Creatures -- and the devil who uses them -- do not let themselves be ousted without a struggle. The life of prayer calls for continuous battles: it is the most important and the longest effort in a life dedicated to God. This effort has been given a beautiful name: it is called The Guard of the Heart. The human heart is a city: it was meant to be a stronghold. Sin surrendered it.
Henceforth it is an open city, the walls of which have to be built up again (cf. Psalm 50:20). The enemy never ceases to do all he can to prevent this. He does this with his accustomed cleverness and strength, with stratagem and fury. He puts before us such happy thoughts, and occasionally useful ones, pictures so attractive or frightening, and he clothes it all with reasons so impressive that he succeeds all along the line to distract us, and entice us away from the divine Presence.
We have always to be starting again. These continual recoveries, this endless beginning again, tires and disheartens us far more than the actual fighting. We would much prefer a real battle, fierce and decisive. But God, as a rule, thinks otherwise. He would rather we were in a constant state of war. He prefers these ambuscades and snares; these precautions and the need for constant vigilance. He is Love, and this continuous warfare calls for more love and develops that love still further. Besides, He is there: He conducts the fight Himself. He holds the enemy in check, watches his every movement and out-maneuvers him. He plays with him, allows him to advance in order the better to attack and overcome him. He prefers striking victories, in spite of temporary setbacks, and sometimes even real disasters.
We must detach ourselves from this world. The simple, mechanical repetition of words is not enough. Distractions voluntarily entertained paralyze it; occupations become preoccupations and are an obstacle. We do not give God His due. We give Him nothing unless we give Him all the attention of which we are capable. To what tasks, what cares, what useless preoccupations do we not attach undue importance, and what a place they take up in our prayers. We think we are seeking only the Kingdom of God and His glory, and all the while we are seeking ourselves. Such things are not inspired by the Holy Spirit but by nature. The devil is at hand to tell us how extremely profitable they are. Indeed, he encourages and helps us, and actually makes them with us, for they weaken the divine union and the heart's sweet contact.
For a heart that is calm and free: that keeps itself detached and turned towards God, all occupation is prayer. For the heart that gives itself up completely to its tasks and thus forgets God, even prayer is sterile and a waste of time.
~ Dom Augustine Guillerand ~