THIS AIN’T NO CARTOONFr. Barnabas Powell
As of today, there are over 22 different countries that report at least one person reading “Orthodox On Purpose.” For that, I am grateful to God. Of course the US still has the most readers, but for those of you in China, Bulgaria, Greece, and other nations, welcome and I pray our thoughts help you embrace an Orthodox Christian lifestyle on a daily basis.
With that in mind, I may need to explain the American celebration called “Halloween.” This is a day celebrated in the US on October 31st, and is traditionally a day where children go door to door saying “trick or treat.” The homeowner is suppose to have candy for the children unless they want a prank played on them. Usually, it’s just a day for kids to dress up in a costume and beg for candy.
There is a wide range of attitudes about this “holiday” especially since it’s origins are anything but Christian, even though it falls of the Eve of a Western Christian fest called “All Saints.” Hence the term “All Hallows Eve” shortened to “Halloween.”
Regardless of your attitude toward the day – evil event that our children should be kept from or harmless childish time to get something sweet, or somewhere in between – the day hearkens back to a time when the majority of the world believed in an unseen world along with the world as we see it. It reminds us that there was a day when people took the world of angels and demons seriously, that is until the “educated” population thought they outgrew such “superstitions.”
What a brilliant trick of the evil one to so cartoonize the reality of the unseen as to make it ridiculous to believe. So now, we reduce all things to what we can see and ignore any suggestion that there are other influences in the world bent on either assisting us in our spiritual growth (our precious Guardian Angels) or bent on strengthening our selfish tendencies and keeping us from progressing in our spiritual lives. Recently one of the US Supreme Court justices, Judge Antonin Scalia, spoke about his belief in the devil and his work and specifically mentioned that classic writing of another believer, C.S. Lewis, and his book “The Screwtape Letters.” Here Lewis writes about the tricks and influences of the evil one in keeping a man from growing close to God. It is Lewis’ most popular book, but his least favorite since he said “I had to put my mind in hell” to write the book.
The reality of the spiritual warfare that goes on all around us helps us to make sense of just why St. Paul would write what he writes in today’s Epistle Lesson. He writes to the Church at Ephesus “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, and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (see Ephesians 6:18-24)
When he calls us to “pray at all times in the Spirit” he mans to take seriously the reality that the unseen world is just as real as the seen world. Praying in the Spirit also calls us to humbly pray with the Spirit of God. This means we have to know God intimately to pray with and in His Spirit. This requires me to spend the time with God to know Him well and to get on the same page as God when it comes to His best for my life. Praying with the Spirit requires my ability to agree with God’s Spirit about His direction for my life and my submission to His will for my life. It also implies I might be guilty at times of “praying without the Spirit.” Those are the times when prayer is reduced to mere mindless repetition with no love for God or others in my heart. I am simply going through the motions. But St. Paul warns us away from such prayer by calling us to “pray at all times in the Spirit.”
He even tells us how to pray in the Spirit when he says to “keep alert with all perseverance.” The key to praying in the Spirit is to stay awake to just what you are doing when you pray. You really are entering into intimate communion with the Uncreated God Who loves you so. You are joining all the prayers being prayed throughout the world, and even across time and on into eternity and joining your voice with all the other voices entering into communion with God. What a powerful moment prayer really is!
Today, we live in a world that continues down a path of secularization and dismisses the idea of an unseen world. Even those who might say prayer has some benefit reduce such benefits to nothing more than some meditation exercises. But we know that prayer in the Spirit is actual communion with God and communion with all those who love God. That means we never take for granted the gift of prayer nor do we ever give up on prayer but we persevere even when all our circumstances call us to “give up.”
Today, when you pray, pray for your spiritual leaders. Pray that they have boldness to proclaim the Truth and pray for all the saints, both here and those already around the Throne of God in heaven – “all” the saints. Pray in the Spirit and in so doing strengthen your own faith, and bring joy to your guardian angel in your devotion to God. Pray, today!