Spiritual Warfare

September 12, 1993
Brother John Raymond

	In our world of today war is a constant fear and conversational
 topic. There is another type of war which goes on everyday of which
 few people talk about - that is spiritual warfare.
	Spiritual warfare is an unseen battle. In the great drama of life
 this battle goes on day by day, minute by minute, second by second.
 It is the great battle for souls. No earthly battle is as intense or
 as important as this battle. Earthly battles can only kill the body,
 but the spiritual battle determines the destiny of the soul for all
	In one's life of prayer there are three enemies to contend with
 on the spiritual battleground - the world, the flesh and the devil.
 As one grows in a life of prayer these three elements constantly
 struggle against it.
	The first enemy, the spirit of the world is always trying to make
 one conform to its values and goals - that of an earthly kingdom.
 The motto of the world is "eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you
 die." The spirit of the world pressures one to live only for this
 world with its transitory goods. Prayer to the worldly minded is the
 most useless of activities. Their hearts and minds are set on this
 world - not on the next. (See Mt 6, 24) The media, which today so
 dominates one's environment, is constantly promoting worldly goals
 and values. Between this and work, family, paying the bills, school,
 recreation, etc. little by little, maybe even without realizing it,
 the cares and concerns of this world can choke out one's life of
 prayer. (See Mt 13,22) One help in the fight against this enemy is
 to keep one's priorities in order - make absolutely sure that God
 and His kingdom always come first. Do not let the world convince one
 otherwise. A second help in this fight is to entrust one's real
 cares and concerns to God believing that He will take care of them.
 (See Mt 6:25-34)
	The second enemy to battle with is probably the hardest one to
 overcome - ourselves. Although Baptism took away Original Sin it
 effects still remain in us. Our minds are darkened and our wills are
 weakened. Distractions, a wandering imagination, disordered passions
 all war against us during prayer. Sometimes one wonders why one even
 bothered to pray at all as one's whole prayer-time was spent
 battling one's fallen nature. One's weakened will can easily give in
 to discouragement or slackening of effort when these difficulties
 persist over a long period of time. What is one to do? First one
 should realize that God is aware of one's good intention to pray.
 For God the intention is the most important. Second the continual
 efforts one makes to pray in spite of oneself are really acts of
 love for God. So what may seem to one as a poor time spent in prayer
 may actually be just the opposite - a time full of acts of love and
 self-renunciation. But one should be careful of willfully going
 along with these difficulties of one's fallen nature in prayer. If
 one does so one is really no longer praying. (Each time one realizes
 that one's mind or heart has drifted in prayer one should gently
 refocus them back on God.) Also, it is good to remember that God is
 in charge of one's prayer life. He can, if He so wills, in an
 instant remove all one's prayer problems. But for one's greater
 merit, growth in virtue, or for other reasons known to Him alone God
 may allow one to struggle with these things. The lives of the saints
 are good examples for our encouragement of patience in prayer. The
 saints were not born saints. Many had great struggles in prayer.
 Many of them did not begin their prayer-life in a continual state of
 ecstacy, as some biographers would wish one to believe! (See the
 Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila) They had to struggle against
 the same fallen nature as us.
	The third enemy to battle with during prayer are the devils. They
 do not want one to pray at all. The devils hate prayer because it is
 the strongest weapon against them. (Remember they are spirits and
 one must fight them with spiritual weapons.) They cannot as easily
 make a prayerful person fall into sin. (The more one grows in prayer
 or love of God the stronger one becomes in resisting sin.) Also,
 another reason they hate prayer is because it can win the salvation
 of other people, thereby freeing their souls from their grasp. The
 devils realize the value of a soul. Each soul has an eternal
 destiny. The devils want everybody's destiny to be their misery in
 hell. They are not at all like the funny characters that cartoons
 like to portray them. No they hate us with such a hatred that it is
 beyond our imagination. They are full of jealousy and hatred over us
 because we can occupy the places in heaven that they lost through
 their own fault. The devils will try everything in their power to
 get one to stop praying. But they don't want one to recognize that
 they are behind the problems they cause, temptations, disturbances,
 etc., they like to remain in the dark. How is one to overcome them?
 The most effective way is to just ignore them. They like to get
 one's attention. They hate to be ignored. If one ignores them their
 purpose is defeated - to disturb one's peace of soul. Sometimes they
 will just give up and leave one alone for a time. A good analogy of
 the devil is to imagine a ferocious dog on a chain. The dog is only
 dangerous when one wanders within the circumference of the chain's
 length. So don't pay any attention to the devils' harrassments.
	Realize that spiritual warfare is a reality. These three enemies
 may at times seem overwhelming. But remember that Jesus said that
 what for Man is impossible, is possible for God. (See Mt 19,26) The
 spiritual battle should make one aware of one's powerlessness apart
 from God thereby leading one to greater humility and childlike
 dependence on God. Discouragement is not the answer! Read the life
 of St. Paul in the New Testament. One will find him fighting the
 three enemies described above. (See Acts 19,23-34;Romans 7,17-23; 2
 Corinthians 12, 7) St. Paul even begged God in prayer to take away a
 devil that was persecuting him. God's answer to him is the answer to
 all of us engaged in this spiritual combat, "My grace is enough for
 you, for in weakness power reaches perfection!" (2 Corinthians 12,9)