Prayer is a powerful source of grace and the mother of all virtue but the Catechism acknowledges that prayer is a battle. The Gospel is the story of spousal love and prayer is a means of communicating that love. Love is a necessary catalyst for persevering in prayer.
A priest once relayed this story in a weekday homily: “When I was a newly ordained priest I was so happy and sure of the priestly authority of Jesus given to me through the sacrament of Holy Orders. Shortly after ordination I traveled to a famous Marian shrine to thank Our Lady for the helping me through the seminary. At the shrine several people asked me to aid a lady who was in spiritual distress and manifesting evil spirits. As I approached the woman I reminded myself that I have the authority of Jesus Christ and His Church to pray for her liberation. After ministering to her for a time I began to bind and cast evil spirits but nothing happened. I tried three times without results and a crowd was gathering. I began to doubt my ordination. The Lord spoke to my heart, “Look her in the eye and tell her that I, the Lord, love her. Let My love manifest through your priesthood.” When Father did as the Lord said, the evil spirit left with a loud scream, and peace was restored as everyone witnessed.
In each case of deliverance or exorcism we see the power of divine love evicting the evil one from the person and premises. The priest and team surround the afflicted person with the prayer of the Church wrapped in ardent charity.
Part four of the Catechism presents a section entitled, The Battle of Prayer:
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 temper who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from a 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.
Prayer is absolutely transformative for good and that is why we have enemies of prayer that include our fallen nature, the flesh, the world and the devil.
The Catechism addresses deeper reasons why prayer is a battle:
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.
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 possession,” 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.
To help resist temptations against prayer, I offer a personal prayer of protection that has been approved for use by laity. It is printed in The Manual of Minor Exorcisms compiled by Bishop Julian Porteous. It has proven effective against temptations and for inner healing especially when prayed ardently before the Blessed Sacrament in union with Mary and your guardian angel:
Heavenly Father, I praise and thank you for all you have given me. Please cover me with the protective, precious blood of your Son, Jesus Christ, and increase your Holy Spirit in me with His gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, hunger for prayer, guidance and discernment to help me know your will and surrender to it more completely.
Father, please heal my negative emotions and any wounds in my heart and spirit. Send the sword of your Holy Spirit to sever and break all spells, curses, hexes, voodoo and all negative genetic, inter-generational and addictive material, past, present or to come, known or unknown, against me, my relationships and family, finances, possessions and ministry.
Father, I forgive and I ask forgiveness for my sins and failings and I ask that my whole person, body and mind, heart and will, soul and spirit, memory and emotions, attitudes and values lie cleansed, renewed and protected by the most precious blood of your Son Jesus.
In the name, power, blood and authority of Jesus Christ I bind and break the power and effect in or around me of any and all evil spirits who are trying to harm me in anyway and I command these spirits and their companion spirits in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to leave me peacefully and quietly.
Dear Holy Spirit please fill up any void in me to overflowing with your great love. All this Father I pray in the name of Jesus Christ by the guidance of your Holy Spirit, please pray for me and with me.
Prayer is a matter of love that is an act of the human will. The Catechism teaches us about Persevering in Love:
2742. “Pray constantly…always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” St. Paul adds, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance making supplication for all the saints.” For “we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing.” This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love. This love opens our hearts to three enlightening and life-giving facts of faith about prayer.
2743. It is always possible to pray.
2744. Prayer is a vital necessity.
2745. Prayer and Christian Life are inseparable.
The famous quote of Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J. reminds us that falling in love with God is foundational to persevering in the battle of prayer:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, i.e., than falling in love in a quite absolute way, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
Prayer is efficacious because Jesus prays in us and with us. The Catechism states, “All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father. If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit, who contains all gifts (2741).”
Lord Jesus, graciously help us to persevere in the battle of prayer through the power of divine love. Amen.