Monday, March 21, 2011

How Important is Prayer Really?

The field of battle between God and satan is the human soul. It is in the soul that the battle rages every moment of life. The soul must give free access to the Lord so that it may be fortified by Him in every respect and with all kinds of weapons; that His light may enlighten it to combat the darkness of error; that it may be clothed with Jesus Christ. To be clothed with Jesus Christ it is necessary to die to oneself. That which comes from satan begins with calmness and ends in storm, indifference, and apathy. In the spiritual life he who does not advance goes backward. It happens as with a boat which always must go ahead. If it stands still the wind blows it back. Fix the time, the length of your meditation, and do not rise from your place until you have finished even at the cost of being crucified -- Saint Pio of Pietrelcina 
Do we really need to pray? Doesn't God already know what we need and want? If God has everything and can do everything, why does He need our prayers? The short version is He doesn't need a blessed thing from us, but because of His infinite love and mercy ... He desires us to move closer to Him. Prayer is a conduit to God in which He dispenses graces to us for the journey till we get home to Him. Prayer helps bring us closer to Him and although we shouldn't pray for the 'feeling' it gives us, it is nonetheless, a special gift and joy those times when it is received. If you do nothing else after reading this, please make a time DAILY to set aside for God ALONE and PRAY! Even if you are laden with pain so great that you can't read a sentence or remember a phrase, you CAN keep repeating "JESUS" over in the silence of your mind and heart. So there is no excuse not to commit to a life of daily prayer no matter your station in life. As I often say: "Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi." "As you pray, so shall you believe ... as you believe so shall you live." Think about that. If you have no prayer life, what belief do you hold to? If you have no beliefs, you don't care HOW you live! This is the life of a pagan who searches out only what the world can give him along with instant gratification in everything because HE DESERVES IT ALL AND RIGHT NOW. Very sad indeed. What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world yet lose his soul? And, he who has Jesus lacks NOTHING! Truer words were never spoken.

The Sacraments of course are most important and we should avail ourselves a heapin' helpin' of grace when ever we can and as often as we can. If someone was handing out gold bars on the corner, would you smile politely as you passed by saying "NO THANK YOU"?? We as Catholics take for GRANTED the infinite treasures that our Faith gives us. It is the FULLNESS of Faith with all SEVEN Sacraments instituted by Jesus Himself and traceable in the Bible.
But getting back to prayer ... When you prayer, you lift your soul to our glorious Triune God, that can at times bring us to a height of supernatural joy that is hard to explain. Perhaps close to this might be compared to being in a praise and worship renewal or healing service  where all raise their voices to God. Often we then experience a feeling that can 'carry us away' so to speak and remove us for a moment from all worldly concerns. Why is this? Well, the Bible clearly states that God INHABITS the praises of His people. I believe when your heart is lifted to Him in holy abandon and if even for a moment NOTHING else exists for you but HIM, well then you have a taste of eternity .. of heaven.

Now we want to make certain that this "feeling" is not the motivation for prayer ... certainly many of us, myself included have (and many of us most recently and presently) experienced what is called being in the desert, the dryness of prayer or dryness of the soul. During these times, we may be faced with severe attacks from the old boy wanting to distract us from prayer however he can ... fear, anxiety, daily/worldly worries, even pain, illness, lack of sleep, or falling asleep at mid sentence .... ANYTHING to inhibit our prayer life. We must FIGHT to keep to our prayer schedules. And you SHOULD DEFINITELY *have* a prayer schedule. Even if only 15 minutes a day, but at least an hour is best. I like to do mine during the special Hour of Divine Mercy, 3pm. Jesus told St. Faustina that what ever is asked of Him during that hour will be granted (I'm sure being in the state of grace and wanting His Will in your life assists greatly.).

Now when we pray, what should we pray for? How should we pray? Well the Rosary is the most POWERFUL prayer outside of the Holy Mass and has averted wars and mitigated disasters, so this is first on the list. God knows what you want and need, Jesus gave us the "Our Father" ... so, first give thanks and glory to God in all things.

Let's take a closer look at this perfect prayer:
Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. - You acknowledge that God IS GOD in HEAVEN, is Holy and rightly to be praised. In His goodness and mercy He permits us to address Him as FATHER, hence, accepting us as His children.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. - We await His Kingdom .. that all will come to know and accept His love and mercy. We pray that humankind will turn to Him in obedience, embracing His Perfect Will in all things as the angels and saints in heaven do.
Give us this day our daily bread. - We ask our Heavenly Father to provide for our daily needs which He knows so much better than we do. Not necessarily what we WANT, but what He knows we NEED. And that need generally leans more toward our spiritual sanctification and salvation rather than our temporal needs on earth. Even so, God's treasure house of love, mercy and compassion is overflowing, so He frequently gives us our temporal needs as well.
And forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us. - Here, we're asking God to treat us as WE TREAT OTHERS. Be careful here! Forgiveness is paramount in prayer and a Christian life. Christ Himself forgave all from the Cross even after all the mockery, humiliations, tortures and all else! Who are we to do any less to those that have wronged and hurt us? FORGIVE ALWAYS ... SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN!!!!
Lead us not into temptation. - Would God lead us into temptation? No of course not. But He permits us to BE tempted so we can excercise our free will and strengthen our Faith. He wants us to be free to choose Him ... why would He want robots worshiping Him? We're asking here too for the strength to resist temptation and to increase our Faith so we may stand strong in the face of adversity.
But deliver us from evil. - Here we ask for help again with temptation but also more directly, to protect us from the snares and tricks of the devil. To deflect the darts and daggers that the ole boy throws our way to distract us from the path of holiness that leads to everlasting life. The devil always makes something look easy and good in the beginning, telling us God won't mind, it's no big deal and then when we're up to our ears in it, he stand laughing and tells us we're doomed and too far gone to even THINK about asking God for forgiveness .. he leads us into despair, apathy, self indulgence and ultimately self destruction. So we need help .. a lot of help, to fend off this deceitful liar and murderer who feeds off our sorrow and pain.
AMEN. - So be it! ... Let all we just said come to pass and be so!

Prayer should be our spiritual breath to live. We cannot live without oxygen to breathe, Christians cannot live without prayer and the Sacraments. To do so is fruitless and amounts to nothing but stress and misplaced priorities for this world that is passing away, just as our bodies are. Is prayer hard for you? Do you find it a chore sometimes? Then you may be in the desert.

Persevere and beg for the grace to remain focused and bask in the glory of the Father of Mercy and Love.
Lay your head at the Feet of the One that suffered and gave up all - to the very last Drop of His Most Precious Blood even for those that He knew would mock and hate Him through the ages.
Breathe in the newness of the Breath of Life from the Holy Ghost Who's Power and Might can sustain even the most wretched and weak of us.
Finally, forget not the Queen of the most Holy Rosary who stands ever ready to plead and intercede for her children to Jesus. Her intense love, great compassion and maternal care reach into the wounded Sacred Heart in a way that is unique between Mother and Son. She takes no glory for herself ... remember her words always: "Do whatever He tells you!"

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