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476 • Part IV. Prayer: The Faith Prayed


Prayer requires time, attention, and effort. We need to discipline ourselves

for what spiritual writers call “spiritual combat.” They cite problems such



(a form of sloth or laziness) that arises from a lax ascetical behav-

ior, a laxity that needs to be corrected. The Tempter will try to pull us away

from prayer. Distraction and dryness will discourage us.

The remedy is faith, fidelity to times for prayer, constant conver-

sion of heart, and watchfulness. The


’s section “The Battle of

Prayer” (CCC, nos. 2725-2745) answers many questions that beginners

are likely to ask. Its advice is practical and experiential. For example,

the section addresses the issue of distraction, a major obstacle for most

beginners. Distractions interfere with all forms of prayer. The temptation

to fight them entraps one; all that is needed is to turn back to the pres-

ence of the Lord in our hearts. A distraction reveals our attachments, but

a humble awareness of this can move us to offer Christ our hearts for the

needed purification.


It is often said that we should pray as if everything depended on God and

act as if everything depended on us. The “can-do”mindset of our culture

inclines many believers to substitute self-reliance for prayer. People are

not conscious of their need for God.

Despite the general cultural preference for an independent spirit

that idealizes the achievements of the self in getting things done, stud-

ies about religion indicate a significant counter movement. Virtually all

Americans claim they believe in God. A high number of people report

they pray each day.

Within our Church, spirituality movements, including traditional

schools of spirituality such as Benedictine, Carmelite, Franciscan, and

Ignatian, stress the importance of liturgical and meditative prayer. In

addition, new immigrants enrich the life of the Church through their

traditions of popular piety. For example, devotion to Our Lady of

Guadalupe, begun in Mexico, has spread to the point where her feast is

now celebrated throughout the American continent.