Persistence in Prayer

We all wrestle with demons of one kind or another. They may not be as threatening or as outspoken as the demon that possessed the man in the synagogue. But those negative inner voices can stifle our ability to participate fully in Sunday’s service and hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit throughout the week.
“Jesus rebuked him, saying: Hold thy peace, and go out of him. And when the devil had thrown him into the midst, he went out of him, and hurt him not at all.” (Luke 4: 31-37)

The Devil goes to Church.
We see an example of that in today’s Gospel when a demon-possessed man challenges Jesus inside a synagogue. The man jumps to His feet and shouts, interrupting a sermon by Jesus.

Satan attending a house of worship makes sense when you think about it. That’s where we might least expect to find him, a place where we might let down our guard. Yet, the Devil does attend Mass religiously, every Sunday, without fail. He kneels down beside us hoping to preoccupy us with negative thoughts about anything but the sermon. If we listen attentively to the priest, he hopes it is with a critical spirit. If we pray fervently, he tries to distract us with worries about our problems.

Satan is a better theologian than any of us, and can quote from scripture, chapter and verse. He enrolls in religious education classes with one purpose in mind. He’s looking for ways to stir up debate about the interpretation of the Bible and the precise wording of prayers and hymns. He’s looking for ways to create division, negativity and heresy.

During the week, he participates in every church committee meeting, every ministry, every outreach program, trying to sow seeds of discord. He loves it when programs are scrapped for budget reasons.

The demon-possessed man in today’s Gospel tried to stifle Jesus only to be rebuked and silenced by the Lord. We’re told the demon came out of him, having done him no harm.

We all wrestle with demons of one kind or another. They may not be as threatening or as outspoken as the demon that possessed the man in the synagogue. But those negative inner voices can stifle our ability to participate fully in Sunday’s service and hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit throughout the week.

We might be grappling with worries about the job, about our finances, our health or the health of a loved one. We might be having marriage difficulties, problems with in-laws. Our children may be struggling with alcohol or drugs. Whatever the case might be, we can’t allow those negative thoughts to disrupt our prayer life. We have to bring them to the altar and leave them there, confident that Jesus will do for us what He did for the man in the synagogue. Using His power and authority, Christ will silence these negative thoughts and drive them away.
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