Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For Simple, Powerful, Prayers Like This One

Often times, we outsmart ourselves. Overthink things, overanalyze, study, weigh carefully before we decide to act. These are generally accepted principles for decision making. In many cases, this process makes a lot of sense. In others, it is the treadmill to oblivion. Bear with me here.

One of the hallmarks of the Marine Corps, that strange monastic-like, military order I was affiliated with, is very simple. It is "speed." In the parlance of the military, it is called operational tempo. And no military organization matches the Marine Corps in wielding this force multiplier. It is honed by constant practice, and just when you least expect it, we're upon the foe. It really burns people sometimes, even our friends.

"We have two companies of MARINES running all over this island and thousands of ARMY troops doing nothing!" —General John Vessey, USA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, comments on Operation Urgent Fury, Grenada 1983.

Speed in moving across terrain, for example, is a given for Marines. But tactical speed also includes making speedy decisions. In combat, there is no time for analysis. This should not shock you, but the Marine Corps has an acronymn for putting this decision making tool into action. It is SMEAC (pronounced Smee-Ack) and it is what we call the Five Paragraph Order:

Situation, Mission, Execution, Admin & Logistics, Command and Signals.

Force, applied with speed,  ensures victory. All kinds of military geniuses will testify to this. Oh, you want to sit back and keep assessing the enemy's strength? Keep training because you're not quite ready to commit your forces? Not quite sure you have have all the knowledge needed to decide correctly? You'll be toast if you ever face me and my Marines. Or you'll be remembered fondly (not!) like General McClellan from the America Civil War is (not!).

Military Genius Quote #1: The greatest enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan. —Prussian General Karl von Clausewitz, On War, 1832

Military Genius Quote #2: Speed is the essence of war. Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War (late-sixth century BC)

Military Genius Quote #3: Hurry the Hell UP! I said move NOW!!! —SSgt Burgess, Sgt. Walcott, Sgt. Slusser, Drill Instructors, 3rd Battallion, MCRD Parris Island SC practically every waking moment during boot camp.

By now you're thinking Frank, what has this got to do with prayer? Well, you aren't doing it enough. And you spend way to much time preparing to pray too. It happens to me sometimes, but not so much.

Maybe you think it's complicated. Or you're not ready. Or you don't know how, except you do know the Our Father. Or maybe you think you don't have time. I can't pray the Rosary at work, you say. No time, no privacy. Too busy, you are. Yes...too busy to pray. Maybe you think you can only pray in the parish sanctuary? I don't know.

But I do know this. If you have found yourself making these excuses, then the Devil is using his ability in the operational tempo department to put your soul in jeopardy. Here is a simple, and yet thoroughly effective way to turn the tables on that loser and come away victorious. It's called The Jesus Prayer, and it goes like this:

Lord Jesus, Have Mercy On Me.

That's it. Oh, you want the long and complicated version?

Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Son of the Father, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Simplicity itself. It is the prayer equivalent of Operation Urgent Fury. I pray it all the time. Driving to work, for example, or when I'm at the office working on something. You can do it anywhere, mentally. In a situation that has you on edge? Break out the Jesus Prayer. Tempted by something sorely? Break out the Jesus Prayer. Bored while your son or daughter sits on the bench at a soccer game? Pray it. Don't know what to write for your next blog post? Yep, you guessed it, go pray the LOTH, or break out the Jesus Prayer. At Adoration? Lock and load the Jesus Prayer, and fire away.

It works everywhere, in every clime and place, sort of like a Marine. I'll let Peter Kreeft explain all of the majesty and wonder of this simple prayer in greater detail. He writes a great essay about it over at The Integrated Catholic Life. I first learned of it as I explained in my post on J. D. Salinger last year.

But get this. Stop reading about prayer and get busy praying. Because as Military Genius #4 says,

"Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking!" —General Ferdinand Foch, message to General Joffre during the Battle of the Marne.

That is the spirit! St. Paul is smiling now. And so is Gunny Highway.

Semper Fidelis

Update: General George S. Patton, Jr. on prayer.