Thursday, February 26, 2015

What is Prayer?

I don't know if anyone else suffers from this problem, but I tend to forget things easily. I am also not a very organized person and can be scatter-brained so if I don't write things down, I easily forget. One spiritual thing I realized I forgot about recently was "The Jesus Prayer". I used to do a version of this quite often but as life got busy, I got away from it. This Lent, the Lord reminded me of it. By his grace, I picked it up again, repeating this prayer often throughout the day. 

One version I say is "Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner."  I also like to repeat the verse from Revelations 4:1-8 "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty  who was and is and is to come!" Do you know what began to happen? As I began saying these prayers, I found myself getting a lot less agitated and becoming more patient, especially with my kids. You is not necessarily about the words and how many times they are spoken. It is about being mindful of God and becoming aware of his presence; being aware that we are in him and he is in us and walking in the knowledge of that. It is about leaning back in Christ and receiving his grace and strength; uniting ourselves with him. Ultimately, that is what prayer is. It is not about how many words we say. Scripture even says, "Do not babble like the pagans." (Matthew 6:7). It is about uniting ourselves with Christ and abiding in him. Repetitious prayers like "The Jesus Prayer" and the rosary are wonderful tools that can help us do that.   

Another powerful form of prayer that unites us with Christ is adoration. When we adore Christ, we stand in awe of his greatness. This is a way to honor and worship him. A beautiful form of adoration is Eucharistic Adoration. This is when the Eucharist (which Catholics believe to be fully Jesus) is exposed on the altar. This makes it easy to adore him, because even if he is hidden under the appearance of bread, his presence is usually very tangible. Since my church only has Eucharistic adoration once a month, I have found other ways to spend time in adoration. I personally like to gaze at a picture of Jesus, like an artist's rendition from the Shroud of Turin. This has proved to be very fruitful in my own prayer life. In fact, I believe the Lord once told me that he left this image for us as a gift and he wants his face to be imprinted on our hearts.

I also want to talk about intercessory prayer because I think it is often misunderstood. I know I have talked about this before and I don't want to sound like a broken record but it is something I feel passionate about and want others to understand. Intercession is about us acknowledging God's goodness and mercy. It is about us being aware of what he already wants to do and then participating with him. Through intercession we should be joining our hearts to his heart  for the person or situation that needs prayer. What intercession should not become is us begging God to act as if he is an ogre withholding good things from his children. I think he even finds this insulting and one of the reasons we don't always see our prayers being answered. He is pleased when his children trust him and believe in his goodness. 

There are many different types of prayer and ways to pray, but the true goal of all prayer should be to encounter God and to become more united with him through Christ! True prayer is transformative! True, faith-filled prayer that unites us with Christ causes heaven and earth to collide and we begin to experience God's Kingdom in the here and now!   

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bread That Does Not Satisfy

This Wednesday, February 18th, is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I happen to love Lent! Lent is a time when we can take stock and reflect on the things in our life that we may be turning to and trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment in other than God. It is a time to do penance and fast from these things.

Often without even realizing it, we turn to "bread" that does not satisfy.  "Bread" that the world offers us. "Bread" that leaves us longing and still hungry. Our God is so good and kind that sometimes he allows us to have this worldly "bread" so we can get it out of our system and realize that we do not really want this "bread" and the only bread we really want is HIM. Jesus is the true bread that came down from heaven and the only bread that can truly satisfy the longing in our heart!
Isaiah 55:2 - Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
John 6:35 - [Jesus said] I am the bread of life. he who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.  
During Lent there is abundant grace available for us to come up higher and grow closer to God. It is a much quicker way to fast and be purged from earthly desires and attachments than to give into them and find out the hard way that they are not going to satisfy. Lent gives us this opportunity.
Colossians 3:1 - So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Let us take advantage of this Lenten season, being willing to be purged from worldly attachments so we can come up higher and be transformed into his glory!