St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter six, brilliantly describes the real spiritual battle that is the human experience on earth. Defending our selves and families against the wiles of the devil requires grace, not self-reliance; prayer, not fear; wisdom, not folly.
It is foolish and outside Church teaching to deny that the devil is not in the mix of the spiritual world. Yet, he isn’t to blame for every evil thought or deed since sin is at work in our fallen nature. Daily we decide, consciously or unconsciously, to cultivate virtuous habits that strengthen our spiritual armor or destructive vices that weaken or remove the armor. Absent God’s armor we become extremely vulnerable to diabolical vexation (cf. Book of Job).
We may get weary of the spiritual battle, and procrastinate about doing anything constructive to combat the interior or exterior onslaught of negativity, lies, doubts, fears, and darkness that weigh heavily on the soul. To a degree, we give up; lethargy sets in. We just want the spiritual tension and torment to end. The flesh cries out for pleasure; the world beckons us to comfort. The devil taunts us, “Your God wants you to suffer. He doesn’t care. You’re in a fantasy world. Get real.” How do we respond to spiritual combat at its various levels of temptation, oppression, or obsession?
Eight weeks ago I took a strange fall and broke my right upper arm bone. This new physical incapacity and chronic pain took a toll on my prayer life. Attending daily Mass was impossible because I couldn’t drive for weeks. I felt my spiritual armor weaken, even as I offered up the deprivation of the Eucharist and chronic physical pain. Undergoing an intense purification in the silence and solitude of suffering, I thought I’d be swallowed up by the darkness. I didn’t feel like praying at all but with great effort of my will I prayed to the best of my ability. Daily grace was sufficient to keep my eye on the light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Taking up the word of God, I prayed chapter six of Ephesians in the following way. It is always more fruitful to pray, to turn to God, than to complain about the fiery ordeal.
Ephesians Six Prayers
Ephesians 6:10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Lord, I’ve never felt weaker or more defeated in the battle against the evil spirits. In your mercy, hold me upright in the strength of your might. Protect me from this evil onslaught and increase my faith that I may not succumb to diabolical temptations. O Incarnate Mercy, embrace your suffering servant with tender strength.
Ephesians 6:11: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Lord Jesus, you are the whole armor of the Christian soldier—cover me please. Wherever there is a weak link in my spiritual armor, please heal and restore its integrity. The wiles of the devil are manifold leading me into darkness, discouragement, doubt, and division—even against my self, friends and family. I need your light to see, your encouragement to persevere, and affirmation that, with your grace, I can resist and the enemy will flee.
Ephesians 6:12: For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Eternal Father, what defense do I, a poor sinner, have against powers and principalities, and their wickedness? You have given me your Son Jesus Christ as spiritual armor. Father, graciously place me into the depths of the Sacred Heart, my refuge against this present darkness. If I have succumbed to evil, lead me to repentance, reparation and restoration. I am your unworthy child but the Blood of your Son Jesus is my garment because you willed it. Thank you for your loving, perpetual care.
Ephesians 6:13: Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Eternal Father, I reach for you like a child who seeks to be picked up into the arms of his or her loving daddy. Only in your arms am I safe from the evil one. Have I done all, to stand for Christ against the evil day? I’m sure that I have not. Therefore, have pity on me and supply what is lacking in your servant please.
Ephesians 6:14: Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
Jesus, Incarnate Truth, please build me up in the truth that I may stand against my soul’s enemy. You, the only Righteous One, be my breastplate, shield and protection in this present spiritual battle. With Incarnate Truth, I can stand, am safe, and able to proclaim the victory that you won on the cross. My only righteousness is your Precious Blood; and because of it, the devil is defeated. Consecrate me in this truth, I beg you.
Ephesians 6:15: and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;
Lord Jesus, the gospel of peace rests in my heart but my feet feel the hot coals of the fire set by the evil one. Teach me please, the way of surrender, strength and suffering wherein I do not lose my peace of soul. Did you lose your peace on the Via Dolorosa? No! You entered into the fiery ordeal with confidence in Your Father’s plan. Teach me this way of wise confidence, I beg you. I admit my faith, hope, love are too small. Increase it, I pray.
Ephesians 6:16: above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
Mother Mary, first disciple of the Lord Jesus, I implore your maternal help to strengthen my faith so it becomes an impenetrable shield. When the flaming darts of the evil one raged against you, they could not mortally wound you. You who where privileged to see God’s glory with greatest clarity also saw the unimaginable depths of evil at work all around you. You were not afraid, you believed, and proclaimed God’s victory in the greatest battle at the foot of the cross. You stood in valiantly in faith. Please strengthen the faith of your battle worn child now.
Ephesians 6:17: And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Lord Jesus, please renew my mind, that I may think the holy and good thoughts of a redeemed child. Please secure the helmet of salvation upon me so I am never without protection.
Holy Spirit, come and fill me now. Graciously release your gifts of faith, hope and love, discernment and praise. Help me to pick up the sword of the Spirit to cut down and clear away all that is not of you. Keep me rooted in your living Word that is sharper than a two-edged sword against my enemy.
Ephesians 6:18: Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
Most Holy Trinity, as a member of your Church militant, I have recourse to the Church triumphant. On earth I can look to, count on, and pray to saints as my heavenly family. In the midst of spiritual battles I have saint friends who passed the test, and their witness strengthens me to fight the good fight. Thank you, my Triune God, for your loving mercy, assurance, protection and blessing.
St. Michael the Archangel, most powerful against Satan and his cohorts, defend me in battle now, and until I am safely home with the Church triumphant. Archangel Michael and beloved guardian angel, please aid me in wearing the full armor of God.