Possibly the most important aspect of trying to grow in prayer is what St. Teresa of Avila called "an earnest and most determined resolve not to halt." I believe that God desires each and everyone of us to have a profoundly deep prayer life. This means He will give us what we need to advance farther and farther into this beautiful mystery. What is our part? To resolve to pray each and every single day. In order to let God lead us into His heart we need only to put some time aside each day that is strictly His. You must adopt a strict diligence of prayer that cannot be sidetracked by anything. You might try to make a list of the things that have interrupted your prayer life in the past. Make a plan, make a schedule and pray every single day.
The devil will do everything he can to interrupt this resolve and it is important that we recognize that and no matter what kind of sin we fall into we should still pray each and every day. It is not hypocrisy to pray in a state of sin. Instead it is the only sane thing to do. When you have offended the Lord it is then that you should run to Him all the more. The devil will also try to trick us into thinking the Lord is not listening to our prayer. In this moment we must remember that the primary objective of prayer is for us to listen and not just speak. We must also remember that God has promised He will always listen and answer our prayers although not always in the way we expect in the time we expect.
The bottom line is that we could all be saints if only we prayed. Do not let anything get in the way of this and God will draw you in. He will speak to your heart. You will become whole in Him. He will set you afire.
May the Lord draw you into His heart through our perseverance in prayer.
Patience is going to play a big role in your battle with sin and utimately your attainment of salvation. On the one hand it will be the mercy of God in your life and on the other it will be a cunning tool of the evil one. Lets examine...
The Patience of God...
A wise confessor or spiritual director upon hearing of a stubborn sin with which you feel overwhelmed will usually say something to the effect of, "Dont expect to conquer this sin today. This will be a long battle. Don't get down on yourself if you fall again." You see the spiritual director understands an important aspect of the mercy of God and that aspect is patience. When I think of certain sins and how long I have had a deliberate struggle with them I'm amazed at how long God has been there patiently waiting for the day when I will let go of them in order to embrace Him more fully. This principle is easily seen in God's relationship to the chosen people. He was patient waiting for them to be the people they were called to be. They fell time and time again but God continually showed His presence among them. It is important to note that God often uses the time it takes to overcome sin as a way to show us we cannot do it by our own merits. This is a lesson every soul will learn on the road to sanctity. Lord, have patience with us your servants!
The patience of the Evil one...
We know the devils plan for our life. He wants us to die in mortal sin and he wants that to happen as soon as possible. Well fortunately for us God does not allow the devil to have his way completely. The devil knows this so he takes on the longterm strategy.
Often the devil will tempt us with a smaller sin and lure us into a relationship with that sin. He is very patient. He will wait for years and years and let that sin grow and fester and slowly take more of our heart. Finally it will take us over and lead to other sins. All the while we think its ok. After all its just one of the "little" sins. James says, "but each man is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is fulll grown brings forth death..."
The devil doesnt necessarily need to get you with sex, drugs, murder etc. He is patient and cunning enough to let you grow envy, greed, anger etc. in your heart. The devil is patient. He will wait as long as he needs to get you.
Pray for the Lord to be patient and heal us in His time. Recognnize the cunning patience of the devil. Do not let sin grow within our hearts.
The souls fight against sin can seem complicated. A basic look at our conscience will usually reveal a multitude of sins. It can seem daunting. Where do we start? How can we possibly navigate the path to freedom and deeper union with the Lord? The Lord can break through our mess of sin and put it all in perspective so His mercy can take root in our lives and save us. So how does it happen? Well the fastest route is the route of Frequent confession. By frequent I mean weekly, or biweekly.
Here are some more tips for getting the most out of the School of perfection:
1. Take the advice as deliberate and from the Lord. So many times I have left the confessional disappointed in the counsel I recieved from the priest. Often times the Priest will focus on one particular thing you said. It may not seem like the most important thing you mentioned or it may not be the one issue you are experiencing the most emotional distress about but take the words as having come from the Lord. If the Priest focuses on something in particular then make it a focus for your life. Let that experience narrow down and prioritize your battle with sin.
2. Pray for tears. Contrition can be something intellectual. You can understand that sin in wrong and regret it without feeling a certain amount of shame or even emotion. Though an intellectual contrition is valid for confession it is not the best way to be. It would be best if we mourned each and every sin we commit. Some sins we have confessed hundreds of times and we just don't feel the emotional anguish we did when we first committed those sins. We should pray to God to bring back that emotional response into our hearts. The Desert Fathers often prayed that the Lord would bring them to tears over the even the smallest of sins. Lord, break our hearts for love of You!
3. Take notes! Confession is one of the primary ways God speaks to us. Add a section to your prayer journal for confession. After a while you will see a pattern of the Lord's mercy in your life. You will see a slow conquering of the "little sins" and this will give you confidence and faith that God will help you with the "bigger" sins.
We heartily recommend, the pious custom introduced by the Church, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of frequent confession. It gives us a morethorough knowledge of ourselves, stimulates Christian humility, helps us to uproot our evil habits, wages war on spiritual negligence and tepidity, purifies our consciences, strengthens our wills, encourages spiritual direction and by virtue of the Sacrament itself, increases grace.
Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis
If you are serious about the Christian life then no doubt you have identified those defects that most prevent you from joining God. It usually takes a long battle to rid yourself of these sins so in the mean time you should have a plan for those times when you fall.
This is Mother Franziska Lechner’s Program of Life. I don’t know much about her but if she followed this I am sure she will be a Saint one day. It is simple to the point and relevant. Its awesome.
When the prodigal son returns and his father holds a feast the brother complains to Him. Many of us can understand where he is coming from in his complaint. The Father’s response tells us an amazing lesson about the spiritual life.
The Father responds: “all that is mine is yours…” In this simple statement he sums up why true Christians are so joyful.
When I worked at a high school for a year it seemed like the common notion among the students (even the really mature ones) was that Christianity limits freedom and doesn’t contribute to happiness. At best they hoped for some sort of a compromise with the pleasures of the world and Christian living. At the same time many of them couldn’t figure out why the Campus minister, Sr. Julie, was so happy. Sometimes I would try to engage them and help appease their curiosity. My answer was always simple: Holy Joy.
Holy Joy is the only thing that can explain why someone who abstains from the pleasures of the world, seemingly limits their own freedom, and lives for things entirely foreign to the popular culture can be so happy. Holy Joy comes from recognizing that all that is God’s is for us. What the brother of the Prodigal son and most people in this world do not understand is that the reward is Christian living. When we live for Christ we are given access to peace, joy, adventure and yes even pleasure that world could never have. That is what fills a true and Radical Christian with Joy.
Holy Joy comes from a relationship that finally satisfies us. The world could ever understand Holy Joy because the world cannot figure out how to be in a relationship where we give of ourselves completely. Holy joy is the mark of the truly free and intense Christian.
Give yourself to Christ today. Experience true freedom. All that God has is for us! You will be filled with Holy Joy!
Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. Mother Teresa
For the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
Pride is one of those sneaky but deadly sins. Why sneaky? Pride is sneaky because it because it’s a sin of blindness. All sin blinds us in some way but Pride especially blinds us. You see its Pride that causes us to be blind to our need for deeper conversion. Pride can be so deeply present within us that even after years striving in the spiritual life it can go undetected. I hate pride. I hate it so much because even though I am constantly reminded of my need for deeper conversion there are times when I realize a huge part of my life that needs healing, conversion and change. Pride causes this blindness. One of the main reasons Pride hurts our spiritual growth is because one of the ways it manifests itself is in a sin called “Presumption”.
The book “The Spiritual Life” by Tanquerey defines Presumption like this:
Presumption consists in an inordinate desire and hope whereby we want to do things which are beyond our strength. It proceeds from too high of an opinion of ourselves, of our natural faculties, of our knowledge, of our strength, of our virtues.
Many people will read this and immediately think something like this, “I definitely know how sinful I am”. What you should say is “Lord show me where I need more conversion”. “Lord, show me how I truly look in your eyes because I know my vision is poor.”
Pride needs to be rooted out of our lives. God resists the proud. He hurries to the humble. Remember Pride can be very sneaky. If you don’t think you struggle with Pride then that is probably a good indication you do.
Here are some ways to help you root Pride out of your life:
Once you have decided you are in need of a Spiritual Director your work has just begun. If you are trying to live a Radical Christian life then you are going to want someone who is going to affirm you in that. This can be harder than it sounds. There is an abundance of “Spiritual Directors” who are all too ready to affirm you just the way you are, to counsel you the way a counselor would or even just hear your confession and help you in the battle with sin. A Spiritual Director who will help you in the battle with sin, help you progress in your prayer life, help you distinguish between psychological issues and problems of will and be an example of a tenacious and radical catholic on the road to sainthood is one in a million. There are lay spiritual directors and religious spiritual directors. I recommend finding someone who is a Priest or Religious. I also recommend finding someone who is older. There are many young spiritual directors who are amazing but there is a real comfort when you get the feeling that your spiritual director has helped possibly thousands of people before you on the same journey.
Here are some questions I would ponder before choosing a spiritual director:
Dear Jesus, my desire is to grow closer to you. Each and everyday I hope to journey away from my sin and in to your arms. I do not know what is around the next corner but I will remain faithful to the journey. Send me your messengers, Lord, to light the way and guide in the progress. Above all, Lord, teach me to be submissive to you. Amen
Do you need a Spiritual Director? I do not currently have a spiritual director. In fact there have been very few times in my life when I have had one. I have never really felt the need. Now I am not saying that I do not need spiritual advice but more that I don’t feel like I have been advanced enough for a spiritual director. I guess I feel like until I am doing the things that I know I need to do then why do I need someone to direct me? A spiritual director should help you discern a vision for your spiritual life. He should help point you in the right direction and help you discern what God is saying to you. Here some questions to help you know if you are ready to find a spiritual director. (This is not to say a competent spiritual director can’t help you at any stage of the journey but it may help you decide more clearly)
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Sometimes the spiritual life can seem like spring cleaning. We take a look into our soul and we look into the corners and under the rugs and we don’t like what we see. Our first reaction is to turn away, turn off the lights, or put the rug back down and leave the filth in secret. This usually happens with the sins that we consider less serious or those sins that no one else can see. They happen in our mind when we react to what another person says or when in anger or envy we think certain things about people. Sometimes we can think that those sins are safe because no one will ever know about them. We keep them in the dark wrapped up inside of us. We may think they are safe there in the secret.
Unfortunately any sin left to itself will fester. A small sin like envy, arrogance or anger can tear you apart inside and leave your soul a dry desert where no spiritual growth can happen. Its hard for me to admit but there was a time in my life where I had terrible thoughts about other people when I would see them pray. I would entertain thoughts of envy, judgment, and unbelievable arrogance. These sins were my secret. I was embarrassed to share them even in confession. I would rationalize saying to myself, “well, they are just venial sins” or “they are just thoughts not sins”. So I wouldn’t confess them or even do anything to try and stop them. They were ravaging my soul leaving me prideful, selfish, and ugly on the inside. Those thoughts were my “secrets with the evil one.” It wasn’t until I took a long look at what I was on the inside that I started to realize how awful these sins can get.
Take a look at yourself on the inside. Ask yourself if you are keeping any secrets with the devil. The first step to fighting these sins is to expose them. First expose them to Jesus. ( of course H already knows but He wants us to acknowledge our sin to Him) Then we need to tell them to our confessor and we need to be brutally honest about how far we have let this particular sin go. Finally we should share them with a spiritual advisor or someone who we look to for advice.
The bottom line is that we need to expose our secret sins and clean them out. We can’t keep secrets with the devil. He is not our friend and he always works in darkness. Lets step into the light and expose ourselves as we really are. Resist the devil and he will flee! Expose him!
Below is a qoute from St. Ignatius of Loyola about our adversary. Know your enemy.
The enemy also behaves like a false lover who wishes to remain hidden and does not want to be revealed. For when this deceitful man pays court, with evil intent, to the daughter of some good father or the wife of a good husband, he wants his words and suggestions to be kept secret. He is greatly displeased if the girl reveals to her father, or the wife to her husband, his deceitful words and depraved intentions, for he then clearly sees that his plans cannot succeed. In like manner, when the enemy of our human nature tempts a just soul with his wiles and deceits, he wishes and desires that they be received and kept in secret. When they are revealed to a confessor or some other spiritual person who understands his deceits and evil designs, the enemy is greatly displeased for he knows that he cannot succeed in his evil design once his obvious deceits have been discovered.” (Rules for Discernment of Spirits, First Week, # 13)
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization for the parishes of the Catholic Community of Wexford, PA.