Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9a (Compline Service, BCP pg.132)
What comes to mind when you think of prayer -- images of Church, memorized recitation, or the time it takes (and time you haven’t)? Do you wait until the end of the day, perhaps the first quiet moment, to have “prayer time”? Some prefer the start of the day as a time for reflection and devotion. No matter the time of day, we all have encountered spiritual “blocks” in our devotional habits and times of prayerless-ness. As one Church Father admitted: “I prayed for 30 minutes today. And it took three hours to get there.” And, as Martin Luther famously said, "If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business, I cannot go without spending three hours daily in prayer." Meaning…the busier we are the MORE we need to pray!
It happens to all of us. We are in a hurry, or distracted, running late and we forget to start off our day with prayer. We don’t connect breakfast to prayer, but the effect is actually the same; heading off into our day without a solid foundation of prayer is like skipping breakfast. Headlong into our day, we feel weak and distracted. It becomes increasingly difficult to focus on the challenges and as a result we make mistakes, get angry, and say things we regret. Oh, if only we had taken a few extra minutes to get tanked up for what lay ahead.
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”
“Spiritual Warfare” is a phrase you might hear some Christians use, but the truth is many people do not fully know what it is, or what to do about it. Like a physical war, Spiritual Warfare refers to the process of acquiring and holding territory. Jesus fought many spiritual battles during His earthly ministry and made them public for a good reason, to show us what we are up against. The “evil one,” Satan, is in the acquisition business. Jesus tells us that his goal is to occupy areas of our life we have left unprotected and taint our world from there. Perhaps you can relate? The worry, fear, isolation, anger and other emotions that focus us on self away from God during this pandemic is surely the work of Satan, who delights in separation. St Paul warns us that, “The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). The danger, however, is not only to unbelievers, but to those who believe and surge forward unprepared.
Got a big meeting or a little gathering? Going to the club or sitting back at the park? There is no time when heading out on an empty stomach is a good idea. Not sure what to believe about Satan? OK, but while you’re growing in your “knowledge and love of the Lord,” why risk it? Jesus asked the Father to protect us for a reason and told us of the dangers we will encounter. Jesus even gave us the words to pray: “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” And when you’re done with that one we have 150 Psalms to praise, petition, adore and give thanks the Lord. As Episcopalians, we even have a handy “user’s manual” or prayers that have been offered for hundreds of years, based in worship much older and scriptures that are thousands of years old. The language is beautiful and the effect of reading them is, well, life-giving.
Start you day in prayer. Tank up for what does lie ahead. A few extra minutes will make all the difference.
Holy Lord God, I pray for Your protection as I begin this new day. You are my shield and my buckler, my hiding place, and under Your wings I find refuge. Protect me from trouble wherever I go, and keep the evil one far from me.
In the Holy name of Jesus I pray. Amen
Father Bill Burk†