Most of us think we know how to pray, others may ponder the question, “How do I pray?” This article can be used by both groups of people as an examination of conscience before prayer.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man. Mark 7:21-23
The Seven Deadly Sins
We all have heard of or even experienced the infamous seven deadly sins which were first compiled by Pope Gregory I around the year 600. They are pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth. Gregory also compiled a list of the seven virtues: faith, hope, charity, justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude.” What are the seven deadly sins?
We probably use the Ten Commandments to evaluate our lives before we come before God in prayer but do we stop and think about what deadly sins we may have committed? Can we then, be guilty of the deadly sins while we pray?
Are we prideful in prayer as demonstrated in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? (Luke 18:9-14). Or even worse, do we not even pray at all when good things come our way because of pride? Do we request things in prayer out of greed? Do we only ask for things for ourselves, even though we could pray for others, like those who are sick and dying? I have encountered people who pray for those who are dying but only because they want the dying to be immediately healed. Those individuals get upset and angry with God when their prayers aren’t answered. We sometimes don’t think that those who are dying might simply want a happy death. Perhaps praying to St. Joseph, who is the patron saint for ‘Grace of a Happy Death’, might be the best prayer we can make for those who are dying.
Some of us deal with anger when we pray. This can be healthy but only to a certain extent. We can see how King David wrote all his emotions down in his Psalms. God loves us even when we are angry at Him. Some of us may have experienced times when we were upset with our parents because they punished us or our children have been upset with us for the same reason. Regardless of how mad we may be with our parents or our children with us; parents still love their children and we know that God loves us unconditionally.
Dealing with the type of anger in the seven deadly sins, is more severe, though, because it is wrath. This isn’t just anger but hate. When we try to deal with wrath we have to be patient and pray for God’s help. As Jesus stated in the Gospel of Matthew, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5: 43-44).
There are times in life where we may also fall into the subtle trap of envy while we prayer. There are those people who judge others at church. People might judge other parishioners on their appearance when they dress up nicely or sit up in the front of the church, thinking, “look at them, they think they are so holy and pious.” In the back their minds, they may think, “I wish I could be like them”. But they are content to show up late and seat in the back of the church. Think of Jesus’ parable references above with the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Imagine if the Tax Collector had that perspective towards the Pharisee instead of humbling himself before God, how do you think the parable would have been told?
Now, of course, being late isn’t a form of laziness but when there is a habit of it all the time we can fall into slothfulness. Sloth can also be subtle. Sometimes we do need moments to ourselves but also we need to push ourselves and fulfill our obligations in a spirit of obedience.
Lust and Gluttony
The last two deadly sins are lust and gluttony. When it comes to lust, many have desires they struggle with and they need help and prayers to overcome this sin. Those who are slaves to prostitution or even pornography need our help in prayer and need to know they can trust us. We can assist in this battle through our own chastity and must put those who are affected by lust in our prayers.
The problem with praying while indulging in the sin of gluttony can be seen in one of many verses found in the Bible- “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21). By overeating and drinking, we harm our bodies. We are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God created all things and those things which are good, especially when we are thankful (1 Timothy 4:4). When we eat in moderation, we are called to give thanks for what we receive and pray those who are less fortunate.
Life is a struggle with temptations. Just know that we must try to help others and ourselves and that all sins are forgivable. (Matthew 12:31-32). We must also know that forgiveness is a gift gained through repentance, humility, and prayer, not through pride.