Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
“For greater things you were born.” (Ven. Mother Luisita)
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13th Mk. 1: 29-39 “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”
- Jesus is our model for prayer. Every so often we need a Prayer Booster shot!
Part 1: Excerpt from Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe
Part 2: PRAYER PLEASING TO THE POWERFUL LORD by Father Ed Broom, OMV
PART 1: Excerpt from Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe
The first thing that should motivate us and encourage us to enter into a life of prayer is that God Himself is inviting us to do it. Man searches for God, but God seeks out man even more actively. God calls us to pray to Him because right from the start, and far more than we can imagine, He ardently desires to enter into communion with us.
The firmest foundation is God’s call: “Pray without ceasing!” (1 Thes 5:17), “Watch and pray!” (Mt 26:41), “Pray at all times!” (Eph 6:18). We pray because it is God who asks us to. And in asking us to pray, He knows what He is doing. His plans are infinitely beyond anything we can glimpse, desire or imagine. In prayer there is a mystery that absolutely surpasses our understanding.
What drives a prayer life is faith – faith as trusting obedience to God’s proposal. And we cannot even imagine the immense positive repercussions of this humble, trusting response to God’s call; just like Abraham, who set out without knowing where he was going, and so became the father of a whole nation.
The benefits are neither instantaneous nor measurable. If we pray in an attitude of humble submission to God’s word, we will always have the grace to persevere. Our prayer life will be rich and beneficial to the degree that it is inspired by this approach of a confident, obedient response to God’s call.
God knows what is good for us, and that should be enough for us. God invites us, so to speak, to “waste time” on Him, and that is enough. It will be a “fruitful waste,” in the words of St. Therese of Lisieux. St. John of the Cross says, “The person who flees prayer is fleeing everything that is good.”
Human life only finds its full balance and beauty when God is at its center. “Serve God first!” said St. Joan of Arc. Faithfulness to prayer is what effectively ensures that we can give this central place to God in specific ways. Without faithfulness to prayer, giving priority to God risks being nothing more than a good intention, or even an illusion. If we don’t pray, we will subtly but surely put our own egos at the center of our lives, instead of the living God. We will be distracted by a huge number of different desires, demands, and fears.
By contrast, if we do pray, even though we have to fight against the weight of our own egos and our habits of self-centeredness and selfishness, we will find that we are working in the direction of detachment from ourselves and re-centering on God little by little… that gives Him (or restores Him) to the right place – the first place – in our lives. And in this way we discover the unity and consistency of our lives. “He who does not gather with me scatters” (Lk 11:23). When God is at the center, everything else falls into place.
PART 2: PRAYER PLEASING TO THE POWERFUL LORD by Father Ed Broom, OMV
“In mental prayer,” adds St. Peter of Alcantara, “the soul is purified of its sins, nourished with charity, confirmed in faith, and strengthened in hope; the mind expands, the affections dilate, the heart is purified, truth becomes evident; temptations are conquered, sadness dispelled, the senses are renovated, the drooping powers revive; tepidity ceases, the rust of vices disappears. Out of mental prayer issue forth, like living sparks, those desires of heaven which the soul conceives when inflamed with the fire of Divine Love. Sublime is the excellence of mental prayer, great are its privileges; to mental prayer heavenly secrets are manifested and the ear of God attentive.”
With these powerfully convincing words of one of the men who was instrumental in directing the great Saint Teresa of Avila in the reform of the Carmelite Order, Saint Peter of Alcantara, we invite all to read, reflect and pray over these humble but hopefully helpful words to help you to grow in the “Art of all arts” (Saint Alphonsus M. Liguori), the art of prayer!
1. HOLY SPIRIT. Constantly beg with fervor and faith the Holy Spirit for the gift of prayer. The Holy Spirit is known as The Interior Master who indeed can teach us to pray and motivate us to carry it out. Saint Paul in the letter to the Romans emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit in prayer: “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Holy Spirit intercedes with ineffable groans so that we can say Abba, Father.” (Romans 8: 26)
2. GIVE TIME AND EFFORT. Make a proposal today that you will try to pray every day a little more and a little better. God cannot be outdone in generosity. Saint Ignatius challenges us in Annotation #5 in the Spiritual Exercises to have MAGNANIMITY— this means in simple English to be generous with God. Why not get up 10 minutes earlier to give the Lord an extra ten minutes in prayer?
3. PURITY OF HEART. A common obstacle that militates against prayer is sin; sin dirties or sullies the window pane of the soul, thereby blocking the penetration of Divine light. CONFESSION! Making a good confession can cleanse the interior window of the soul so as to contemplate the Face of God with ever greater clarity, so we can live out the Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God.” (Mt. 5:8)
4. SPIRITUAL READING ON PRAYER. Saint Teresa of Avila is the Doctor of prayer. To enter the Carmelite Order, she required that the woman be able to read. The reason? She knew from experience how much someone could learn—especially with respect to the topic of prayer— by simply reading good books on the topic. Close to five hundred years have passed and now there is an infinite reservoir of good books on the topic of prayer.
5. SPIRITUAL DIRECTION. The great Mystical Doctor of the Church, Saint John of the Cross, said with tongue in cheek, “He who has himself as a spiritual director has an idiot as a disciple.” In other words, we all have blind spots and need the experts to point them out to us. Learners we all are; therefore we must have someone well-trained in the spiritual life to come to our aid and help us to overcome the many obstacles in our prayer life and to help us persevere in our pursuit of surmounting the mountain of holiness! Periodic spiritual direction and talking about one’s prayer life can be of incalculable value!
6. STRUGGLE / SPIRITUAL COMBAT. It would be ingenious and naïve to presume that prayer is always going to be a piece of cake! As in the learning and perfecting of any talent or art, much time, effort, and struggle is needed. Athletes put it this way, “No pain, no gain!” The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents as an example of prayer the struggle and combat in the person of Jacob. One night Jacob had a visitor and it was an angel. The two struggled the whole night and Jacob would not release the angel until he was given a blessing. The blessing was given but Jacob’s sciatic nerve was damaged, and from that time on he walked with a limp. The Church takes this as a model for prayer as combat. At times we have to struggle through our prayer life. An elderly priest once told me that prayer can be like pushing a wheel-barrow full of cement up a steep hill!!!
7. PERSEVERANCE. Once again, Saint Teresa of Avila can come to our rescue with this excellent suggestion—never give up prayer, under no condition! Her classical saying resounds so powerful and true for those who take their spiritual life seriously. The woman Doctor of the Church asserts: “We must have a determined determination to never give up prayer.” Saint Alphonsus Liguori went so far as to say: “He who prays well will be saved; he who does not pray will be damned. ”Saint Augustine chimes in with this poetic expression on prayer: “He who prays well, lives well; he who lives well, dies well; he who dies well, all is well.” Excellent! Let us listen to and follow the teachings of the saints; they were the Masters of Prayer and are now contemplating the Lord Jesus face to face in the Beatific Vision that we are all called to one day!
8. TEXTS TO PRAY FROM. Once again, Saint Teresa of Avila teaches us that for beginners, as well as the proficient, books are indispensable to set the fire aflame in prayer. Of course the best book to be used in prayer is the Bible, the Word of God. And in the Bible, the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John— have the primary place of importance! However of great importance are the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament. In this masterpiece inspired by the Holy Spirit, we have the major sentiments that should come into play in a well-rounded and mature prayer-life. Praise, thanksgiving, supplication, petition, contrition, wonder, fears and worries, hopes and dreams, and above all, Love— all of these are sentiments present in the Psalms and we can make these sentiments our own!
9. HOLY MASS. Never should we ever forget that of all the prayers existent underneath the heavens, that unite heaven and earth, past, present and future—the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass stands alone. If possible, we should aim for daily Mass and Holy Communion. If we are already in the habit of attending daily Mass and Holy Communion, then we should make a concerted effort to upgrade our participation and improve in our interior disposition in the reception of the Eucharistic Lord. The greatest gesture that the human person can do in this world is to receive Jesus with a proper disposition in Holy Communion. Saint Faustina stated that the angels experience a holy envy for us because not one of the angels can receive Holy Communion, not even the Cherubim or the Seraphim!
10. MARY AND PRAYER. We should never exclude the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary from our prayer life. The first point we made was to invoke the Person of the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray. The first novena of the Church culminated in Pentecost— a powerful wind and fire and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s presence for nine days and nine nights in prayer and fasting facilitated the down pouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and their radical transformation. (Acts 2). When Mary appeared at Fatima and Lourdes she insisted on prayer for world peace and for the conversion of sinners. Why not turn to Mary and beg her to pray for you that you cultivate a deeper and deeper prayer life! “Come Holy Spirit, come through the heart of Mary.”
Copyright 2021 Oblates of the Virgin Mary
St. Peter Chanel Church, Hawaiian Gardens, CA