of Faith: "'Come', my Heart says, 'seek His Face!'"

2731 - Another Difficulty, especially for those who sincerely want to Pray, is Dryness. Dryness belongs to Contemplative Prayer when the Heart is Separated from God, with no Taste for Thoughts, Memories, and Feelings, even Spiritual Ones. This is the Moment of Sheer Faith clinging Faithfully to Jesus in His Agony and in His Tomb. "Unless a Grain of Wheat falls into the Earth and Dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much Fruit". If Dryness is due to the Lack of Roots, because the Word has fallen on Rocky Soil, the Battle requires Conversion.


Facing Temptations in Prayer

2732 - The most common, yet most hidden Temptation is our Lack of Faith. It expresses itself less by declared Incredulity than by our Actual Preferences. When we begin to Pray, a Thousand Labors or Cares thought to be Urgent, Vie for Priority; once again, it is the Moment of Truth for the Heart: what is its Real Love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a Last Resort, but do we really believe He is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an Ally, but our Heart remains Presumptuous. In each case, our Lack of Faith reveals that we do not yet share in the Disposition of a Humble Heart: "Apart from Me, you can do Nothing".

2733 - Another Temptation, to which Presumption opens-the-gate, is Acedia. The Spiritual Writers understand by this a Form of Depression due to Lax Ascetical Practice, Decreasing Vigilance, Carelessness of Heart. "The Spirit indeed is willing, but the Flesh is weak". The Greater the Height, the Harder the Fall. Painful as Discouragement is, it is the reverse of Presumption. The Humble are not surprised by their Distress; it leads them to Trust More, to Hold Fast in Constancy.


Prayer of Saint Padre Pio

Lord Jesus, sometimes, when I am in the State of Spiritual Aridity, I don't even feel like Praying, and I certainly do not feel Your Presence. I wonder how You, the Bread of Life, could ever Love me, a Miserable Sinner. Help me to Accept my Weak Humanity, and to bow always Humbly before You and Accept the "Medicine" of Your Holy Spirit Who longs to Heal my Heart and Soul.


Nota Bene: Padre Pio was Graced by God with the Stigmata. His Shield depicts the Pelican,
a Symbol of Christ, who strikes her own breast to draw blood in order to feed her young chicks.