Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Defending the Power of Prayer in the Face of Evil

Defending the Power
of Prayer in the
Face of Evil

          “Work as though all depends on you; pray as though all depends on God.”  These words were spoken by St. Ignatius of Loyola, and they are quite a spiritual battle plan.  But what do we do if we have tried to follow it and our efforts seem to produce no fruit?  It can be easy to give in to despair.
          Case in point: the Presidential election.  I worked.  I attended rallies, wrote articles and letters, donated thousands of dollars, tried to get out the vote and combat fraud.  I prayed, I fasted.  I was one of thousands, probably millions, of Christians who did the same.  And yet, even though there was a clear distinction between good and evil, evil won.
          What does it mean?  It’s easy to throw up our hands, give up on our country, and even worse, to give up on prayer.  While we should love our country, I will not try to talk anyone out of giving up on it.  I’m not ready to stop fighting, but I do suspect that the “American experiment” may have ended in failure.
          What about prayer, though?  I continue to preach fighting the battle as prayer warriors, but I catch myself often, when it is being encouraged, even by myself, at some level, thinking, “What’s the point?”  The most evil Presidency in the history of our country has been extended despite our fervent prayers.  Why bother?  I know God answers prayer, but perhaps when it comes to politics or culture, we are spitting in the wind.
          This is an unconscious feeling I catch myself harboring on occasion, and I know that it is false.  How can I know that?  The facts are what they are.  We prayed for good and evil won.  Prayer did not overcome the free will of a pagan nation.  Not on November 6, at least, but that does not mean it was without value or power.
          We (at least I) can fall into the trap of thinking that our prayers should have magical powers.  If I pray for what is good, good should happen.  And my vision, by the way, can always recognize the greatest good.  I don’t attribute the power to myself, of course, but I’ve seen the power of prayer before, so how is it that my prayers don’t always produce my desired results?
          Going back to the election and world events, which is where this arrogance often comes into play for me, I think the answers, as usual, can be found in Scripture and the Catechism.  What do we know?  We know that there will be the rise of an antichrist at some point and that he will wield great power.  There will be a tribulation and believers will be persecuted.  These believers, we can assume, would be praying for good, and for the failure of the antichrist.  And yet, these things will happen.  That is for sure.
          However, we all know that that is not the end of the story.  Christ will return and vindicate His People, and He will have the final victory.  The antichrist and his followers will ultimately lose.  And I suspect that the prayers of the faithful will be channels of Grace throughout this entire final act of history.  Evil will hold sway for a while, but will eventually lose.  And even throughout the days of evil’s reign, goodness and Christ’s ultimate victory will work through the power of prayer.
          I do not know if we are in the last days.  I do know, however, that though our prayers will not magically keep evil from having its hour, they will be channels of Grace throughout that hour and perhaps bring about more speedily the Lord’s day.  As Archbishop Fulton Sheen says, commenting on the language in St. John’s Gospel, “Evil has its hour, but God has His day.”
          Abortion may be enshrined for another generation, with countless more children killed.  Gay “marriage” may become the law of the land, causing further destruction of the family.  Regardless, we will work as though all depends on us.
          In the end, however, all the efforts of the enemy are futile.  We will have the final victory.  That is guaranteed.  And through it all, we will pray as though all depends on God.  And we will know, as we encounter small victories and defeats along the way, that our prayers are powerful tools that God does not waste.