Monday, 29 July 2013

As It Is In Heaven

"Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven ..."
Often today, when you go to purchase something new, in the description of this product, there is that dreaded caveat, "... some assembly required." Therefore, two things are going to be necessary following your purchase; a copy of the instructions, and a ton of patience. Now let us take this notion and apply it here, to our considerations on prayer. When you consider how best to develop a true Christian Life of prayer, the same caveat applies, "... some assembly required."

Prayer is paramount in the Christian life, so when Jesus' disciples ask him to teach them how to pray, he gives them the Our Father. This prayer is likened to having, "the instructions for assembly". Let us look at the Our Father in this light.

Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. The entrance into the Christian Life, is the realization that God is the Father / Designer of all that is truth and goodness and beauty. The Father created all things and gave them their purpose, and this is true for each one of us. 
Before I am, before all else, He is. Who knows better than He?
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, we start by going to the Father and asking for the "instructions" that go with our lives. Prayer is not telling God how we want it to be. Rather, it is asking the Father to reveal to us what is his plan for our lives. 
Therefore, let us go to the One who made us. Who is there that could possibly know us better, and what are our true needs?
Give us this day our daily bread. Wants and desires, ambition and aspirations, values skewed by minds shrouded in darkness so easily dominate our thinking. What is past is over, what is to come, beyond our control. What is for now alone is  that upon which we place our hands. What the Lord reveals is what we need now, above all else. This must be the focus of our prayer.

Look neither behind nor before, look down into your hands.
What do you see placed there, what has been given?

Forgive our wrongdoing, as we forgive others. Those who begin assembling before they have seen the instructions, will soon have produced something that has little resemblance to the picture on the front. For-(as before)-give, is to give back what was, before the mistakes began - and with it the opportunity to start over, to get it right. God does not want us to fail, rather to succeed. 
Place in me a truly humble and contrite heart O Lord.
Deliver us from the deceits of the evil one. We are no match for the wits of the deceiver, who has but one interest in us - that we should fail and be lost.

"I have given you a Carpenter to help you build. 
With Him at your side, you surely will succeed."

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Where Two Or Three Are Gathered ...

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Mtt. 18:20

One of the best ways to nurture and develop our personal life of prayer is to do so in communion with others. When we come together with others who are seeking to grow in their life of prayer, we expand the opportunity the Spirit has to open us up to all the possibilities the Lord has in store for us. As the new Evangelists, we help each other see how the Spirit is working in each one, how different gifts are measure out to each, increasing the fruitfulness of our efforts. This is a microcosm of the whole Church, and is carried out in communion with the Church.

How does one become a part of such a group? In our parishes and through the sponsorship of diocesan programs, various groups can be found, i.e. Bible Study, Faith Renewal, etc. Some of these may be expressly focused on the New Evangelization in the Church. However, there is something unique in the way a group is formed around, Growing in Personal Prayer <+> Life in the Spirit <+> New Evangelization. Elements of Bible Study, Faith Renewal and Evangelization programs can be incorporated. But equally present and important must be a focus on the shared experience of the Grace of Renewal, (Baptism in the Holy Spirit); the nature and benefits of which we have explored in these recent posting. This gives such groups a unique character, which I believe equips them for participation in the New Evangelization.

SMALL GROUPS: Points For Consideration

  • Beginning with two or three, and up to twelve for best results.
  • Can be of mixed company.
  • Follow a structured approach for their gatherings.
  • Have insight into the dynamics of small groups.
  • Remain in association with a parish.
  • Employ a method of discernment concerning the group.
To help facilitate this recommendation, I have prepared a model that you might find helpful. 

"Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them.” 
Sirach 6:14-16

Whenever people gather in a small group format, the whole gambit of human interaction comes with them. The key to success for small groups, is based on an understanding of the way people interact in groups and having well structure approach for achieving the group's goals.

I have found this book by, Neal F. McBride, to be an excellent resource of information and strategies for conducting small groups.    

Thursday, 11 July 2013


So far, in these notes on prayer, we have looked at eight subjects:

1. Prayer, Hearing Is Believing
2. A Place To Pray
3. In His Presence
4. First Principle
5. Passage
6. The Heart Knows
7. Who's Voice Do I Hear?
8. Listening
These subjects are connected to a new series, on the New Evangelization. In order to have a New Evangelization we need "New Evangelists". An evangelist is one who knows the Lord; not knows about the Lord, rather, one who "knows" in a personal, intimate way - person-to-person.

It begins with an encounter with the living Christ. This encounter is initiated by the Lord. There is no formula that makes this encounter happen, it is solely dependent upon Jesus and only happens when Jesus chooses to reveal himself.  An encounter with Christ can be sudden and dramatic and unexpected, like St. Paul encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus. It is initiated by Jesus and is sometimes called the "Grace, without previous cause."

Perhaps, the more common way an encounter is granted, begins with a person hearing about the possibility of an encounter with the Risen Lord, and desires this for themselves. They begin by asking for the Lord to come and reveal himself, and the Lord then grants their prayer.

There are different titles we can give to this experience of grace; Encounter With Christ, Grace of Conversion, Baptism In The Holy Spirit, Grace of Renewal. What is common in each of these is Jesus showing himself in a real and discernible way to the person praying, who now has a personal experience of the living Christ. Now they KNOW HIM, and this grace becomes the foundation of their life of faith. 

The way Jesus revealed himself to his disciples after his resurrection, was tangible and demonstrative. "He showed them his hands and his side". He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” This way of revealing himself was necessary to heal the wound of doubt caused by his passion and death on the cross. But after his Ascension, a new way of encountering his risen presence was instituted. 
The Advocate. John 14:15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.
From this time until now, the age of the Holy Spirit has existed. "He remains with you, and will be in you." 

The New Evangelist is:

  1. A Person of prayer, immersed in the Word. (i.e. following this or similar approach to praying scripture).
  2. Baptized anew in the Holy Spirit.
  3. Having a pattern of discernment as they experience the Spirit's call.
  4. Developing in communion with the Church, collaborating with others, i.e. sharing groups, spiritual direction, parish programs of formation, team ministry.


Jesus my Lord, I confess to you and to all the world / my need for your presence in my life. / I am alone and in darkness without you. / I am influenced and controlled by the many forces that surround me. / Even though I struggle against them,/ it is sin that so easily dominates my life. / Who can save me but you alone, / my Lord and my God. / Deliver me from the Evil One. / Touch my life with that power which flows from your Resurrection. / Cause your Holy Spirit to be born in me anew. / Prince of Peace and Lord of Glory / reign now in my heart. / Baptize me with your Holy Spirit and Fire. / Raise me up to a New Life in you.

Review the notes on prayer on the the Page, Let Us Pray the Scriptures Together.

Saturday, 6 July 2013


"Say That Again ..." 

As we try to listen and understand what someone is trying to tell us, it is not uncommon that we ask them to repeat what they said. The same can be said of our listening to the Lord in prayer. This being true, there are two practices in prayer that help with this, 
1. Repetition and
2. Writing it down.

When a passage that we are using for our prayer begins to stand out with particular meaning for us, then we need to return to that passage for further prayer. This can be as often as it continues to bear fruit for us. As well as returning to the same text, having a journal and writing down our thoughts is most helpful. 

Some thoughts on writing and prayer.

Writing and prayer have many similarities to classic journaling, but it is more than just writing down the linear sequence of our thoughts. Here, one records the account of an event that has taken place. An appointment was kept, a meeting took place and here is what  happened.

  • The meeting, time and place.
  • The scripture passage that was chosen.
  • Who came - the character of your attentiveness - your sense of the Lord's presence.
  • Did you come with certain questions, certain needs, 
  • What was your state of mind?
  • What in the scripture passage caught your attention? Why?
  • How did you picture the scene in the scripture passage?
  • Which characters did you identify with - inspired you, most resembled you?
  • What images were you left with?
  • Characterize the way your spirit is moving.
  • What, if any, message were you left with?
The way you record your experience can be your own. Here you are giving the eye witness account. Record it right away and try to be accurate.  When you come back to review your reporting later, you are the interrogator, mining for the real truth, its meaning and message.

"Therefore, write down what you have seen, 
what is, and what is going to happen after this." Revelation 1:19

Monday, 1 July 2013

Who's Voice Do I Hear ...

... and What Is That Voice Saying?

I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, ...
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” John 10:

In Jesus time, it was the practice for shepherds to coral several flocks into a single sheepfold over night for their protection and safety. In the morning, a shepherd would come to the gate, call out to the sheep, and only his sheep would come out and follow him. Such was the recognition and influence of the shepherd's voice. Knowing this gives us insight into why Jesus chose to use it as an image of his influence in our lives. To be a follower of Christ, we must have His Voice imprinted on our hearts.

This imprinting happens through our reflective, meditative prayer. When the Lord speaks, it has a positive effect on our hearts. When it is not the Lord's voice we are hearing, its effect is negative. In our previous Post, we discussed identifying these movements of our hearts as we prayed. In this Post, we will look at identifying and naming the specific things that are attached to the different movements of heart we feel.  

This is particularly helpful in matters having to do with choices. Here is an example of what I mean.

Supposing a friend invites you to spend a week with them at their new summer home. You are delighted with the invitation, especially since you are desperately in need of a break. You are about to accept when you remember, that it is the same week you promised another friend, that you would help them with some much needed renovations at their house. Both are good propositions; and after some thought, you decide to beg off helping your friend in favour of taking the week at the summer home.

But, having made this choice makes you feel conflicted. You feel sad for turning down a friend in need. What to do?

Now, a third friend calls you to commend you for offering to help your friend in need. They remark how kind and generous you are, especially since your friend could not possibly have done the work without you. This makes you feel very positive about yourself. So you reconsider your decision and choose to decline the holiday in favour of helping your friend in need.

That call from the third friend is likened to the Lord's Voice in prayer. Having been presented with choices, you make a decision. Now you take your decision to prayer. You stack your decision up against the images, examples and thoughts you see as you pray the scriptures. This sheds new light on the process that lead to your decision. In the light of the "grace of prayer", ether a confirmation or a rethinking of your choice emerges. Like the friend's voice in our example, the Voice of the Lord will lead you to a better choice, confirmed by its positive thoughts and feeling.

We can rationalize ourselves into all manner of choices. But there is no deceiving the Lord. A heart sincere and open to listening in prayer, will hear the Good Shepherd's voice. If your choice is a bad one you will want to move away from it. If it is a good one, it will draw you closer to the Lord.

For a more complete and comprehensive treatment of this subject, prayer and choosing, visit the Ignatian Spirituality Site.

"The sheep of the shepherd hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."

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