The War in Heaven is already won. And yet the battles continue as though we were lone Japanese troops on some Phillipine island, unaware that the war has ended. And the season of advent, the season of waiting is a good time to recall the the war in Heaven is won.
But battles linger on day to day. And the most insidious thing about these battles is that they are waged on the very smallest of decisions. For those of us who count ourselves friends of God, we will rarely be persuaded by some spectacular sin or crime against humanity. While most of us would balk and blanch at the thought of murdering someone, few of us would hesitate to condemn that person to Hell thoughtlessly. They're only words, they have no effect.
But we are taught time and again that it is not what goes into a person that makes them unclean, but what comes out of the fullness of the heart. When we are not being particularly spiritual what do we say and do? What do we say and do when someone takes the last parking space for miles--a space we had been waiting for for ten minutes while an elderly lady and her three sisters bustled around trying to put packages much too big into the trunk in a drizzling rain.
It is on these small actions--the actions of a moment, the actions that reveal the heart that the major battles are fought and lost. It is what my heart is stuffed full with that flows out in the heat of the moment. Yes, God will forgive it, but I've lost that pitched battle. And sometimes, as in the case above (had it occurred) I can lose it without a word being said.
Spiritual combat is sometihng few of us are really prepared for. I may think I'm ready. But what I'm ready for is to resist the temptations I can readily identify--not those that creep up on me in a blind moment. I'm ready to fight what I know to be the enemy not the disguised one, the event that takes me by surprise.
So, how do I fight these battles, the ones I am unprepared for? That is one of the many, many reasons for prayer. Prayer teaches calmness, serenity, and acceptance. Spending time in prayer tames one's own selfishness and need, it puts one in touch with God in a way that transcends the moment. It breaks down the fortress of evil and builds instead the bulwark of love--a shield against which no evil can succeed. Where love grows, evil cannot rest. Evil is nothing less than the constant attack on love. It started with one prideful boast and rebellion and quickly turned into a loathing for anything that looked like Love.
Prayer causes love to grow. Perfect love drives out fear and fear, with its close relative anger, are the sources of much of sin. Yes, there are other causes, but much of what we do that is wrong stems from either fear or anger. Love breaks the back of fear. It puts us in a place where we can truly fight in the spiritual combat that surrounds us--where we can be warriors in the constant spiritual melee, and with Christ as our companion and shield, we can help others.