Catholic Value Column: The power of nightly prayer


They say nothing good happens after 2 a.m., but I heartily disagree. As a matter of fact, I believe that some of the best good we can do spiritually happens at night.

We all know the power of prayer, but something many people don’t know is the particular power of nightly prayer. As it turns out, sacrificing an hour during the night to spend with the Lord is one of greatest weapons of prayers we have. Many of the great saints have spoken on nightly prayer and the powerful effects it has in spiritual warfare.

In his Ascetical Homilies, Isaac the Syrian says, “Prayer offered up at night possess a great power, more than the prayer of the day-time. … There is nothing that even Satan fears so much as prayer that is offered during the vigilance at night.”

But why is this? Isaac explains it is because “night vigil is the light of the thinking, and by it the understanding is exalted, the thought is collected, and the mind takes flight and gazes at spiritual things and by prayer it is rejuvenated and shines brilliantly.”

Essentially, prayer during the night is powerful because it allows us to enter deeper into prayer and reap more fruits. These fruits, in turn, help us to better prepare for battle with the evil one and his minions.

There are several examples of Jesus doing this himself. Perhaps the most significant of these is the Agony in the Garden. Jesus, knowing that the time of his Passion was coming, prayed throughout the night, asking the Father for the strength to do his will.

Finding his apostles asleep and not praying with him, Jesus chastises them and says, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Not only is Jesus calling us on to pray with him in a holy hour, but he speaks especially on doing so at night, when our bodies are tired and may not want to stay up so that we can pray. Valuing prayer at night over the comfort of sleep shows the Lord our commitment and love for him.

A Benedictine monk allegedly receiving locutions from Jesus recorded Jesus’ words in his journal, and a particular passage speaks to this point of prayer in the night. In an entry from November 12, 2012, Jesus is reported to have said, “It is not a little thing for a poor human creature of mine to prefer my Eucharistic love to an hour of sleep in the night.

“By nocturnal adoration you will obtain from my heart things which cannot be obtained from me in any other way, especially the liberation of souls from the influence and oppression of the powers of darkness. … the demons fear and hate adoration made at night, while the angels rejoice over it and place themselves at the service of the soul who desires to do it.”

St. Mary Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun who reported receiving visions of Jesus related to the Sacred Heart, said Jesus told her to keep a holy hour every Thursday night “to keep me company in humble prayer to my Father, exactly as I spent that night in agony (in the garden).”

Obviously, the Lord greatly wants us to visit him at any time of day, but it is apparent that there are special graces and a special appreciation for the sacrifice made by us to keep the Lord’s company late at night. As the end of the Lenten season approaches, I urge you to try and make the sacrifice of a late-night visit to the chapel as you prepare for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

He is there, waiting for you. Go visit the king of kings, our savior and redeemer.