At the feast of St. Michael this year I introduced the parish to the seven pillars of the spiritual life from Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscovering Catholicism. St. Michael reminds us that our battle is a spiritual battle – for a spiritual battle we need spiritual tools – spiritual weapons. The seven pillars are just that. How many can remember what they are? Mass, Confession, Rosary, Spiritual Reading, Daily Prayer, The Bible and Fasting. We have spoken about : The Rosary, Spiritual Reading, Mass and Confession. We took a little break before Christmas time – today I want to talk about Daily prayer and the Bible.
In his book Matthew Kelly speaks about the importance of making prayer into a discipline – dedicating at least 10 minutes each day. I think many people are attracted to the idea of praying and would like to do it, but are not how they are supposed to pray.
We are told that prayer is a conversation with God. We can imagine the disciples in our gospel today, going to visit the house of Jesus and all the things they might have spoken about. We would like to do the same thing – but it is not so simple. Certainly it is true that Christ is just a present in our lives as he was to the disciples. Our faith tells us that. It is easy to speak with the Lord – we can do it anytime and in any place. The hard part is listening – if prayer is to be a conversation, it cannot just be me talking – God has to do his part. Like Samuel in the first reading – “Speak Lord your servant is listening…..Ok go ahead….I’m listening Lord … I am still here.” What makes prayer so difficult is knowing How do we hear the voice of God. Am saying something – what is his reply? Is it something that I feel in my heart – how do I know it is real?
I think we have prayer backwards. We think of prayer as “I talk to God and then wait for him to talk back.” But I suggest that it is the opposite – God has already spoken. He has spoken in his Son Jesus Christ – the WORD of God is recorded in the sacred scriptures. If we are looking to find what God is saying – we don’t need to look far – we just need to open our bible and read it. Prayer is not us calling upon God waiting for him to answer – God has called us already in his WORD and prayer is our opportunity to reply.
That is why I think the Bible, especially the new testament, should be the foundation for our daily prayer. If we are going to take ten minutes each day to pray, we should start with opening the scriptures and reading what God has to say to us.
In a previous parish I developed a quick and simple way to help Confirmation students to pray using the bible in three steps. HEAD, HEART, HANDS
HEAD – think about I have read. If it is a story, try to imagine the scene – what did Jesus look like? Why did John call him the Lamb of God? What gave the diciples the courage to ask for Jesus address – “where are you staying” What was it like going to the house? What did they talk about when they got there? What convinced them that Jesus was the messiah? Maybe you will have answers for the questions maybe not – but think about.
HEART – talk to Christ from our heart based on what we just considered. “Lord I want to come and see where you stay – I want you to stay with me. I want to talk about everything just like the disciples. I too believe you are the Messiah, the Lamb of God, I trust you.”
HAND – make a resolution, something concrete we can do to put the word of God in action. Andrew shared his faith with his brother Peter – I will tell my co-worker I am praying for her. I will invite this person to Mass. The diciples were bold to ask Jesus if they could come to his house – sometimes my prayer is just formalities – tomorrow I will try hard to be sincere with God and myself and talk about real things that are bothering me in my life.
HEAD, HEART HANDS – if you do this everyday eventually the three steps will overlap. That is ok. If you have some other method that is also fine. The point is to think about the Word God and then respond with conversation from the heart and concrete resolutions.
“Speak Lord your servant is listening” The Lord speaks to us through his word. WE respond in prayer. I want to challenge you to take up Matthew Kelly’s challenge to develop a discipline of prayer and in particular a discipline of praying with the Scriptures.
I have a second challenge – which is really an announcement – but perhaps you will take it more seriously if I read it now! To participate in a Book Club with Matthew kelly’s book “Rediscovering Catholicism” this Lenten Season.