It’s insidious. You don’t even know it’s happening. The initial reasons all seem worthy and innocuous, and you imagine, “There’s always tomorrow. Just this once.” So you chip away at it, you excuse yourself, you rationalize, and then, finally, you stop. Game over.
“Today, I have a very busy day ahead of me, I need to get a head start on things. So I’ll cut the time down just a bit.” The next day as you settle into your focus, your busied mind is taken away by some pressing worries, and you succumb by heading over to your laptop to send out just a few emails. You were just certain that would do the trick and let you focus, even though it didn’t. The following day, before you even begin, you decide you will just quick-check the news first, get that out of the way, and then go right to it. But “it” never happens . . .
And so it goes. You’ve stopped praying.
The Catechism says, “Prayer 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.” Satan fears prayer, because he fears the Redeemer who enters the world through prayer. Fr. Tom Hopko says, “All things in life can be done, with grace, with relative ease. But to remain steadfast in prayer? Blood to the end! Make no mistake, prayer is hard work. And when we do pray, every demon in hell comes to try to mess it up and destroy it.”
Your commitment of time to prayer every day is the most important feature of your spiritual life. There is no close “second most important.” It can admit of no compromise. When you stop praying, you begin to lose your inner compass, your grounding center, your source of peace and discernment, and you cut yourself off from the Wellspring of strength you need to virtuously resist the incessant onslaught of temptations life throws your way. Alone, you’re powerless against your enemies.
Without daily prayer, your faith atrophies, the horizons of your vision become dark and unclear, doubts begin to populate your mind, and as you try to battle them alone, you lose. It’s futile. The fire within has cooled.
Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart.
— Joel 2:12