St Paul writes: I beg you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to help me with your prayers to God.

Who that reads of Paul asking the brethren in Rome to pray for him will be too proud to ask for the Church’s prayers, even if those whose prayers they request seem to be lower in merit than themselves?

Here is Paul, endowed with the merits of an Apostle, urging not only the Romans but even the Corinthians to pray for him!

Observe, moreover, the strong religious obligation by which he binds them to do so:

I beg you, he says, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to help me with your prayers to God.

The Latin words for to help me with your prayers translate a much stronger Greek term which means to strive together with me by your prayers.

He thus reveals that his own prayer is a conflict, a struggle, probably against those of whom he said:

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, of this world of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

For it is certain that just as all these powers are hostile to faith and opposed to religion and make war on justice and truth and everything that is good, so too they obstruct and oppose prayer.

If Paul thinks it necessary to ask the Romans to help him in this struggle, then clearly the struggle involved in prayer is no minor one.

The first way in which the demons and hostile powers obstruct prayer is by trying­ to ensure that those who exert themselves in this struggle will be unable to lift up hands that are clean and free from anger.

Furthermore, even if those praying manage to be free from anger, they will hardly avoid distractions, that is superfluous and empty thoughts.

You will scarcely find anyone who is not subject in prayer to some empty and irrelevant thoughts that turn aside and interrupt the attention of the mind to God and carry it away by inappropriate reflections.

Prayer, then, is a mighty struggle.

A mind always fixed on God contends with unwavering attention against the enemies opposing it, who try to steal away the spirit of prayer by wandering thoughts.

It can then say in all honesty: I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race.

Origen Adamantius (c.185-254): Commentary on Romans 10 (PG 14:1276-7); Fathers of the Church series 104 (2002) tr. Thomas P. Scheck, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I.