Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18 (NLT2)
738 I will never share the opinion—though I respect it—of those who separate prayer from active life, as if they were incompatible. We children of God have to be contemplatives: people who, in the midst of the din of the throng, know how to find silence of soul in a lasting conversation with Our Lord, people who know how to look at him as they look at a Father, as they look at a Friend, whom they love madly.
The more I read about prayer the more I understand why people are confused by it. Presently I am taking a class on Spiritual Formation, and most of the texts approach the subject rigidly as if spiritual disciplines need the same approach that a Marin Drill Seargent would use!
I understand how that comes about, the person teaching so wants others to have the benefit of praying that they will use at means at their disposal to get people addicted to it. The disciple is not encouraged to pray, they are manipulated to do so. sometimes that is by sheer guilt, and other times by promises that scripture doesn’t make. (The most recent was sharing anecdotal evidence that linked prayer to church growth, leaving the reader to believe that their lack of prayer was the reason they didn’t have record numbers.) We may be sincere in our desire that all men pray, but sincerity does not always mean we teach it the right way!
So how can we encourage people to pray? How can we share with them the peace that comes from communing with God, even if for a few moments in the heat of the day?
I love St. Josemaria’s approach. Indeed, that was how I found his writings, looking for ways to encourage lay ministers and deacons to spend time with God, while they work so hard in secular jobs. As disciplined as the people in Opus Dei are, my experience with them is that they embrace prayer with joy, not as a duty, but as the most pleasing moments in their day. This was true when I was in Italy, and saw the church in their offices there. Our “guide”, who took time away from other work, gratefully allowed us to spend time in the sanctuary praying, as it allowed him to do the same. It was a blessing to pray in the sanctuary, rather than just at his desk!
Years later, I realized that he talked of praying at his desk as if it was so common.
How I long that we do that in our lives, to grasp at the precious moments of prayer, as we would a love note from a spouse or the hug of a child. For that is what prayer is, a moment to share in the love between God and us.
Somehow, that is the message we need to share, inviting people into the time of prayer, sharing with them the peace and comfort we find, as we meditate on God’s love, and lay our burdens on Him.
Then the verse from Paul’s writing isn’t burdensome, but a joy to see fulfilled in our lives.
Lord Jesus, help up not only learn how to pray, but how to lead others into a life of prayer, meditation, and constant communion with You, and the Father and Spirit with Whom You reign, ever One God, AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help, the LORD raised up a rescuer to save them. Judges 3:9 (NLT2)
Our prayer is common and collective, and when we pray we pray not for one but for all people, because we are all one people together. The God of peace and master of concord, who taught that we should be united, wanted one to pray in this manner for all, as he himself bore all in one. The three youths shut up in the furnace of fire observed this law of prayer by joining together in harmony of prayer and agreement of spirit. The reliability of the divine Scriptures declares this; and while it teaches the manner in which they prayed, it gives an example which we should imitate in our prayers, inasmuch as we are able to be like them. It says: “Then those three sang as from one mouth and blessed the Lord” (Dan 3:51)
What is the worst thing that can happen to the Church? Not torture, murder, threats, persecution, or even the whole world conspiring to exterminate her from the face of the earth. That happened once, and the result was the greatest growth the Church has ever seen. Tertullian’s well known saying: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”1 confirms that.
I vaguely remember protest marches as a child, but I always remember the people singing as they marched. I can remember hearing them on our little television, singing Amazing Grace as they marched, and the hymn gaining power.
I remember another event, just a few years ago, where a man bent on preaching a message of hate was silenced, not physically, but by a church simply saying the Lord’s prayer together. After the 20th time through or so, the man gave up, and was peacefully escorted out of the building.
In both cases, the prayer and worship of God’s people, their active connection ot Him, made a huge difference. It calmed the storm, it helped them remember why we are here. It kept the focus, the focus.
Someone commented to me this morning that they saw the difference that having 15 people in our church service made, compared to the empty room the week before. They said I was happier, more energetic. To be honest, with all that was going on, I didn’t realize this. I felt more drained, more stressed, more anxious, more in need of hearing the words, “and with they spirit” Yet the prayers of Gods people helped… and I was able to lead them in worship.
This is why Kreeft can’t comment that conflict and stress are not the worst things we can encounter. For these times often draw us together in prayer, and eventually in worship – even if that worship is a lament. There is something powerful about voices joined together – voices that are communicating with God. Similarly, Cyprian notes
So let us sing, let us pray aloud. Let us lead others in singing, even if it is simply choruses of Alleluia or Amazing Grace!
(but if you are with a bunch of others – please still wear your masks!)
Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 69–70.
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 207.