icon_bede-(On Matthew 15:21-28 – the story of the Canaanite woman).

There are some who, upon entering a church, stretch out their psalm-singing or their prayer with many words, but because their heart is directed elsewhere, they do not even reflect upon what they are saying.

They pray, to be sure, with their mouths, but they deprive their mind, which is wandering outside, of all the fruit of their prayer.

The ancient enemy…is aware of the benefit of praying, and he envies human beings the gift of having their requests granted, so he sends upon those who are praying many kinds of frivolous thoughts, and sometimes too phantasms of things that shameful and harmful.

By these he can interfere with prayer in such a way that occasionally, when we are prostrated in prayer, we may endure great surges of thoughts which run every which way.

[…] We must take care to triumph over the acknowledged malice of the devil, clearing our mind, as far as we can, of every sort of cloud which the enemy rejoices in sprinkling about, and begging for the continuing protection of the benevolent Defender, who is able to grant to those entreating him, no matter how unworthy they are, both the grace of praying in a pure way, and that of having their requests granted completely.

It will help the purity of our prayer a great deal if in every place and time we restrain ourselves from forbidden acts, if we always check our hearing along with our speaking with regard to idle conversation, if we habituate ourselves to walking in the law of the Lord and scrutinizing his testimonies with all our heart (Psalm 118:1-2).

Whatever things we are accustomed to do, speak, or hear most often, these same things will necessarily return to our mind most often as though to their accustomed and proper place.

And just as pigs are accustomed to frequent marshy wallowing places, and doves to frequent clear flowing streams, so too impure thoughts disturb an unclean mind, and spiritual thoughts sanctify a chaste one.

If, after the example of the Caananite woman, we continue resolutely in our praying, and remain of fixed purpose, certainly the grace of our Maker will be with us to correct everything in us which is wrong, to sanctify everything unclean, and to make serene everything which is turbulent.

He is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from every iniquity, if with the attentive voice of our mind we cry out to him who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for all ages and ages.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Homilies on the Gospels, 1:22 (Lent), “Homilies on the Gospels, Book One, Advent to Lent”, trans. Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst OSB (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1991) @ Lectionary Central.