“Pray at all times in the spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Eph 6:18
“Rejoice always, pray constantly.” 1Thes 5:17
“There is but one good, and that is God. Everything else is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him. And the higher and mightier it is in the natural order, the more demoniac it will be if it rebels. It’s not out of bad mice or bad fleas that you make demons, but out of bad archangels.” (Emphasis added) C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
“From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the Temple of God.” Pope St. Paul VI
The gospels are filled with examples of Jesus praying. He prayed before each encounter with the multitudes, he prayed before performing his signs or miracles, he prayed at the Last Supper, and he prayed in the garden before being turned over to the officials to be tortured and crucified. His Apostles asked him to teach them how to pray and he gave us the Lord’s Prayer in response. Jesus told them (us) to pray for our enemies and for those who have injured us. The Apostles prayed before choosing Mathias to replace Judas and they prayed over the sick and those they were preparing to baptize. Stephen prayed as he was being stoned. Paul told us to pray always. The Psalms are a collection of prayers of joy, supplication, and thanksgiving. More than 10% of the articles in the Catechism deal with prayer.
With all of the examples and admonition to pray throughout the Old and New Testaments and in the Catechism, it is incredible that a “descendant” of the apostles, responsible for teaching his archdiocese, would squelch prayer, especially those instituted by a pope whose teachings form the foundation for the Church’s social doctrine. And yet, this is what has happened in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich (or someone on his staff) has forbidden the recital by the faithful of the Leonine prayers after mass led by the priest. These prayers include Pope Leo XIII’s prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, one of the powerful prayers of the church to combat evil.
Besides being a tool to ward off evil, prayers are essential acts of love for our family, friends, neighbors, and those who have offended us. They are one of our prime means of communicating with God. Prominent exorcists have urged all churches to pray to St. Michael. We need to ask Jesus for his mercy, and we need to pray to strengthen our mother, the Church. This is the purpose of the Leonine prayers. They included 3 Hail Mary’s, a Hail Holy Queen, the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, the Prayer to God for “Freedom and Exultation” of the Church and a trifold plea for the mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
These prayers fell into disuse after the Second Vatican Council but have been resurrected in recent times, especially the Prayer to St. Michael. And consider the difficulties that have prevailed in the Church and the world without them. I am not saying that this is the reason for the decline in faith and the problems of the Church in the past 50 years, but I believe it is certainly a contributing factor. Pope St. Paul VI observed, “The evil which exists in the world is the result and the effect of an attack on society by a dark and hostile agent, the devil. Evil is not only a privation but a living, spiritual corrupt and corrupting being. A terrible reality, mysterious and frightening. The testimony of both Bible and Church tells us that people refuse to acknowledge his existence, … or is explained away as a pseudo-reality, …” Failure to acknowledge evil is an opening for evil to push its way into the world even more boldly than before and evil has made and continues to make advances in the world.
“It is through prayer that the Church engages in the battle for peace. Prayer opens the heart not only to a deep relationship with God but also to an encounter with others marked by respect, understanding, esteem and love. Prayer instils courage and lends support to all “true friends of peace”, those who love peace and strive to promote it in the various circumstances in which they live. Liturgical prayer is “the summit towards which the action of the Church tends and, at the same time, the source from which she draws her strength”. In particular, the Eucharistic celebration, “the source and summit of the Christian life”, is a limitless wellspring for all authentic Christian commitment to peace.” Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine, 519
“[P]rayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. the “spiritual battle” of the Christian’s new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.” CCC 2725
Often we hear people say that their prayers are not answered. There can be many reasons for this, including the fact that God, who knows what we need before we ask, might determine what we’re asking for is not in our best interests. (Mt 6:8) So, we need to look at what we are asking for in a prayer of petition. Is it something that is good for us and will help us to follow God and bring him glory? Or is it merely something that we may covet and will make us feel better or bring us some earthly comfort. Paul was beset with a thorn in his side to keep him from becoming conceited (i.e., thinking that what he was accomplishing was his own doing rather than that of the Holy Spirit). He begged Jesus to take this annoyance from him, but Jesus basically said, “No!” Paul was told that the grace of the Lord was sufficient and that he should persevere. (2 Cor 10:7-12) So, if even Paul can be denied his request, there is no reason that our requests should be granted, unless made in the proper context.
The Letter of James expands on this concept. “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (Jas 4:3) However, we know that when we do ask properly our prayers are usually answered (albeit in God’s time, not necessarily ours). In my own life I have experienced the positive results of prayer on several occasions, including asking for the conversion of others and in asking that a particular evil temptation be taken away from me.
Consequently, imagine the power of an entire congregation at the end of mass, gathered in Jesus’s name, praying to dispel evil. Why would any Christian, and in particular a member of the episcopate (or his staff) endeavor to stop such practice?
Since this note is about prayer, then part of the answer has to be that we must continue to pray for such wayward leaders of the faith. “A bishop, since he is sent by the Father to govern his family, must keep before his eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, … Since, like Paul the Apostle, he is debtor to all men, let him be ready to preach the Gospel to all, and to urge his faithful to apostolic and missionary activity.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 27)
As members of the laity, tasked with fulfilling our part in the formation of the ecclesial communities, it is our duty to do as Bishop Sheen noted, “You the people, … Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops and your religious act like religious.” And so, besides prayer, we need to speak up when our leaders shy away from performing their duty.
“Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, …” CCC 2745
For more information on the St. Michael prayer see “The St. Michael Prayer is needed to combat demonic attacks on the Church” (https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/the-prayer-to-st-michael-a-prayer-whose-time-has-come/)