St. Peter compares the devil to a roaring lion who seeks the opportunity to devour his prey—that is to devour us!
The devil can attack at any time and any place! He is wily, astute, highly intelligent and ruthless. However, there is one area that he is most prone to attack all of us--- that is our PRAYER LIFE!!!
St. Ignatius reminds us that the devil attacks when we are found to be in a state of desolation. By desolation we mean a certain lack of faith, hope, charity, sadness, discouragement leading to depression, tepidity and lethargy. Our supernatural vision is blurred, dark and gloomy. If you like you might feel as if you were in a dark cloud or a long dark tunnel that seems as if there is really no exit! This is the state of soul that the devil aims his fiery darts and launches them ready for the kill.What then might be some ways that the tempter (St Thomas), the roaring lion(St. Peter), the angry dog on the leash (St. Augustine), the mortal enemy of our salvation (St. Ignatius), the liar and murderer from the beginning (Jesus in Jn. 8)—the devil, might attack our prayer life? Let’s see!
1. PROCRASTINATION! He might tempt you in this vain: “There is really no hurry at all; just put off your prayer for tomorrow. God understands; he knows your thoughts and feelings anyway. God is in no hurry, nor should you be!”
2. PRAY LESS! Well, if the devil cannot win getting you to put off prayer for tomorrow, then he will at least get you to pray less. Instead of a Holy Hour, diminish it to a half an hour; give up that daily Mass. You only have to go to Mass on Sunday anyway. The Rosary? Instead of the whole Rosary, the devil will whittle it down to a decade or two!
3. PRAYER DISTRACTIONS! Another tactic of the devil is to pull your mind off track. Instead of focusing on God, you end up by focusing your attention on some irrelevant issue, such as what is the next meal, who is playing in a sports event, what is up for the weekend.
4. WASTING YOUR TIME! The devil is relentless in his attacks on the person who has decided to give himself to a serious prayer life. As the Word of God reminds us: “If you decide to follow the Lord prepare yourself for battle.” The devil can tempt in this manner: you are wasting your time by praying. Much better if your were to go out of your way to help your neighbor. Do you remember Jesus with Martha and Mary? The devil pushes activism to the extent of convincing us that our work is much more important than our prayer life and conversation with the Lord! Remember that Jesus came to the defense of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus and quietly listening to Him—indeed a true model for contemplation!
5. YOU ARE STILL THE SAME PERSON! You are praying more than before, but you are really not any better than before, and many people have told you this. Therefore, better to give up a serious prayer life and go back to a normal, comfortable, and easy life style like most of your friends and associates!
6. FEELINGS! The devil can tempt in this way! He can trick you into believing that your prayers are going nowhere for the simple reason that you do not really feel any strong emotions and feelings when you pray. Before you had sentiments and feelings in that first charismatic retreat, but now the emotions have subdued and the prayer is less feeling but more quiet and peaceful! Any good spiritual director or text on the theology of prayer will point out that prayer does not always depend on feelings but on faithfulness to God.
7. GOD IS SILENT AND DOES NOT ANSWER ME! It may happen that you have prayed for a long time for some specific intention, maybe made novenas or even offered Masses, but this intention has not been answered. The devil can convince you not to pray, or that prayer is an exercise in futility, a mere waste of time! For some the devil paints God as some Santa Claus in the sky or some type of glorified bell-hop or genie ready to come out of the lamp if we rub hard enough. If he does not answer me then maybe He simply does not exist!
8. DISASTERS AND GOD’S ABSENCE! Maybe some disaster has visited you: economic loss, financial set-back, or an untimely death of a loved one. How could such a good God allow that to happen? A good God could not allow that, if indeed He is so good! Our salvation could be the book of Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I return to the earth; the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
9. TEMPTATIONS AGAINST CHASTITY. It has even happened in the lives of the saints—St. Catherine of Siena, St. Margaret Mary and St. Anthony of the desert--- to have been attacked frequently against the virtue of purity. The devil uses many and various forms of temptations to diminish our prayer life or to even extinguish it!
10. DESPAIR! Perhaps the most fatal attack of the enemy is to convince us to give in to despair. This was the fall of Judas Iscariot. If he were to have repented, perhaps throughout the whole world we would have churches with the title: “St. Judas the penitent.” Peter repented and was forgiven and became a great saint. After we fall into sin the devil accuses and condemns us and paints doom and despair. The Holy Spirit consoles and encourages us with trust and hope in the infinite mercy of God. JESUS I TRUST IN YOU!
In conclusion, we must cling to prayer as if it were a life-jacket, the air that keeps us alive, the anchor or our salvation. If the devil tempts us to give up prayer or to pray less, then we should follow the Ignatian counsel of “agere contra” to do the exact opposite to strive to pray more and even better; as such we will win the battle!