Life on earth is a constant battle!   The Word of God warns us that if we have decided to follow the Lord then we should prepare ourselves for battle.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is of course our best example!  After 40 days and nights fasting in the desert the devil came to tempt Him in three ways: to change stones into bread, to bow down before the devil in homage, and to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple.  To none of these did Jesus give consent!

What is temptation?  Where do temptations come from? How can we conquer temptations?

DEFINITION.   “Temptation is a provocation from the devil to do evil!”  The devil invites us, entices us, tries to seduce us into falling into temptation.  The devil cannot force our will but he can present indecent images in our imagination and it is up to us to reject!   Once a priest-confessor asked a penitent this question:  “Did you entertain bad thoughts?” After prolonged reflection the penitent responded wryly: “I did not entertain bad thoughts, but they entertained me!”   In this case the bad thoughts led to sin because the young man purposely willed and entertained the bad thoughts!

ORIGIN.   God never sends us temptations, but God can allow temptations. Why? God can allow evil to bring greater good from the evil!   God sends trials bus God never sends temptations!   Where then do temptations have their origin?   THE DEVIL!    Here are some common names for the devil, both from the Bible as well as from the saints!

Biblical names for the devil!   “The Prince of the world”,  Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, devil, demon, the ancient serpent  (Gen 3), liar and murderer from the beginning ( Jn. 8), the dragon(Rev. 12).

Saints have different names to define the devil.  St. Ignatius calls the devil the enemy of our human nature.   St. Augustine warns us that he is like an angry, furious dog on a chain.  If we keep him at bay and remain distant we are safe, but to never provoke this furious beast.   St. Thomas Aquinas defines the devil in terms of his function:  “He is the tempter!”    St Peter in one of his letters calls our attention to the devil as being like a roaring lion ready to devour us!   St Martin of Tours paints the devil as a blood-thirsty brute!
St Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises insists that those who do the Exercises for a month carry out an Exercise called the “Two Standards”.   The 1st Standard is Jesus and the 2nd is that of Satan.   The grace or fruit to be begged for in this Spiritual Exercise, that should be done four times, is intellectual knowledge of the ways that the devil tempts us individually.    In other words we all have a weak-point, a “Kryptonite”, an “Achilles Heel” where the devil aims to shoot for the kill!  Being soldiers for Christ we must be aware of the tactics and the strategy of the devil, or in the words of St Ignatius, “the enemy of our human nature.”   Therefore, being soldiers of Christ in the fierce battle for the salvation  of our immortal soul and the souls of so many others that are walking close to the precipice of hell, we must have a game plan against the wiles and astute strategies of the devil!
1.    SUPREME POWER OF GOD!  Indeed the devil is cunning, crafty, insidious, and malicious in intent and purpose.  However, we must never forget that God is All-powerful.  The devil is a mere-creature and his power is limited to God’s permissive will!  Never subordinate God to the person of the devil!
2.    COMBAT-TIME!  While on earth we are perpetually in a state of battle!   The devil, the flesh and the world can draw us into sin in all times and circumstances.  Indolent, sleepy, naïve, soldiers are any easy prey to the attacks of the devil.

3.    VIGILANCE!  That means that our conscious and perpetual state must be that of vigilance, a state of alert!  Jesus admonishes us with these words:  “Stay awake and pray, for you do not know the hour!  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak!”  Due to lack of vigilance, the Apostles failed our Lord Jesus. Sleep, sadness and desolation overcame them--- and also lack of vigilance!  Temptation conquered them!
4.    PRAYER!  Constant, fervent and confident!    Jesus told the Apostles to pray but they preferred their comfort and sleep. How often have we fallen into the “Garden-ease complex” of the Apostles, in which we have fallen asleep during our prayer time!  If done, we are an easy prey for the devil!
5.    PENANCE!   Jesus clearly stated that some devils can be expelled only through prayer and fasting (or penance).  The Acts of the Apostles describes Jesus as first doing and then preaching.   Jesus preached fasting, but he first gave eloquent witness to it by fasting for forty days and forty nights.  Then He conquered the devil with all of his temptations! Lazy, sensual, sleepy and distracted followers of Christ can easily be tackled and defeated!

6.    SELF-KNOWLEDGE!    St. Ignatius of Loyola gave to the church the Rules for discernment of how to receive the inspirations from the good spirit but also on how to reject the bad inspirations—temptations—from the devil.  In Rule 14 of the 1st week of discernment, Ignatius presents the devil in the image of a soldier that circles a castle looking for a crack, crevice, opening, so that he can enter,  penetrate plunder and abscond   with  the possessions!  The castle is an image of our soul and the devil, studying us and discovering our “Kryptonite” (our fatal flaw or weak-point) goes for the kill!   In other words, we must beg for the grace of self-knowledge to really know where we are most vulnerable so that we can put up the barriers and shield against the fiery arrows of the enemy!
7.    KNOW YOUR PHYSICAL STATE!   When we are tired, frustrated, run-down, exhausted, then this physical state is often an open door to the attacks of the enemy!  Get a good night’s rest and then up and ready for another day of Spiritual Combat!

8.    DESOLATION!  Universal and across the board is this reality:  when you are in a state of desolation that is the prime time and prime target of the devil!   What is a state of desolation?  According to St Ignatius desolation can be described as darkness of soul, turmoil of spirit, and inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, hope and love.  The soul is wholly slothful. Tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from, its Creator and Lord… (Rule 4 of Rules for Discernment, Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius). Therefore, in a state of desolation one must use double vigilance. Ignatius says we should pray, meditate, examine our conscience more thoroughly and apply ourselves to some suitable penance so as to conquer the enemy.   (Rule 6). 
9.     AGERE CONTRA/ Fight to do the opposite of the temptation. Ignatius gives us more advice when we are found in the midst of the storms of temptations!  Do the opposite of what the devil is telling you in temptation. If tempted to eat too much, practice mortification. If temtped to be lazy, get up five minutes earlier. If tempted to be sharp with the tongue, then be kind in speech. If tempted to shorten your prayer period, then pray two extra minutes.  Indeed this is Spiritual warfare at its best!
10.OUR LADY HELP OF CHRISTIANS/ OUR LADY OF VICTORY!   The devil has a mortal fear of two names attached to two persons: THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS AND MARY!!!  After the fall of Adam and Eve, the Lord promised victory through the seed of the woman and that the heel of the woman would eventually crush the ugly head of the serpent (the devil).  At the mere mention of the Holy Name of Mary all hell shakes with fear!  Therefore, never forget that in the heat of the battle against temptations to call on the Holy and powerful name of Mary.  “Never was it known that anyone who called on her or invoked her name was left unaided…”  (The Memorare of St Bernard)