The primary purpose of prayer is to link our will with God’s and thereby become his agent in the world.
But prayer also has some practical purposes. These useful aspects of prayer are not its primary purpose, but its side effects.
The practice of prayer purifies the body, mind and spirit, and this is not just a theory. It works.
One of the most pressing problems in our screen oriented culture is the infection of the imagination through junk we have seen on the screen.
If you watch a violent movie those scenes of bloodshed are etched in your imagination. If you watch pornography those scenes of degradation are imprinted in your memory. If you nurture hateful thoughts against another and visualize revenge those images are part of your mental make up. If you cultivate lustful fantasies in your mind, your imagination is infected with that smut and it lingers there. If you you remember with delight some sin of the past, then your imagination is infected with those images, thoughts and dreams.
If you are not careful you will become obsessed with those things and your tempter will pull you down into the morass.
In the confessional one of the things I hear most frequently is, “Father I have these evil thoughts in my mind and I can’t get rid of them.” or “How do I get rid of the lustful thoughts? They keep coming back all the time I keep remembering the stuff I have done and I like those memories.” or “I really want to forgive my son in law but I keep going over and over in my mind what he’s done and I plan revenge.”
And so forth.
These thoughts become blockages to spiritual growth. They hold you back from spiritual freedom in Christ.
There is a very practical way to get rid of these thoughts.
First, however, ask yourself why these thoughts keep coming up in your mind. If you are seeking God, then these thoughts are being brought to the surface by the work of the Holy Spirit. Why?
Because he wants you to get rid of them. It is like muck floating to the top of the pond….so it can be skimmed off.
If you simply push the thoughts and images away they will not go away. They will simply be repressed in your mind and become even more powerful.
Imagine your mind like a house. If you have garbage you should get rid of it. If, however, all you do is open the cellar door and throw it downstairs and slam the door, then the stink in the house is not going to get any better.
Satan does not want you to get rid of those thoughts and purify your mind. He wants you to keep them so he can tempt you and accuse you and pull you down into the muck again.
So here’s what you do: You use the very faculty that is troubling you to work with God to purify your mind. It is your ability to visualize which is your imagination. The word “imagination” involves images or making images. That’s what your imagination does. It makes images.
So, with God’s help, you use your imagination to purify your imagination. You actively imagine God taking those thoughts and images from you to purify your mind.
Ask the Holy Spirit for a method of imagination that works for you.
Here are some that people have shared with me: “When the lustful thought comes up I give it to God. Then I imagine the Holy Spirit like a dove coming down and taking the thought and flying away with it.” or “I imagine there’s a door on the top of my head, and when the thought comes up, I press a button and the door opens and the evil thought flies up to God.” or “I give the lustful thoughts to St Joseph. I see him waiting there with great patience, and when the thought comes up I gather it up and hand it over to him and he takes it and puts it under his cloak.”
This simple technique combined with the prayer of the Holy Rosary will cure you of your angry, vengeful, unforgiving and lustful thoughts.
Give it a try!