In the sports world it is often said that the best offense is a good defense. I have seen that played out time and time again. When an offense has difficulty scoring, a strong defense can keep a team in the game, giving the offense time to get things going. I have never really considered that this adage could pertain to the spiritual life, but during one morning of prayer, I did just that.
There are times when my spiritual life is not in peak condition. Like a struggling offense that has difficulty reaching the endzone, I can find myself struggle to reach God. For a football team in that predicament, it is essential to have strong defense that will not allow the other team to score, so the game does not get out of hand. For a struggling spiritual life, it is important to defend against temptation and discouragement, and guard against sin taking hold.
I think St. Paul is talking about preparing a good defense in the Letter to the Ephesians. He outlines the spiritual armor every Christian must don if we are to have victory in the spiritual life. “Be strong in the Lord,” he says, “and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:10-11). He goes on to list all the things that one needs to put on a good defense. He says we need truth, righteousness, peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:14-17).
So, go ahead. Put on your spiritual armor. Prepare your defense so that you are ready for those days when your spiritual life sputters. Develop a divine playbook. Guard your heart and mind against evil. Follow your Captain. Listen to your Coach. Any good defense on a football team is developed through practice. The same is true for the spiritual life. Why do you think they call it practicing the faith?