If there will be any regret after the last moment on earth, it will be that I should have, could have, prayed a lot more.
At the end, it will be obvious, even to my little understanding, that prayer not only means something, but makes something, and a very lot of it too.
I keep wondering if prayer is not the greatest work, the most beautiful engagement in art that I can ever do. It is certainly the deepest, truest action from what I really am. Perhaps this is the truest form of what Tolkien called "sub-creation" -- a Christian idea that's been hidden by the construction of the false secular world.
Prayer is not opposed to or distinct from theology. Prayer, rather, is the height of theology, just as theology (i.e., knowledge of God in relationship -- "covenant" as "betrothal") is the natural, even necessary, extension of prayer.
In the past, I separated prayer from theology. I regret this, and will try not to do it again.
These last few months have been like Dickens' London and Paris -- the best of times and the less-than-best. In those "Parisian" moments of challenge, I learned (and not, sadly, from many successes), that there is no romance in confronting evil. Standing up, like St Paul's martial characterization (in Ephesians 6), against the withering tide is not like the war movies with stirring soundtracks, or chivalrous joie de guerre of Arthur, Orlando, or even Hector.
What I found from my time with the devil is that he/it/they/whatever is depressing, sickening, enervating, existentially nauseating. It is not at all like Barad-dûr, nor trudging through Moria nor even the Paths of the Dead. It is much more like the despairing shuffle through the Dead Marshes, where everywhere are anti-icons of the devolution of noble battles into the decay of history and missed chances, nature declining into absurd.
I felt the same sort of cold resistance, low-grade dread and attrition of spirit that C S Lewis so well described in his approach to Ransom's house (in Out of the Silent Planet). Evil does not work in glamor. Only in decay.
So I will tell you this, like Ishmael coming back, surviving not only the whale but the regime of Ahab:
Never before have I needed the sacraments of the Eucharist, and also of human friendship, more.
And never have I found prayer so strong an artesian spring of peace before. And bear in mind that I say this more out of mistakes, missed chances and failure than success.
I have had to understand, sometimes unwillingly, the divine words, "“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
And that weakness would be mine.
We have, in the Church, thousands and thousands of prayers.
But for me in these last few months, I prayed mainly three.
I offered the Lord's Prayer to the Father, believing that since I was incorporated in the Son I was praying with Him in forgiveness, for time, for deliverance.
I prayed in the night watches "O Heavenly King, the Comforter, O Spirit of Truth, Who are in all places and fill all things; Treasury of blessings and Giver of life, come and dwell within us and cleanse us from every blemish and save our souls, O Blessed One." He is the Comforter, the bringer of Peace, the "actualizer" of the miraculous psychology of Christ in the precincts of my soul. Through Him, I see the beauty of the Logos everywhere, and Time again becomes promise, instead of dread.
And, at the negative extremities, when the abyss looked like the old darkness of Sheol, bottomless, catastrophically chasmic, there rose up -- without my conscious will (at first, at least) -- the Jesus Prayer. It came in my breath, cadenced to my heart. And Whose Will was it, in Whose Body I am, but the One Who knocks at my door always, pleading like Lazarus to join my foolish, pseudo-rich table?
Who else but the One Who descends into all and every dereliction, but the Beggar Christ?
So, I will try to have less regrets at the end of days.
I will hope that my friends will say, "At least he prays."
Lead us, leaving no one, in the beggar's glory of Your ways.