It takes a true commitment of time and application to even begin to feel the inner workings of prayer. One has to take a goal, something one truly wants to bring into reality, and swear to do whatever it takes to see that goal through to reality.
And while it is a relief, in some ways, to give God the credit for deciding to not fulfill our request, the truth is, the two most probable causes for ineffectiveness in a prayer are (1) our own hidden reluctance to receiving what it is we are asking for; and (2) evil: those forces in the universe, both in the seen and unseen realms, that just don’t want the fulfillment of our prayers to happen.
Trying to understand the whys and wherefores of evil is akin to setting out to map all the currents in all the oceans of the Earth. Indeed, mapping the oceans would be a far easier task than understanding evil.
Understanding evil is a waste of your effort. Learning to perceive evil, now there is a very fine application of your time.
And one place to begin to perceive evil and ultimately to counter it is in prayer.
In fact, prayer is the main tool in spiritual warfare for the simple reason that is can be an attraction for evil, and ultimately a trap for evil.
But before we get to evil, we must understand ourselves first. If we don’t do this very important step, then we will be unable to discern between ourselves and evil. Which is which? It can be very, very hard to tell.
So now we come back to the subject of commitment. As you pray for X, day after day after day after day, your hidden resistances to the prayer will surface. A new job, while bringing in very necessary income and giving you mental stimulation, will take you away from being with your children. And that can bring up a whole lot of sadness, guilt, and regret.
Every prayer, in short, has its unseen costs. Everything we bring into our lives has the effect of clearing something else out. And, whether we like to admit it or not, we are attached to everything that is in our lives. Even abusive husbands. And alcoholic mothers. And boring jobs with oppressive bosses.
It is in our spiritual natures to clamp onto whatever it is we find around us, like baby monkeys to their mothers. The world is, spiritually, our connection with God, and we intuitively respond positively to whatever it is we are in contact with.
But our spiritual attachments lie in our unseen realm. We are more aware of the way certain things don’t work in our lives. And we are encouraged by society around us to rid ourselves of the painful elements in our lives.
So that is what we focus on: things in our lives that cause us pain and that we want to separate from.
That is why gratitude is such a brilliant exercise. If you set about to thank God for the painful element in your life that you want to replace with something (or someone) not painful, and you commit yourself to thanking God everyday, a million or so times a day, you will eventually find in your hand the very real attachment you hold for that thing or person.
And it is then that you have the freedom to chose. Whether to keep it or whether to walk away from it.
Truth is a very, very valuable factor in living our lives authentically.
But also, in prayer, we can not only encounter our resistance to what it is we are praying for (resistance that we would have difficulty admitting to our own mothers), we can meditate on the reasons for that resistance, and, like gratitude, find our true expression of desire in our prayer.
It may mean a change in prayer. After years of praying for one thing, we may find ourselves working and praying for something very different.
A commitment to prayer imposes on our prayers order. It is a means of sorting things out, and of learning about ourselves in the privacy of our conversation with God. We can face our shame, our weakness, our frailty, our confusion, without the face of someone else looking down on us and sneering. Or trying to be helpful. Or being indifferent to our suffering.
Prayer is like a magnet for that which lies dormant in our souls, which can be the very causes of our spiritual suffering.
And then there’s evil. That wonderful, long-nosed irritant that is constantly looking to imbalance your stance. Your relationship with God. Your ability to abide in peace on Earth.
The closer you get to intimacy with God, the more of a magnet you are to those forces that like to play with your relationship with God. Think of Job. Think of how the only object of evil is to test Job and break him of his absolute commitment to God.
That’s one definition of evil: that which actively seeks to destroy God’s relationship with his beloved.
And, again, prayer applies order to evil’s threatened chaos.
I make my prayers with a rosary. And being somewhat of a lazy prayer, I divide the rosary into five times a day, pairing up one decade of the rosary with each prayer time of the day: morning, noon, and evening; contemplation; and compline.
And I find that as I come close to something deep within me, chaos invades my prayer. I can lose track of my words. As I pray the Lord’s Prayer and the “Glory be” on the large beads, there have been times that I have literally had to look up the words of the Lord’s Prayer in order to get through it. And I will get through it all. Even if I have to read the prayer from a card in my hand. Even if I have to go over it again and again to get through the prayer.
I keep at it.
Order is imposed on chaos, and as this occurs stillness is gifted to the soul on the matter before me.
And it is really only through prayer that this can be accomplished.
Prayer: the spiritual warrior’s best weapon.