Prayer and Wisdom against Temptation & Spiritual Danger

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.(Matt. 26:41, Mark 14:38)

Spirit is willing, flesh is weak

St. John Chrysostom: “Inasmuch as Christ Himself came to instruct us in all virtue, He both tells us what ought to be done, and does it… He commanded men to pray for their enemies (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:28) and teaches this by means of His acts; for when He had ascended the cross He said, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).’ Therefore, as He commanded men to pray so does He Himself pray, instructing you to do so by His own persistent utterances of prayer.

“Since then He commanded them to pray ‘lead us not into temptation [but deliver us from evil] (Matt. 6:13),’ He instructs them in this very precept by putting it into practice Himself, saying ‘Father if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me (Matt. 26:39).’ Thus teaching all the saints not to plunge into dangers, not to fling themselves into danger… not to rush forwards themselves, or to be the first to advance against terrors. Why pray this way? Both to teach us lowliness of mind, and also to deliver us from the charge of vainglory. On this account it is also said in this passage that… after He had prayed He said to His disciples ‘Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation.’ Jesus not only prays but also admonishes, ‘For the spirit indeed is willing,’ He said, ‘but the flesh is weak (Matt. 26:41, Mark 14:38).’

“Now this He said by way of emptying their soul of vanity and delivering them from pride, teaching them self-restraint, training them to practice moderation. Therefore, the prayer which He wished to teach them, He Himself also offered… instructing us to pray, and even to seek deliverance from distress; but, if this be not permitted, then to acquiesce in what seems good to God. Therefore He said ‘Nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt (Matt. 26:39);’ not because He had one will and the Father another; but again, that He might instruct men…

“By means of this prayer, Christ taught both these truths, that we should not plunge into dangers, but rather pray that we may not fall into them; but if they come upon us we should bear them bravely, and postpone our own will to the will of God. Knowing these things then let us pray that we may never enter into temptation; but if we do enter it let us beseech God to give us patience and courage, and let us honor His will in preference to every will of our own. For then we shall pass through this present life with safety, and shall obtain the blessings to come: which may we all receive by the favor and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom be to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, glory, might, honor, now and forever world without end. Amen.”  (St. John Chrysostom (347-407), Excerpts from Against Marcionists and Manichaeans)

The Sacred Heart of Jesus ~ an Inexhaustible Fountain

6/7/13 Solemnity ~ The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of JesusSt. Margaret Mary Alacoque: “The sacred heart of Christ is an inexhaustible fountain and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble so as to free them and prepare them to lead lives according to His good pleasure. From this divine heart three streams flow endlessly. The first is the stream of mercy for sinners; it pours into their hearts sentiments of contrition and repentance. The second is the stream of charity which helps all in need and especially aids those seeking perfection in order to find the means of surmounting their difficulties. From the third stream flow love and light for the benefit of His friends who have attained perfection; these He wishes to unite to Himself so that they may share His knowledge and commandments and, in their individual ways, devote themselves wholly to advancing His glory. This divine heart is an abyss filled with all blessings, into which the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need. Are you making no progress in prayer? Then you need only offer God the prayers which the Savior has poured out for us in the Sacrament of the altar. Offer God His fervent love in reparation for your sluggishness. In the course of every activity pray as follows: “My God, I do this or I endure that in the heart of Your Son and according to His holy counsels. I offer it to You in reparation for anything blameworthy or imperfect in my actions.” Continue to do this in every circumstance of life. But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the Divine Heart. In this way His will can carry out for us whatever contributes to His glory, and we will be happy to be His subjects and to trust entirely in Him.” (From a letter by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque)

Prayer, Humility and Kindness in the Midst of Affliction

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-28).

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Ignatius_of_AntiochIgnatius of Antioch: “Pray without ceasing in behalf of other men; for there is hope of repentance that they may attain to God. For “cannot he who falls rise again, and he who goes astray return (Jer. 8:4)?” Permit them to be instructed by you. Be the ministers of God, and the mouth of Christ. For thus says the Lord, “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth (Jer. 15:19).” Be humble in response to their wrath; oppose their sacrilege with your earnest prayers; while they go astray, be steadfast in the faith (Col 1:23). Conquer their harsh temper by gentleness and their passion by meekness, for “blessed are the meek (Matt. 5:5).” Moses was meek above all men (Num. 12:3), and David was exceedingly meek (Psalm. 131).

“Paul exhorts as follows: “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle towards all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose (2 Tim. 2:24, 25).” Do not seek to avenge yourselves on those who injure you (Rom. 12:19)…” Let us make them brethren by our kindness… let us imitate the Lord, Who “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten (1 Pet. 2:23).” Jesus prayed for His enemies, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” If any one, the more he is injured, the more he displays patience, he is blessed. If any one is defrauded, if any one is despised, for the name of the Lord, he is truly the servant of Christ. Take heed that no plant of the devil be found among you, for such a plant is bitter. Watch therefore, be sober in Christ Jesus. (Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians in Ephesus, approx. 107-108 A.D., Ch. 10; expanded version of earliest text)

✝ St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pray for Us ✝

Through Prayer We Lift Up Our Hearts to God

The Archbishops and Bishops of the United States in Conference assembled, to their Clergy and faithful people: Grace unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Venerable Brethren of the Clergy,
Beloved Children of the Laity:

Praying Hands, Hands Praying“…From the teaching of the Church and from your own experience, you know that without the divine assistance you cannot walk in the footsteps of Christ. And you need not be reminded that the principal means of grace are prayer and the sacraments.

“Through prayer we lift up our hearts to God, and He in turn enlightens our minds, kindles our affections, gives power to our wills. For whether we adore His majesty or praise Him for His wonderful works, whether we render Him thanks for His goodness, or beseech Him for pardon, or beg Him to help and defend us, our prayer is pleasing to Him: it goes up as incense before Him (Rev. 5:8), as the voice of His children to the Father who loves them, who pursues them with mercy and offers them speedy forgiveness. Therefore, in joy and in sorrow, in adversity and in prosperity, “in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

“We heartily commend the beautiful practice of family prayer. “Where there are two or three gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). If this is true of the faithful in general, it applies with particular meaning to those who are members of the same household. The presence of Jesus will surely be a source of blessing to the home where parents and children unite to offer up prayer in common. The spirit of devotion which this custom develops, will sanctify the bonds of family love and ward off the dangers which so often bring sorrow and shame. We appeal in this matter with special earnestness to young fathers and mothers, who have it in their power to mold the hearts of their children and train them early in the habit of prayer.” (Pastoral letter of the archbishops and bishops of the United States assembled in conference at the Catholic University of America, September, 1919. )

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Personal note: Earlier I happened on a Catholic blog called, “Oh, for the love of chant!” with a post on the Liturgy of the Hours which are daily prayers of the Church. It explains this liturgical prayer with clear simplicity and seems a good addition to the above Bishops’ statement on prayer:

Year of Faith and the Liturgy of the Hours: The Liturgy of the Hours is the constant prayer of the Church. Even if you personally don’t do it, it is constant rhythm of prayer, as people are praying it all around the world every single day at every hour of the day and night.  Continue reading…

p.s. The daily prayers and spiritual readings of the Liturgy of the Hours are here at Divine Office.org and in the sidebar link.

Wisdom for Free and Untroubled Prayer

Staretz Saint Silouan of Mount Athos“Many people like to read good books, and this is right, but it is best of all to pray; while he who reads newspapers or bad books destines his soul to go hungry—hungry because the food of the soul and her true satisfaction are in God. He who would pray freely and untroubled must keep himself in ignorance of the news in newspapers, nor should he read mean books or be curious to know the details of other people’s lives. All these things fill the mind with thoughts that stain, and when one would try to sort them out they further entangle and weary. Now in God are life, joy, gladness, and the Lord loves us ineffably, and this love is made known by the Holy Spirit.”   (Startez Silouan, Wisdom from Mount Athos, pg. 83, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press)