In addition to my chats with Father John, Father Patrick Reardon's book Christ in the Psalms has also been beneficial for cementing this idea of spiritual warfare into my mind. Father Patrick's comments on Psalm 3 have been especially helpful to me, and I hope they will be to you as well. Let's start with the words of the Psalm and then some of his comments:
A psalm by David, when he fled from the face of his son, Absalom.
O Lord, why do those who afflict me multiply?
Many are those who rise up against me.
Many are those who say to my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in his God.” (Pause)
But You, O Lord, are my protector,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. (Pause)
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord will help me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord, and save me, O my God,
For You struck all those who were foolishly at enmity with me;
You broke the teeth of sinners.Salvation is of the Lord,
And Your blessing is upon Your people.
"Conflict we have here, and the distress that conflict brings, for fighting battles is one of the major motifs of the Book of Psalms. This is not a prayer book for the noncombatant, and unless a person is actually engaged in hostilities it is difficult to see how he can pray Psalm 3: "Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God; for You have smitten all my enemies on the jaw; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly."
"This warfare has to do with the themes already inaugurated in the two preceding psalms--God's Wisdom against wickedness in Psalm 1, and the Messiah against ungodly mutiny in Psalm 2. The first tells us that the Psalter's battle is moral; the second tells us that it is theological. Thus, the many conflicts described in the psalms are engagements of the spirit, struggles of the heart, wrestlings of the mind.
"To pray the psalms correctly, then, it is very important that we properly identify the enemies. Some modern Christians, not understanding this, have even gone so far afield as to exclude certain of the psalms from their prayer, attempting to justify the exclusion by an appeal to Christian charity and the spirit of forgiveness.
I've never been that combative in sports and such, but for as long as I can remember I've wanted to be a prayer warrior. With this growing understanding I am now resolved to train as a soldier in the Lord's army more than ever. My primary weapon? The Word of God, sharper than any two edged sword, especially the Psalms.
I'll end this with a reflection from St. Nikolai from the May 31 Prologue that follows the same line of thought:
This life is a spiritual struggle. To conquer or to be conquered! If we conquer, we will enjoy the fruits of victory through all eternity. If we are defeated, we will endure the horrors of destruction through all eternity. This life is a duel between man and all that opposes God. God is an Almighty ally to all who sincerely call upon Him for help. "This life is not a joke or a play thing," says Father John of Kronstadt, "but men turn it into a joke and plaything. The capricious play around with time given to us for preparing for eternity; they play around with empty words. They gather together as guests, they sit and chatter and after that they sit and play this or that game. They gather in theatres and there they entertain themselves. All life for them is an amusement for them. But woe unto them who do nothing but entertain themselves."
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