“A Shepherd Cannot Run Away,” Father Stanley Rother, Martyr

This is my first blog post for the National Catholic Register. It’s about Father Stanley Rother, martyr, a priest who refused to flee his post to save himself.

American Martyr Fr. Stanley Rother: “A

Shepherd Cannot Leave His Flock”

“The reality is that we are in danger.
This is one of the reasons I have for staying in the face of physical harm.
The shepherd cannot run away at the first sign of danger. Pray for us…”
Father Stanley Rother, 18 months before his martyrdom

In Okarche Oklahoma, the sky goes on forever and the wind never stops blowing.

Father Stanley Rother lies in an unpretentious grave in a tiny church cemetery on a road that you’ll miss if you aren’t looking carefully. His grave, which is one of many with the name “Rother” on it, is marked by a simple black headstone. The only thing that sets it apart is the necklace of stones ringing its edges.

Father Rother began his life here, on this prairie, in this town. He was confirmed and baptized in Holy Trinity Catholic Church, which is the only Catholic Church in Okarche. He offered his first Mass as a priest here.

His life ended in an isolated village in Guatemala when he fell in a hail of bullets. Last week, the Congregation of the Causes of Saints recognized Father Rother as a martyr, which puts him on the long road to official recognition as a saint of the Church.

Stanley Rother was as Oklahoman as the red dirt he tilled on his family’s farm


Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/rhamilton/american-martyr-fr.-stanley-rother/#ixzz3f8wTMLa8

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Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Duncan Harris https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Duncan Harris https://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanh1/

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

A Novena is a nine-day prayer. The idea behind a nine-day prayer comes from the prayers of the Disciples, along with Our Lady, before Pentecost. It is also based on the Jesus’ many admonitions in the Gospels to pray to God the Father for our needs without ceasing.

It sometimes sounds in the Scriptures as if Jesus is telling us to nag God. His parables about the man who will not stop asking his neighbor to get up and give him bread and the reluctant judge tell us frankly that God responds to our repeated requests.

Another example in Scripture is Abraham, interceding for Sodom and Gomorra. He repeatedly asked God to spare the city if a certain number of righteous people were found there. Each time, God granted Abraham’s request, and each time Abraham asked again, this time with a lower number of righteous people. He finally received the promise that God would spare the cities if only 10 righteous people were found in them.

Sadly, there were not even that many.

However, the principle of praying repeatedly is well established in scripture.

The position that St Michael the Archangel occupies in the heavenly host is also well established. He is God’s warrior, the defender against Satan. I quoted one scripture about Michael above. But there are others scattered throughout scripture. Daniel refers to him several times in ways that show quite clearly that St Michael is our defender against the devil, as well as heaven’s.

Pope Leo XIII composed a powerful prayer to St Michael the Archangel that begins St Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle after he was given a vision of the evils to come in the 20th Century.

It appears that these 20th Century evils have taken root in human society and are expanding and bearing much evil fruit after their kind in the 21st Century, as well. Among these are the increasing and widespread violent persecution of Christians. Our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer every indignity possible in this life, including martyrdom.

This is happening today, right now.

In this Lenten season, let’s commit ourselves to a Nine Day Novena for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffering and dying for His name. It seems the least we can do.

I chose the Novena to St Michael the Archangel because he is our protector against the devil. These attacks against Christians and Christianity are coming straight from Satan. As usually happens, he is not sending an army of demonic creatures to do his bidding. His army on this earth is almost always sin-sick human beings who are following the darkness rather than the light.

Most of these people don’t know who they are following. It is not necessary to give knowing assent to follow Satan. All you have to do to follow him is do his work and speak for his desires in this world.

The prayer that Pope Leo XIII composed has always seemed like a kind of exorcism to me; an exorcism that we all can access by simply asking St Michael to do the exorcising for us.

The Novena I’ve chosen for us to pray is the Novena to St Michael. It is almost eerie in the way it fits the persecution Christians are facing today.

I will post it every morning, beginning today, for nine days. Please pray it with the rest of us faithfully.

I took the liberty of choosing an intention for all of us. I pray for the conversion of the world, that from pole to pole, dateline to dateline, all with call out Jesus’ name.

Here is the Novena to St Michael.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
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Holy Martyrs of ISIS, Pray for Us

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Harrison Staab https://www.flickr.com/photos/harrystaab/

As they now stand amid the white-robed multitudes, and behold the Throne of the Almighty One, let us speak their names in prayer. As they shimmer within the great cloud of witnesses, let us — in the Communion of Saints — ask their intercession before the Lamb.

+Holy Martyr Milad Makeen Zaky, pray for us, and for the whole world,
+Holy Martyr Abanub Ayad Atiya, pray for your ISIS murderers,
+Holy Martyr Maged Solaimain Shehata, pray for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Yusuf Shukry Yunan, pray for the release of all their captives,
+Holy Martyr Kirollos Shokry Fawzy, pray for all in the path of ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, pray for the displaced, for those made refugees by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Somaily Astafanus Kamel, pray for the protection of our Holy Lands and our history,
+Holy Martyr Malak Ibrahim Sinweet, pray for those who act now in resistance against ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros, pray for those in immediate danger from forces of evil,
+Holy Martyr Girgis Milad Sinweet, pray for those infected with the virus of hatred and extremism,
+Holy Martyr Mina Fayez Aziz, pray for families being challenged, throughtout the world, by ISIS,
+Holy Martyr Hany Abdelmesih Salib, pray aid workers may work together unmolested, to give assistance,
+Holy Martyr Bishoy Adel Khalaf, pray for the targeted clergy and religious of the Near East churches,
+Holy Martyr Samuel Alham Wilson, pray for all people of good will, in every religion, every nation,
+Holy Martyr Whose name we do not know — you “Worker from Awr village” — pray for those in leadership, whose names we know all too well, that that their motives may be purified of political intrigue, and for their salvation,
+Holy Martyr Ezat Bishri Naseef, pray for Jews, throughout the world, chosen of God and so despised,
+Holy Martyr Loqa Nagaty, pray for the “two lungs” of Christianity, East and West, to breathe together,
+Holy Martyr Gaber Munir Adly, pray for the illumination of that which is All-Good,
+Holy Martyr Esam Badir Samir, pray that in beholding it, we will wish to serve it,
+Holy Martyr Malak Farag Abram, pray for the generation in power, that their egos may be put aside and their hearts might be opened to the Way, the Truth and the Life,
+Holy Martyr Sameh Salah Faruq, pray for the generations to come.
O new martyrs, now numbering among the ancients through a malevolent force as old as Eden, keep us particularly in your prayers. Once again, we are focused on the mysterious lands where humanity first came into being, and into knowing, and where all will finally be revealed. Pray that we may put aside all that is irrelevant to the moment and, looking forever to the East, prepare our spirits for the engagements into which we may be called, whether we live amid these places of ancient roads and portals, or in the most modern of dwellings.
Mary, the God-bearer, pray for us,
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us,
Saint John the Forerunner, pray for us,
All Holy Men and Women, pray for us.
Amen, Amen.

 

Written by The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia

 

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Pope Deep-Sixes Two Bishops over Child Sex Abuse

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The Vatican laicized Jozef Wesolowski, the former nuncio to the Dominican Republic, for having sex with minors earlier this year. Now, they’ve put him on house arrest.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- The Holy See press officer announced Tuesday that Jozef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic who was laicized earlier this year, has been put under house arrest amid an official investigation into charges of pedophilia.

He is accused of having paid for sex with minors while nuncio to the Dominican Republic.

“The seriousness of the allegations has prompted the official investigation to impose a restrictive measure that … consists of house arrest, with its related limitations, in a location within the Vatican City State,” Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., said Sept. 23.

“The initiative taken by the judicial departments of Vatican City State is a result of the express desire of the Pope, so that a case so serious and delicate would be addressed without delay, with just and necessary rigor, and with full assumption of responsibility on the part of the institutions that are governed by the Holy See.”

Wesolowski, 66, has been placed under house arrest, rather than being jailed in Vatican City’s prison, due to his health condition.

The Pope has also dismissed a Paraquayan bishop accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing young people.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) – Pope Francis has dismissed a Paraguayan bishop accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing young people, the Vatican said on Thursday.

A statement said the pope had removed Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano from his post as head of the diocese of Ciudad del Este and named another bishop to run it as an administrator for the time being.

The sacking followed a Vatican investigation of the bishop, the diocese and its seminaries, said the statement, which gave no details.

Vatican sources said the bishop had refused to resign after the investigation and reports of irregularities in his diocese and clashes between the conservative Livieres Plano and other bishops in the country.

The Argentinian-born pontiff has vowed zero tolerance of clerics who abuse minors, after church scandals in several countries over many years. Last May, Francis called such abuse an “ugly crime” and likened it to “a Satanic mass”.

This is how these things should have been handled all along. What a difference it would have made if they had been.

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Our Sorrowful Mother: Ndi Nyina wa Jambo

 

Ndi Nyina wa Jambo — I am the Mother of the Word

Today is the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

I remember years ago, a constituent of mine, a Hispanic gentleman of great faith, talking to me about all the visitations Our Lady had graced the world with in the past century.

Something’s going to happen. He told me.

I nodded and pretended to understand, but, in truth, I didn’t. It was only later, when I went to Fatima, that the great hidden truth of Our Lord sending His mother to warn and instruct us began to take hold in my thinking.

At that time, I was unaware that Our Mother had visited her children in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. I had never heard of her prophecy of the Rwandan genocide. But she had visited Rwanda and she did warn them. Our Lady spoke to the people of Rwanda 13 years before the genocide. This is from If Only We Had Listened, by Immaculee Ilibagiza:

… in 1982, all the visionaries reported horrid visions of unspeakable violence, bloodshed, torture, destruction, and thousands of dismembered corpses littering the landscape — it was a prophetic warning from the Virgin Mary that if Rwandans did not cleanse their hearts of hatred and fill their souls with God’s love, evil would win out and a genocide would sweep across the land. Sadly, the Virgin’s warning became reality: The terrible Rwandan genocide unfolded exactly as she prophesied. … In 2001, after a twenty-year investigation into the events of Kibeho, the Vatican formally recognized the original three visionaries: Alphonsine, Marie-Claire, and Anathalie. Kibeho has now become the only Vatican-approved Marian site on the African continent, placing the humble village on the same spiritual level … with … Lourdes and Fatima.

I didn’t know of this when my constituent talked to me about these things. Later, I only knew about Fatima, and what I knew about that was mostly from my personal experience. I knew that the place was God-soaked, and I knew that God had spoken to me there. From that vague nothing-much of an understanding, I began to learn.

What I learned was that Jesus repeatedly sent His mother to warn her children of the coming conflagrations of the 20th century. In each of these warnings, she spoke of the horrors of hell and of the great numbers of people who were going to end up there. She encouraged prayer for the conversion of these people.

Then, she gave what I tend to think of as political warnings: Of the fall of Russia into Communism, of the genocide in Rwanda. Along with the warning, she also provided a solution. Each time, this solution centered on prayer.

Pray the Rosary, she said at Fatima. Consecrate Russia to my Immaculate Heart, she instructed. She added a call to pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows at Kibeho. Turn to God and cleanse your hearts of hatred, she instructed Rwanda.

It is interesting — and powerful — that Our Lady spoke of the Divine Mercy when she spoke at Kibeho. The Divine Mercy comes to us through an obscure Polish nun named Faustina Kowalska. Sister — now Saint — Faustina was visited, not by Our Lady, but by Jesus Himself.

He dictated another Rosary to pray to her: The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. He also asked for a Divine Mercy feast day, which St John Paul II established.

The one who turns to God in this world, and lives according to God’s will, can, through Divine Mercy, shorten and even avoid his time in purgatory, Our Lady said at Kibeho.

Repentance, prayer, love and mercy: Can these things really be the answer to our miseries in this life? Mary said this at Kibeho:

When I visit someone and speak to them, I am openly addressing all people. If I am now turning to the parish at Kibeho, it does not mean that I am concerned only for Kibeho or for the diocese of Butare, or for Rwanda, or for the whole of Africa. I am concerned with and turning to the entire world. … Repent! Repent! Repent! … I am speaking this appeal to the whole world. Today man empties all things of their true value. Those who are continually committing sins are doing so without ever accepting that what they are doing is wrong.

The things Our Mother tells us do not change one word of the Gospels of her Son. They do not add to His teachings. They apply His teaching in a direct way to the challenges of our times. I think of them as the best sermons, the greatest Christian teaching, available to us in this world today.

Christ has sent us His own mother to teach us how to follow Him in these challenging times when, as the Anchoress said yesterday, the “center does not hold.” I both agree and disagree with what Elizabeth Scalia, aka, the Anchoress, said in that post.

Yes, we are flinging ourselves off into chaos, destroying our civilization with the glee of an angry child, knocking over a tower of blocks it took him all afternoon to build. But the center itself is unchanged by this. The center is Christ, and He is holding. We are simply refusing to take the outstretched hand of our Savior and be saved. We would rather thrash around in our self-centeredness and drown for eternity in the final and bitter desserts of our own caprice.

Repent! Repent! Repent! Our Lady tells us.

Devote yourselves to my Immaculate Heart, pray the Rosary, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows. Cleanse your hearts of hatred. Fill your souls with God’s love. In other words, chose life, not death.

Because, Something’s going to happen. 

My constituent told me that, and I nodded in agreement without understanding what he was saying. Now I can answer him more honestly.

Something’s going to happen. 

Yes. It is.  

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Defend us in battle

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Oriental Bishops Call of Islamic Leaders to Issue Fatwas Banning Attacks Against Christians

Oriental bishops 550x550

If ever there was a needful thing, this is it.

The bishops of Oriental Churches are calling Muslim religious leaders to issue Fatwas banning attacks against Christians. A few incredibly brave Muslims have taken steps on their own. More than 200 people, many of them Muslims, gathered in July in front of a church in Baghdad, carrying signs that said, “I am Iraqi, I am Christian.”

“A group of citizens … they were Muslims … carrying slogans saying “I am Iraqi, I am Christian,” said Father Maysar Bahnam of Mar Korkis of Catholic Church. “They prayed in solidarity with us, saying that we are people from this land.”

Now, the Oriental Bishops are asking Muslim religious leaders to do the right thing and use their authority to help end what has become a genocide.

I do not know what the response will be. There may not be any response at all. But it is important to issue this call. This is an opportunity for Islam to demonstrate that there is more to it than the face we see on the news every night.

It is not enough for politically-correct Westerners to insist that Islam is a faith of peace and beauty. Muslims themselves — in particular Muslim religious leaders — need to demonstrate this by their actions and teachings.

From IDC, In Defense of Christians:

The bishops of Oriental Churches on Thursday demanded Muslim religious authorities to issue fatwas banning attacks against Christians and “other innocents” in the East, urging also parties financing terrorist organizations “to immediately stop arming” these extremist groups.

“We call on Muslim religious authorities, Sunnis and Shiites, to issue fatwas banning attacks against Christians and other innocents,” Beirut Maronite Bishop Boulos Matar said after a congregation of the bishops of Oriental Churches at Diman, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi’s summer seat.

In a related story: Austrian Muslims Hold Protest March Against Christian Persecution in Iraq

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Convert to Islam or You Will Be Crucified Like Christ

Don’t let this story fill you with hate.

That is exactly what the devil wants.

Let it fill you with awe at the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Consider the depth of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain them, even in this. Consider also the great trust God has given them and how fully they lived up to that trust.

They are saints.

The Daily Mail broke a story, complete with graphic photos, of two men who were crucified by Syrian rebels. The rebels put signs on the men saying that they were crucified for using explosive devices against the rebels. It does not say if these men were Christians, but considering their crucifixions, that seems likely. This story has all the sex appeal any publication could want: Graphic photos, horrific suffering and rage-inducing injustice.

The bad guys, it seems are very bad indeed.

But there is another story that, as usual, is not being reported. Christians have been threatened with crucifixion and have been martyred at the hands of the Syrian rebels for refusing to deny Christ and convert to Islam for quite a while now. Mainstream news organizations don’t report this, even though it would be a ratings getter for them.

According to FrontPage Mag, Sister Raghad, the former head of the Patriarchate School in Damascus, has testified that she personally witnessed this. The rebels are telling Christians, “Convert to Islam or you will be crucified like Christ.”

These reports make me even more certain that the American people did the right thing by opposing the plan to use Tomahawk missiles on Syria. If we had done that, it would have destroyed the remaining infrastructure and stability of the country and almost certainly have led to the rebel’s victory in this war.

Soldiers 12724 1

Photo Source: News.Naij.com

The question of who is funding these rebels so that they can wage war against the nation of Syria is a serious one. That kind of money does not come from individual wealth. Even Bill Gates would find himself going broke if he was personally funding a war against an established government, especially a government that is being supported by another government, in this case, Russia.

I’ve read reports that the United States is funding these rebels. That makes a kind of sense. After all, (1) Not many nations have the spare cash to fund whole wars on the side, and (2) Why else would we have been so eager to launch Tomahawk missiles into Syria and thus help these rebels win?

I’m raising these political issues because they lead to a couple of important questions: (1) To what extent, if any, are our tax dollars, which come directly from the money we make by going to work every day, being used in support of the violent persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ? (2) If we are funding the rebels, who is benefitting from it? It’s not the American people or the people of Syria.

Our brothers and sisters who die for Jesus are in heaven. They have joined the long line of martyrs for Christ that goes back to Stephen.

What would you do if someone who meant it and could do it told you Convert to Islam or you will be crucified like Christ?

Before you give a glib answer, think how hard it is for you to stand up for him against television networks and people on your job. Consider how often students in school convert to the trendy anti-Christian babble the teachers and the other students are peddling, not because they will be crucified, but because they will be shunned and made fun of?

When was the last time you denied Jesus by keeping silent when someone disparaged Him or made a cutting comment about Christians?

Now, answer again. What would you do if someone who meant it and who had the power over you to do it told you Convert to Islam or you will be crucified like Christ?

The people who refuse to deny Jesus in the face of persecution, torture, and certain death are His chosen ones. They are His saints. Their blood is the blood of martyrs.

Don’t let their passion, which is so much like His passion, provoke you to hatred and rage. Let it provoke you to awe and respect.

And action.

If our government is funding these rebels, we the people need to know why our government is allowing them to persecute Christians. We have the right, as citizens of this country to ask and be answered about this.

In the meantime, I intend to pray and ask these martyred ones to intercede for persecuted Christians, everywhere.

Because they, like Him, have been lifted up.

Syria

Photo Source: Archbishop Nassar, Maronite archbishop, Damascus

From FrontPage Mag:

Sister Raghad, the former head of the Patriarchate School in Damascus who currently resides in France, told Vatican Radio how she personally witnessed jihadi rebels terrorize Ma‘loula, including by pressuring Christians to proclaim the shehada—Islam’s credo that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger—which, when uttered before Muslim witnesses transforms the speaker into a Muslim, with the death penalty for apostasy should the convert later “renege” by returning to Christianity.

According to the nun, those Christians who refused to embrace Islam were

killed in atrocious and violent ways that cannot be described.  If you want examples, they crucified two youths in Ma‘loula for refusing to proclaim Islam’s credo, saying to them: “Perhaps you want to die like your teacher [Christ] whom you believe in?  You have two choices: either proclaim the shehada or else be crucified.  One of them was crucified before his father, whom they also killed.”

In fact, according to earlier media reports from October 2013, soon after Ma‘loula fell to the jihadis, one “shaky voiced” elderly Christian man had reported that he heard the invading jihadis shouting, “Convert to Islam, or you will be crucified like Jesus.”

It is, of course, a documented fact that some Christians in Ma‘loula were put to death for refusing to convert to Islam, such as Minas, an Armenian man, while other families succumbed to pressure and converted to Islam at the tip of the sword.

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Is Russia a Surprise Ally in the Defense of Persecuted Christians?

 

Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, is paying a visit to the Pope.

According to Vatican Radio, this is the fourth time President Putin has visited the Vatican. He met twice with Pope John Paul II and once with Pope Benedict XVI.

President Putin, who is an Orthodox Christian, has said through his spokespeople that he and Pope Francis will focus on, among a couple of other things, “the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.”

From QuestionMore.Live:

Hopes were high for warmer relations between the Russian Orthodox and Catholic churches as President Vladimir Putin flew Monday to Rome for his first audience with Pope Francis. Topping the agenda is likely help for Christians in the Middle East.

Putin, an Orthodox Christian, has repeatedly said that he is a man of faith and his administration has consistently sought closer ties with the Russian Orthodox Church.

His policies “have brought religion to the forefront and triggered positive change in ecumenical relations,” said Natalya Pecherskaya, rector of the St. Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy.

But state interests will come first on the visit, officials said.

“Putin will be meeting Pope Francis as the president of Russia, and then only secondly as a Russian Orthodox [Christian],” said Father Kirill Gorbunov, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow.

As well as his visit with the Holy Father in the Vatican, Putin will meet with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and Romano Prodi, the country’s former premier and a special UN representative, in Rome. On Tuesday, Putin will travel to Trieste for talks with the Italian government.

The Kremlin announced ahead of the visit that Putin and Pope Francis would focus on the state of international institutions and their ability to respond to crises, as well as the protection of Christian minorities in the Maghreb and the Middle East.

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Conversing with God

Prayer

Prayer is a conversation.

Prayer is an action.

Prayer is friendship, love, companionship and trust.

It is not a performance or a recipe you must follow to “get it right.”

I’ve read a trove of books and articles about prayer down through the years, all of them well-meaning, and none of them either wrong or right. The authors of these books and articles seek to give Christians instructions or a methodology for doing prayer right.

The most common advice is to avoid laundry-list prayers in which you just say “I want this. I want that.” as if He was your personal genie and prayer was the lamp. That’s good advice, by the way, for the reason that just listing your wants is not prayer at all for the simple reason that it’s not conversation. It is, at base, rude and presumptuous. How would you feel if the only time you heard from your kids is when they want something?

But the writers who give this advice usually try to help you out by giving you a formula to follow before you present your list of wants. Begin your prayers with another list, they tell you. List your thank-yous. Then move into a list of praises for the wonderment of God’s creation. Don’t forget to ask forgiveness for your sins. After all this, you can get back to the real reason for praying and trot out that list of wants.

The main problem with this advice is that it’s just another kind of clocking in. It is predicated on formulas found in the Old Testament (Think Abraham dickering with the angels over Sodom and Gomorrah) and also mirrors the formulas of many public worship services.

Even though it is based on legitimate foundations, when you go through it as you kneel beside your bed at night, it is not genuine. You may be following the recipe, but your heart is really only in the end piece where you ask for the things you want.

There is nothing wrong, in fact, there is a whole lot right with saying thank you to God for the blessings of your life. There is certainly nothing wrong with pondering HIs greatness. We all need to confess our sins and ask His forgiveness. It is wise to do this daily.

But you don’t need to go through this whole list of worship stuff in order to pray. In fact, practicing prayer in this way can lead to, well, practicing prayer instead of actually praying from the heart. If it’s a performance, God sees through it, even more clearly than you do — and if you will admit it, you do see through it.

Other people advise that you use a totally formulaic approach. The most common formula used by Catholics is the prayer-meditation of the Rosary. Protestants urge the laying on of hands and a sort of rotational prayer among friends. They also advise “claiming God’s promises” by quoting a verse of Scripture and telling God you are “claiming” His promise in that scripture.

I’m a big fan of the Rosary myself. Prayerfully meditating on the Gospels through the heart of Mary is a powerful experience. I’ve also had groups of people gather around me, lay their hands on me and take turns praying for me. That’s an incredibly powerful experience, as well.

I am, however, not so much in favor of the “claiming God’s promises” stuff. The prayers I’ve heard that were done in this way sounded more like an attempt to bully God than worship Him. But maybe I just haven’t heard it done right. I’ll leave that to people who know more about it.

Still other authors advise that you meditate on a painting or crucifix to focus your mind while you pray. There are those who tell you to set aside a place in your home for your prayers.

None of this is bad advice in itself — except perhaps for the effrontery of reminding God of His “promises” like a lawyer carping at a witness on the stand — and all of it can have positive applications.

However, these various pieces of advice and formula can leave the average Christian with tongue-tied brains where prayer is concerned.

I know.

I’ve been there.

I never could get into the first you thank you, then you praise god, then you confess your sins, then you ask for what you want formula. I tried it a couple of times, and it was dead as dirt for me. God and I both knew I had reduced Him to a little g god of doing it right instead of the big God Who is a living being. So I chucked that bit of advice almost as soon as I considered it.

However, I did drink deeply of the notion that I should not just ask God for things. Unfortunately for me, this led to a deeper and almost immediate shut down of praying altogether. Somehow this got crossed up in my mind with an admonition not to bother God with my itty bitty stuff.

I almost quit praying for a time, simply because I’d read too many books telling me all the right ways to pray and the sum total of them was to make me feel that my little prayers were unworthy.

I reached the point that I never asked God for my wants, stopped talking to Him about my hurts and fears and pits and stains, aches and scars. I felt that all this stuff of my life was unworthy of Him and since it was just about everything I had going on in my little mind, I didn’t have anything much to say.

When I first found Christ, I chattered to Him almost like a stream of consciousness prayer. I would fall asleep at night, just talking to the Lord about whatever was in my mind. But somewhere along the line, I become too sophisticated for that. I began to try to pray “right” and in the process, I found myself praying to a wall instead of entering into conversation with my heavenly Father.

My prayers got drier the more I censured them. When I read enough books to become convinced that it was wrong for me to go to Him with my little wants and needs, that I should only approach God with problems that were worthy of God, my prayers verged into formulaic deadness.

I stopped praying except in church because I didn’t feel that my prayers were worthy to be prayed.

It was a strange time of living faith without conversation with the One in Whom I had such faith.

In all this time, God never left me. His presence was right there with me, but He was quiet, letting me bumble around in my unworthiness.

What saved me was, ironically enough, a prayer. I had a personal problem, a family problem, that was driving me up one side of the proverbial wall and back down the other side and then back up again. It was one of those things I couldn’t solve and didn’t think I could bear. I just burst out saying, “Lord, I know I’m not supposed to talk to you about this, but it is more than I can handle.”

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I realized as I was praying my desperate little prayer about my desperate little problem that I had it all wrong. I was supposed to be talking to Him about these “little” things that make up my life. Because …

My prayers are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.

I are not “worthy” of Him. Ever.

That is the point of Calvary. The cross on which Jesus died is the bridge. We walk through Calvary onto the cross and into God’s loving arms. Not because we are “worthy” but because we are loved.

If you love God, you will find yourself thanking Him spontaneously. When you look into your baby’s eyes. When you finally get that new house. When you find a job. When you lay down at night in a comfortable bed. You’ll say “Thank you” without any formalities but from your grateful heart.

If you love God, you will find your awe of His greatness spontaneously. When you look up at the night sky. Or down the tube of a microscope. When you see your child on an ultrasound or stand on a ship and watch a whale break through the water, glistening in the sunlight. You’ll know that He is God.

There is no reason to turn your prayers into formal worship sessions. Prayer is talk. Not God talk. But talking with God, your heavenly Father, Who loves you beyond your ability to comprehend.

It’s not only ok to chatter to God the way you did to your parents as a small child, it’s good. Prayer is putting your hand in His hand and walking through life beside Him.

I still pray the Rosary, by the way. I also pray a prayer of consecration to Our Lady. I do not ever refuse to have people lay hands on me and pray for me. Every single one of these things blesses and sustains me.

Real prayer is conversation and these things are just another type of conversation.

Don’t worry about praying worthily. Just consider that the same God Who made everything, everywhere; Who holds all of existence in existence with a single thought, enjoys your conversation that same way you enjoy listening to the talk of your little children or, as in my case, my elderly mother.

Consider that miracle of miracles. And be grateful.

Then talk to Him from your heart.

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