PART IV: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Section One: Prayer in the Christian Life
Chapter 3: The Life of Prayer
Article 2, The Battle of Prayer
I. Objections to Prayer (cont’d)
§ 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” (cf. Mark 10:22), 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.
II. 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 (cf. Matthew 6:21, 24).
§ 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!’” (Psalm 27:8a).
Tomorrow – Facing difficulties in prayer (to be continued)
(Part IV, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 2 – to be continued)
[Editor’s Note: The abbreviation in today’s posting is noted below.]
- “cf.” – “confer [compare or refer to]”