Religion & Spirituality:Spirituality
The Ladder of Divine Ascent - Chapter XIX: On Sleep, Prayer, and Psalmody with the Brotherhood
When we think of appetites or bodily desires, we rarely consider something such as sleep. Yet this evening St. John shows us that sleep is something that can disrupt that which is most important for the spiritual life; our prayer. Sleep is certainly an essential need that we have as human beings. However, there are many reasons that we can be drawn into it excessively. One of these is human nature of course. However, sleep can come upon us from an excess of food, from the temptation of demons, and also from extreme or prolonged fasting. Thus, sleeping is important for us to consider closely. Excessive sleeping can become a long-standing habit that is difficult to cure.
It may be difficult for us to think of demons having an impact upon us in this fashion. Yet, when the bell rings for prayer or when the alarm goes off in the morning we can hear a voice within our minds say “Wait, give yourself a little more rest.” In modern days the snooze alarm allows us to extend this indefinitely and we begin our days, perhaps lacking prayer altogether. We can also experience the sensation of severe and unusual pains in the stomach or fits of yawning or even waves of laughter over some amusing incident that comes to mind or takes place within the church.
The same sluggishness in getting out of bed can follow us into the practice of prayer itself. We can hurry through our prayers; saying them inattentively and allowing the mind to wander. We can enter into church without the proper demeanor or making signs of devotion. When these patterns of behavior take over then the demons will certainly make sport of us. To combat this St. John encourages common prayer where we unite ourselves with others in this most essential practice of calling out to God. In this, we can call to mind Jesus’ own words, “Where two or three are gathered, there I am in their midst.“
Often in our day with the breakdown of Christian culture and community, those living in the world, sadly, find themselves left to pray on their own. However, we are not left to ourselves. Through the Hours or the Divine Office we were able to pray with one mind and heart with the Church throughout the world. A deep mystical Communion exist when we engage in the prayer of the Church.
All this is meant to be a simple reminder to us about the subtle things that can distract us at the time of prayer. Therefore, St. John tells us that the practice of prayer itself purifies our hearts and increases our zeal and love for God. The more that we engage in the discipline of prayer, the greater our capacity to rout the demons!
Text of chat during the group:
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