Week 37 Prayer Exercises
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1 Visualizing the week ahead, I will decide where to spend my 15-minutes in each formal prayer period. As before, I will select a place apart, a technology-free zone.
2 I will continue this thirty-seventh week by praying meditations one through five in the Sacred Story prayer. I will enter my prayer at least once daily as St. Ignatius suggested. I will make a firm commitment to the simple, daily journal exercises because they are an invaluable part of awakening to my Sacred Story.
3 I will ask God’s grace to help me master spiritual discernment. This week, I am invited to understand the third of the three strategies the enemy of human nature employs to stall my spiritual growth.
I will awaken to the present moment.
I will awaken to my spiritual nature.
I will not make any decisions based on fear.
I will practice Sacramental Reconciliation monthly.
I will ask Jesus for help when I am troubled.
I will thank Jesus daily for life’s gifts.
I will say this affirmation aloud once daily:
Awakening to Sacred Story Discernment Guidelines
Guidelines for Fundamental Healing and Spiritual Growth
Take some time on the weekend or during the week to read and reflect on this tenth lesson in spiritual discernment. Last week we examined two of the three attack strategies used by the enemy of human nature to obstruct spiritual progress. All three strategies use elements of our life story as weapons against us: our unconscious fears, our psychological/spiritual vulnerabilities, and our long-standing habits. These habits do not create long-lasting happiness, but they are familiar. The boredom and/or pain of the familiar is often preferred to the fear of the unknown.
This week we examine the third attack strategy used by the enemy of human nature to obstruct our spiritual progress. Just as in the first two lines of attack, fear is the weapon used here by the enemy of human nature.
3) When you commit to uprooting sin, addictions, and vices from your body and soul, you will be assaulted by attacks directed at the spiritual and psychological wounds that make you most vulnerable.
The enemy of human nature can viciously attack where your wounds have left you most vulnerable. Those wounds might be spiritual, emotional, psychological, or moral. Core spiritual and psychological injuries to your heart and mind affect your capacity for self-transcendence. They make it difficult to love selflessly and achieve higher consciousness. A wall, built with emotional and intellectual counter-inspirations, is erected around the injuries, darkening your conscience. It is characteristic of the enemy of human nature to reinforce these emotional and intellectual defenses.
The enemy’s purpose is to keep your emotional and intellectual defenses firmly in place; to keep your conscience dark and your true human nature hidden. The enemy’s assault is felt as a bolstering and intensification of powerful emotional and intellectual defenses, leading you deeper into self-centered, self-absorbed, self-defended, self-justifying and narcissistic thoughts, words and deeds.
You become more proud. You are adamantly convinced and hardened in your judgments about the meaning of life, truth and beauty. These hardened convictions often contradict the Scriptures, received Tradition, the teaching Church and the mystical Christian traditions of West and East.
The defense measures of hardened convictions share the various qualities of desolation’s counter inspiration.1 The strategic attacks by the enemy of human nature keep you attached to self-oriented, defensive thoughts, words, deeds and habits, re-enforcing rigid reasoning systems and disordered attachments.
The enemy of human nature’s chief goal is to permanently camouflage your heart’s spiritual, emotional and psychological wounds. He does this to hide them from an awakened conscience, so you never notice where or why you need healing. Jesus made reference to these forms of defensive structures. They keep people from believing in Him, even if He should rise from the dead (Lk 16:31), and they grieved Jesus because they harden hearts (Mk 3: 5).
In our daily press, we can observe evidence of this tactic of the enemy of human nature. In one report, a teenager won a court case, forcing a public high school to remove a banner in the school’s gym that referred to “Our Heavenly Father.” The student, a baptized Roman Catholic, stopped believing in God at ten years of age when their mother fell ill. “I had always been told that if you pray, God will always be there when you need Him,” the student said. “And it didn’t happen for me, and I doubted it had happened for anybody else. So yeah, I think that was just like the last step, and after that I just really didn’t believe any of it.”
Much of the media framed the story as a legal and constitutional fight to prevent state-sponsored religion. But another plotline can be detected in this story. The student is opposing religious expression because of deep childhood wounds. The student’s mother fell ill and “God did not listen” to a prayer for healing. At the bottom of this story is a deeply wounded heart. On the surface we see a determined and fearless youth standing up against the wrath of classmates and townspeople to defend constitutional rights.
The student is a self-described atheist and revered as a hero by many (including much of the media). This student could be at the beginning of a life-long crusade. And the enemy of human nature would urge this person on in that fight. The enemy will do anything to keep this person distracted from the interior wound so it cannot be healed. This fight will appear noble to the individual and to others. However, through the lens of discernment, the person is blind to the emotional and intellectual defense systems that have been constructed. Those defenses of pride, intellectual justification, and defiance conceal the fear and pain of a ten-year old child’s broken heart.
Many people, fighting apparently noble causes, are terrified, wounded children running away from their pain. Further, the defense structures erected to protect the wound are hard to penetrate. Pride, rigid determination, anger, and attitudes of “crusader justice” conceal the fearful and wounded heart within. One thinks of St. Paul’s attacks on the Church before his conversion. At the opening of the Acts of the Apostles, Saul witnessed the murder of Stephen. Later he started a crusade to crush all followers of the Way:
The enemy of human nature manipulated Saul’s anger to legitimize murder. His homicidal rage was cloaked in religious justifications to stomp out all who followed the Lord Jesus. Fear was likely at the root of Saul’s rage. It is possible that fear was also a driving force in St. Ignatius’ life. Against the advice of the other knights, Ignatius forced the hand of his commander to engage a futile battle that nearly ended his life.2
Much of the violence perpetrated between persons, groups, and countries in our own day is generated by wounded hearts seeking revenge for their suffering. Violence, be it economic, academic, physical, psychological, or verbal, can be self-justified and is often hidden behind nationalism, false religion, laws, cultural norms and/or mob mentality.
Observe how the enemy of human nature instigates intellectual arguments, fosters a sense of injustice, and promotes defiance against legitimate authority. Ask the Lord, “What motivates my crusade (or crusades)? Where do I hurt? Help me to heal, and forgive me in the same way that I seek to forgive others. Help me spend the energy of my life to produce fruit that endures to eternity.”
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,
as on the day of Massah in the desert.
There your ancestors tested me;
they tried me though they had seen my works.
Forty years I loathed that generation;
I said: “This people’s heart goes astray;
they do not know my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my anger:
“They shall never enter my rest.”
(Ps 95: 7-11)
1 Review the Definition of Counter Inspirations.
2 See Week 37 Encouragement and Wisdom.