In the break between quarters this summer I am entertaining myself at least partly by taking an online medical biochemistry course from the University of New England. It is a bit rough but I am making good progress. I usually go to the library to work for a few hours a day, because it is:
- Free (I bike so no gas)
- Has interwebs
Last thursday I arrived as they opened, at 10:00 AM, found myself a table, fired up the laptop, and sat down to get to it.
Before I got to it, though, I decided I would check my facebook first (wanted to see how the last blog post was doing, you know how it is?) And of course, that is never a short proposition. I never just log in, check it, log out, I always get distracted by someone’s post about Pope Francis’s latest misunderstood statement and what he meant by it, and oh, by the way, here’s a video of a baby and a puppy and a young otter frolicking together on the back of an elephant that loves them all so very, very much, and you really need to read this article about why republicrats are evil, etc.
I scrolled for about 10 minutes or so, and then reminded myself that I was here to work, and I ought to get to it. It occurred to me I could say mid-morning prayer of the Divine Office and dive right into bio-chem.
I usually say Divine Office using the iBreviary app on my phone, or as a podcast using the Divine Office app if I am super busy or driving somewhere. Recently, however, I have taken to using the leather-bound four-volume set, at least for the Office of Readings and Office of Morning Prayer first thing in the morning. The iphone is convenient, but there is something about a leather-bound prayer book that is more conducive to meditation. I typically only say the major hours, Readings, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, but for whatever reason, that day I packed the book in my book bag, intending to say all the minor hours as well (Mid-morning, Mid-day, Mid-afternoon, and Night Prayer).
The minor hours are aptly named, for they are intended to be inserted into the busy workday at regular intervals (9:00, 12:00, and 3:00). Accordingly they take only about 5 minutes, 8 if you sing the hymn.
Well, I closed down facebook intending to get out my breviary when all of a sudden I realized that I was actually far too busy to say the minor hours today! Far, far too busy. I had so much studying on my plate, I could not afford to waste another minute, I had to get right to it. There was not a moment to lose.
Of course you know where that thought came from. This guy! ——>
I had to laugh, actually, because it was ludicrous. The immediacy and obviousness of it (which I have fallen for many, many times). Here I had just spent ten minutes doing basically nothing, and not a peep out of him, but let me even think about spending even half that time praying, and all of a sudden, he has a million things to say about how much work I have to do, and how I can’t afford to be procrastinating, and the duties of my state in life and yadda yadda yadda, yammering uselessly.
I prayed the minor hours anyway, thank God! Who knows what great goods might have come of that?
It is moments like these that convince me that the spiritual warfare is real, and also largely one-sided.
It is one-sided in the long term because Jesus rose from the dead, so all other arguments are invalid. But in the short time it very often seems to be one-sided the other way, i.e. the bad guys keep winning. I am convinced this is not because the bad guys are so powerful, but because the so-called good guys are asleep.
Or as T. S. Eliot would say, “Asleep, tired, or [we] malinger.”
I mean seriously, why is it that we can veg out on facebook for twenty minutes without noticing it, but if we want to say a decade of the rosary we suddenly have a million things to do? We can stay up until 10:30 because we just have to finish this episode of “Sherlock” but then suddenly we are just too tired and it is far too late to say bedtime prayers? And don’t even get me started about morning prayer!
The truth is that that the devil will try almost any nonsense to distract us from prayer, because prayer is almost the most powerful weapon we have against him. It pays for him to keep it safely locked in the weapons cabinet.
Seriously, we do not realize the power of prayer. In the words of Saint Paul “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” 2 Corinthians 10:4. These strongholds are the niches and dark corners of our spirits where Satan still has his influence. When we pray we open up those dark fortresses to the light, and it blasts the enemy out with C-4! What toys the Father gives us to play with! Like in my old engineer days when we would play around for an hour so, stacking innocent looking blocks of white play-dough, but then, at the pull of a wire loop, BOOM!!!! A building disappears in a cloud of smoke and fire! If we could really see what happens when we pray we would walk away from our prayer time like this:
Just keep that image in mind next time you pray, see if it doesn’t give you a little extra oompf!