prayer and the victory over death

“There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.”
St. Philip Neri


(it is so hot and dry here, even the toadstools in the woods are swiveling and decaying/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Yesterday I spoke of the running thread of a single word and thought that just
seemed to keep popping up at each turn and corner.

That word and act would be that of prayer.

And so again the following morning, my incoming quote of the day focused
on that very same notion.

Prayer.

As St. Philip Neri teaches, Satan fears our very prayers.
They become a hindrance to both him and his plans so therefore he painstakingly attempts
to hinder us as we long to reach out to our Father.

We become busy.
We become distracted.
We become distant.
Or we simply grow hardened.

So often we feel defeated when our prayers seem to go ignored or unanswered—
And yet even worse, we can grow despondent when they appear to be answered in a
way so utterly contrary as to how we would have hoped.
When our oh so deeply prayerful “please yes” is answered with a gut-wrenching “no, not today.”

No to healing.
No to life.
No to avoiding the bad and painful.

And yet our hearts remain steadfast because despite the answers,
despite the bitter disappointments, we still know that our prayers are our
only means of conversing with our God.

St Athanasius’ quote below adds to this thought by examining the
fear man has with death and decay.
Because if the truth be told, are not so many of our prayers aimed at avoiding
that very thing?
As we fervently pray to avoid death, pain and suffering at any and all cost?

Man sees death as the inexplicable chasm of separation.
That of isolation, loneliness and unending sorrow.

The non-believer scoffs and belittles the simplistic pleas and petitions
of the believer as he cries out to that unknown and unseen God.

The un-believer mocks and sneers at the childlike actions of the believer.

And yet I have often wondered…in that single solitary moment of overwhelming grief,
unbearable sorrow, engulfing fear and isolation of abandonment…
who does that non-believer cry to?

Who does he turn to in that micro-moment of the blinking of an eye that exists between
living and dying?

Whose hand does he reach for?
Whose arms does he yearn for to envelope him?
To whom does he cry out?

Or is his mind merely an empty void, his ego too full, his heart so hard that he has
already withered with decay?

Yet despite the ridicule and vitriol, the prayer of the humbled believer will
always be for that hardened non-believer…
it will be a prayer for blessed deliverance…
a prayer that he would find solace, comfort as well as Grace.

Even to the end, the believer prayers…even for the sake and soul of the non-believer.

“Now, man is afraid of death by nature, afraid of the decay of the body.
But here is a startling fact: whoever has put on the faith of the Cross
despises even what is naturally dreadful, and for Christ’s sake is not afraid of death.
So if anyone is skeptical even now, after so many proofs,
and after so many have become martyrs to Christ,
and after those who are champions in Christ have shown scorn for death every day—
if his mind is still doubtful about whether death has been brought to nothing and come to an end—well,
he’s right to wonder at such a great thing. But he should not be stubborn in his skepticism,
or cynical in the face of what is so obvious.
Let him who is skeptical about the victory over death receive the faith of Christ,
and come over to his teaching.
Then he will see how weak death is, and the triumph over it.
Many who used to be skeptics and scoffers have later believed,
and despised death even enough to become martyrs for Christ himself.”

St. Athanasius, p.15
An Excerpt From
A Year with the Church Fathers

never abandoned

“The very places that we presume God not to be are the very places
that are filled with His footprints and littered with His fingerprints.”

Craig D. Lounsbrough


(a small tree frog sunning / Julie Cook / 2017)

At an abandoned house, void of all things that once were…
where brittle dried leaves now line all walkways and stairs…
while broken branches litter a yard once enjoyed by some forgotten family…
Neglect and indifference meld sadly into a quickening eyesore.

Yet even in the silence of abandonment a small reminder suns himself…
As I am graciously reminded that God will always remain…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:6 /8

Where it begins

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague.
Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

Edgar Allan Poe

RSCN2878
(chives / Julie Cook / 2016)

Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end.
Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation and doubt about everything that exists!
Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality;
it must be born of nothingness,
it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way
that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.

H. J. Iwand

It has its beginning in the depths of despair…
for it is not to be found in the rapture of joy.

Stripped of pretense and facade,
Its secret roots penetrate far and wide…

It resides deep within, hidden from plain sight…
Scattered across the dusty barren recesses of the heart.

It takes hold in the blackness of night,
During the empty isolation of the tortured soul.

It is during that bleakest and empty affair of abandonment…
the very moment the smug conclude that both it and we are finished…
As finally all our talk and foolishness will thankfully come to an end…

It is exactly within this bitter tasted instance of nothingness…
that our Grace explodes into existence…