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
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
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.
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.