Author: Ralph Martin

Catholic Church Experiences Renewal in Brazil

While in Brazil, Ralph gave three talks to leaders of prayer groups and communities.

The following letter about Ralph Martin’s recent time in Brazil originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ October newsletter.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It’s amazing how many of us associated with Renewal Ministries have been asked to serve in Brazil over the last year or so! In the February 2018 newsletter, Peter wrote about his trip there (to read his account, visit www.RenewalMinistries.net/newsletter). Also, our dear friend Patti Mansfield has been going to Brazil for many years and just recently was there for a retreat for priests. Mary Healy was recently there for a retreat, and I was recently there too!

I would like to tell you about what’s happening in Brazil. There are four national Catholic television networks in Brazil, and I spent most of my time there at one of the networks. Fr. Edward Dougherty (“Fr. Eduardo”), the one who invited me to Brazil, wanted to continue to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the amazing impact it is having there, so he had me appear on a number of his TV programs. In one half-hour interview, he shared the story of his encounter with me many years ago, when another man and I prayed with him in Michigan for baptism in the Holy Spirit.

I also was on a national program that evening, and then he has an all-day program on Sunday, during which I gave three forty-five-minute talks. Fr. Eduardo also arranged for a day in which key leaders from across the country came together and dialogued with me about issues of concern. It was a very worthwhile visit! On another day, we traveled to a nearby diocese that has prayer groups in every single city. The 600 leaders of these prayer groups and little communities came together, and I gave three talks to them. I was very impressed, because so many of them were in their twenties and thirties.

The question I have always had is: With so many good things happening in the Catholic Church in Brazil, why do they keep asking people from Renewal Ministries to come and help them? They gave me this three-part answer:

  1. They get big crowds, but people are living off a past experience that they want to recreate. They believe Renewal Ministries can help, because we understand the call to holiness and how to make progress in the journey. That is why they are having my book on holiness—The Fulfillment of All Desire—translated, and it should be available in the next few months.
  2. We have preserved a fervent zeal for God for many years. For many people, their zeal is flagging, and they think we can help us persevere for the long haul.
  3. There’s a certain polarization going on in the Church in Brazil right now. There’s been a resurgence of liberation theology and a reaction to that by a more traditionalist Catholicism that’s actually closed to renewal. They think that Renewal Ministries has a balanced approach to the real vision of Vatican II and Pope John Paul II.

I returned from Brazil tired, happy, thanking God for all He is doing there, and humbled by the thought that we could make a contribution to what is already such an amazing work of God.

Dear Troubled Catholics – A Letter From Ralph Martin About the Current Crisis

 

 

Dear Troubled Catholics,

I have never seen so many “ordinary Catholics”—who usually never follow or hear about Church news—as deeply troubled as I have seen them in response to the recent revelations about the retired archbishop of Washington, DC.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was asked by the pope to resign from his membership in the College of Cardinals and ordered to live in seclusion until a canonical trial can be held to verify the validity of charges of sexual abuse and harassment made against him. After the first brave person came forward (whose accusations were found credible by the Archdiocese of New York Review Board), more and more followed. The climate of fear among many of our clergy—the fear of being punished or marginalized if they report sexual immorality among their fellow clergy or leaders—is starting to break. Cardinal McCarrick is now known as Archbishop McCarrick.

What has been so disturbing to so many people is the fact that there had been numerous warnings to various church officials that he was a homosexual predator, harassing many seminarians, priests, and young boys, for many years, but nothing had ever been done about it, and he was continually promoted. Even after a delegation of priests and lay people went to Rome to warn the Vatican about the situation, he was promoted. Even after a leading Dominican priest wrote a letter to Cardinal O’Malley, nothing was done. Even after lawsuits accusing him of homosexual sexual harassment in two of his previous dioceses had been settled with financial awards, he was still promoted. And not only that, he became a key advisor to Pope Francis and offered advice on whom to appoint as bishops in the United States!


One young Catholic mother with two boys who was open to the priesthood for them said to me that she now has grave concerns about ever having one of her sons enter the seminary, given the corruption that has been revealed.

Another said she could no longer see anyone joining the Catholic Church, due to such bad leadership. She lamented about the difficulty this presents for evangelization.

Another said that seven people from her very small, rural parish had left the parish, because sexual sin is never spoken of and there is almost an exclusive emphasis on political issues. She now fears that even more will leave.

Another said that the only way this is ever going to change is if we simply stop giving to the bishops’ national collections and to our own dioceses and parishes’ collections, unless they are led by bishops who are willing to call a spade a spade and govern accordingly. To this day, there are quite a number of “gay friendly” parishes in even “good dioceses,” where those afflicted with homosexual temptation are not encouraged to live chaste lives or offered effective correction, but instead are confirmed in their sexual activity. It seems many bishops are afraid to tackle the local “homosexual lobbies” and choose to turn a blind eye.


This past weekend at Mass, the priest giving the sermon was more upset than I’ve ever seen him about the unfolding scandal. The Gospel was about how the weeds and the wheat grow up together and will only finally be separated at the judgment. It was unclear what the priest was actually saying, but we are certainly not called to “enable the weeds.” And shepherds in particular have the obligation to admonish the sinner and remove from ministry those who refuse to preach the truth and who encourage others in wrong doing. Yes, we will always have sin, but as Jesus said,

“whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt 18:6).

There have been a veritable deluge of articles that have appeared from highly respected lay Catholics and priests saying that “enough is enough,” and we need to stop the cover-ups and get to the bottom of who is implicated in promoting men like this and covering up for them. We do.

In 2002, when the American bishops approved their “charter” that attempted to respond to the many cases of priest pedophilia that had come to light by that time, they conspicuously exempted themselves from their “zero tolerance” policy. Many priests have told me that they felt “thrown under the bus” by the bishops, who conveniently didn’t adopt policies to deal with their own tolerance of immoral behavior, cover-ups that allowed the pedophilia to go on for many years, or in some cases, their own immoral behavior. Another disturbing thing about the 2002 Charter is that—despite pleas to not ignore the fact that this is primarily a homosexual scandal, since most of the victims were adolescent boys rather than true children—the bishops decided not to tackle “the elephant in the room.” Could it be because they knew some of their brother bishops/cardinals were implicated, and they didn’t want to face the mess of cleaning it up? Now this refusal to acknowledge the “homosexual lobby,” as Pope Benedict termed it, is coming home to roost.

But there’s not just a huge homosexual problem in the Church; unfortunately, heterosexual sin and financial malfeasance are common in many places as well. In some countries, a significant percentage of priests are living with concubines or fathering children by vulnerable women and giving scandal to the faithful, who often know about it. This is the case in Uganda, from which I have recently returned, and in many other countries as well. In these situations, the “protection” of the priests and the frequent disregard for their victims—the women and their children—cries out for justice.

And so, once again because of the pressure of lawsuits and the press, the bishops are talking about “developing new policies” that would apply to bishops. As a colleague at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, has said: “Isn’t it clear enough from the Gospel that covering up immoral behavior is itself wicked? Why do we need new policies when the teaching of Jesus and the apostles is so clear?” Can the words of the Old Testament prophets and Jesus Himself against false shepherds be any clearer or more devastating? (See Jeremiah 23:1-6; Matthew 23, etc.)

The Archbishop McCarrick case may prove to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” It may  make the bureaucratic, carefully worded, evasive statements that have come from our leaders finally address sin and repentance, instead of the mere policies and processes they typically focus on. Could it be—finally—that the revelation of the long-term sexual harassment of seminarians and priests that never stopped Archbishop McCarrick’s rise in the hierarchy will be so totally repugnant that real repentance may actually start to happen? I have never prayed more for the pope and our leaders than I have in the last several years, and we all must continue to do so. More about that later.

Unfortunately, the Archbishop McCarrick case is certainly only the “tip of the iceberg.” The cumulative effect of revelation after revelation of immorality in high places is devastating. First, a number of years ago, a cardinal from Austria was forced to resign over homosexual activity; then, more recently, a cardinal from Scotland resigned over sexual harassment of seminarians and priests; and then the archbishop of Guam underwent a canonical trial in Rome over the sexual abuse of minors; and now cardinals in Chile (one of whom is on the pope’s Council of Cardinals that oversees reform) are under heavy suspicion for covering up homosexual abuse in their country. In fact, the whole bishops’ conference of Chile, acknowledging complicity in not taking seriously reports of a bishop’s cover up of sexual abuse, recently gave their resignations to the pope, and he has so far accepted several of them. The pope himself at first stubbornly backed the appointment of this bishop and dismissed the victims’ pleas as “calumny” and “gossip.” And before we could absorb this news, there was news of an archbishop in Australia getting a prison sentence for covering up abuse on the part of a priest. And just today, as I am writing this, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the release of a grand jury report implicating more than 300 “predator priests” in six of the eight Pennsylvania dioceses involved in the sexual abuse of minors over many years.

Unfortunately, the rot is wide and deep and years of covering up abuse (and the concomitant reluctance to really preach the Gospel and call people to faith and repentance) and its ultimate exposure have injured the faith of millions. How shocking and tragic was it to see tens of thousands of Irish people in the streets of Dublin wildly celebrating that they could now legally kill babies!!!! Just when the Irish bishops needed to speak most strongly on fundamental moral issues, their credibility was destroyed when it was finally exposed that they had covered up abuse for decades. Satan is indeed like that wild boar Scripture talks about that rampages though the vineyard of the Lord because the hedges of protection have been destroyed (Ps 80:12-13). The corruption, ineptitude, and cowardice runs wide and deep, and its effects on the eternal salvation of millions, and the destiny of nations, is devastating.

Most recently, Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras has seen his auxiliary bishop resign over homosexual and financial impropriety, and forty seminarians in his diocese publish a letter asking him to please root out the homosexual network in his seminary. This cardinal is Pope Francis’ chief advisor, the head of his “Council of Nine” that works closely with the pope in bringing about reform in Rome, and is mentioned as a possible successor to Pope Francis.

But continual reports of ongoing financial and sexual scandals suggest reform doesn’t seem to be happening. Recently, a male prostitute in Italy published the names and photos of sixty priests who frequent his services—with scarcely any comment from the shepherds. And the homosexual orgy in the apartment of a Vatican cardinal, used by his secretary, was met with a “no comment” by the Vatican press office. And then we hear also of a monsignor in the papal nuncio’s office in Washington, D.C., who suddenly leaves the country and is put on trial in the Vatican for trafficking in child pornography and is given a five year prison sentence.

I didn’t plan to discuss this whole situation, but it came up this summer when the thirty priests in my class at the seminary wanted to discuss Pope Francis’ leadership and the McCarrick scandal. We all agreed that Pope Francis has said and done some wonderful things (I teach his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel in one of my classes), but he also has said and done some things that are confusing and seem to have led to a growth of confusion and disunity in the Church. How can German and Polish bishops approach the question of whether divorced and remarried couples can receive Communion without getting an annulment in opposite ways, and the Church still retain an ability to speak to the contemporary culture with one voice? It can’t. And how long can Church officials speak about the “positive values” of “irregular relationships” until the average Catholic comes to believe that we no longer believe the words of Jesus that fornicators, adulterers, and those who actively practice homosexuality will not enter the kingdom of God unless they repent? How many still believe that there is really a hell and that, unless we repent from such serious sins before we die, we will go there? Have we ever heard from leading churchmen, even in Rome, in recent years, that adultery, fornication and homosexual relations are not only “irregular,” but gravely sinful? Has the creeping “universalism” (the belief that virtually everyone will be saved) so undermined the holy fear of God and belief in His clear word, which has been transmitted faithfully all these centuries and is found intact in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that people have become “understanding” about persisting in grave sin with no fear of God or of hell?

Has false compassion and presumption on God’s mercy replaced true love, which is based on truth, and the only appropriate response to God’s mercy—faith and repentance?

And what are we to make of the fact that so many of those advising the pope have questionable fidelity to the truth? How can we have confidence in Cardinal Maradiaga as the head of his Council of Cardinals when he is accused of financial impropriety (which he denies); he chose an active homosexual as his auxiliary bishop; and he allowed a homosexual network to grow up in his seminary, dismissing attempts to appeal to him to clean up the mess as unsubstantiated gossip? How can we have confidence in the pope’s main theological advisor, a theologian from Argentina who is most known for his book The Art of the Kiss, or the pope’s main Italian theological advisor, who is known for his subtle dissent from the Church’s teaching in the area of sexuality and who tried to insert texts in the synods on the family that pushed the document in a permissive direction? And how can we have confidence in the recently appointed head of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family—an archbishop who commissioned a mural in his former cathedral in an Italian diocese from a homosexual artist who included homo-erotic themes in the mural, including a portrait of the archbishop in an ambiguous pose?

One godly woman just asked me last night if it was OK for her to be upset with what was happening. I sadly said yes, of course it is.

How can we passively endure such corruption that runs so wide and deep? It is right to make our views known. It is right and necessary. But even more so, it is necessary to pray and offer sacrifices for the Church and her leaders at this time. It is necessary to pray that genuine reform, rooted in real repentance and an embrace of all the truths of the faith, would come out of this awful situation and that the Church, more deeply purified and humbled, may shine forth with the radiance of the face of Christ.

But it is going to be a long way from here to there. Grave damage has been done to the credibility of the Church, and more will leave. Grave damage has been done to many of the flock, and reparation must be made; public repentance is called for. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote when he was a young priest, the Church will have to become smaller and more purified before it can again be a light to the world. The Church is going through a radical purification under the chastising hand of God, but already we can see a remnant of fervent renewal appearing all over the world, which is a sign indeed of hope and the renewal to come.

And so, what can we do as we continue to pray for the pope and our leaders that God may give them the wisdom and courage to deal with the root of the rot and bring about a real renewal of holiness and evangelization in the Church?

»We need to go about our daily lives, trying to live each day in a way pleasing to God, loving Him and loving our neighbor, including the neighbor in our own families. We need to look to ourselves, lest we fall.

»We need to remember that even though we have this treasure in earthen vessels (or as some translations put it, “cracked pots”), the treasure is no less the treasure. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! Baby Jesus is the treasure, and He is still as present as ever and still as ready to receive all who come to Him. And the Mass! Every day, He is willing to come to us in such a special way. Let’s attend daily Mass even more frequently, to offer the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection to God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of souls and the purification of the Church.

»We need to remember that the Catholic Church is indeed founded by Christ and, despite all problems, has within it the fullness of the means of salvation. Where else can we go? Nowhere; this is indeed our Mother and Home, and she needs our love, our prayers, and our persevering in the way of holiness more than ever.

»We need to remember that there are many truly holy and dedicated bishops and priests, and we must pray for them and support them. They need and deserve our support.

»We need to remember that this isn’t the first time such grave problems have beset the Church. In the fourteenth century, St. Catherine of Siena bemoaned the “stench of sin” coming from the papal court and prophesied that even the demons were disgusted by the homosexual activity he had tempted priests into and the cover up by their superiors! (See chapters 124-125 of Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue.)

That isn’t to say that we don’t need to take seriously and do all we can in response to the grave scandal we are facing in our time. And yet we need to remember that all this is happening under the providence of God, and He has a plan to bring good out of it. It was even prophesied strongly in Mary’s apparitions in Akita, Japan. Jesus is still Lord and will use the current grave problems to bring about good.

And finally, I’m beginning to see why the Lord has impressed on me so strongly in the past year the urgent need to heed the appeals of Our Lady of Fatima. Indeed, as Mary said,

“Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”

Let’s continue to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and as reparation for sin, and let’s pray the rosary daily as Mary requested, for peace in the world and true renewal in the Church.

Your brother in Christ,

Ralph

P.S. Please feel free to share this letter with family, friends and fellow parishioners. No permission needed. If you are interested in receiving Renewal Ministries’ newsletter, please click here (www.renewalministries.net/newsletter) and enter your mailing address on the right.

Is There Any Hope for Me?

Millions are asking, sometimes in groans too deep for words, is there any hope for me? Will my life ever be a success? Will I ever find real love, or ever love others truly? Is there really, after all this disappointment, sorrow, and tragedy, any hope of everything working out okay in the end?

There are certainly enough false hopes, wishful thinking, and ill-founded optimism to go around. If we place our hopes in money, relationships, prestige, self-help techniques, or earthly security of any kind, we are ultimately bound to be disappointed—most often sooner rather than later. Is there any solidly founded hope not dependent on personality type or worldly circumstances that is actually accessible to the average person—to you and me?

I am very excited about what I have to tell you! In the midst of all this, no matter what, no matter how many, no matter how long, no matter how apparently hopeless your problems are, I know how real and genuine hope can be yours—today and always.

The really good news is that there is hope—for you—a hope that’s born and nourished through faith in Jesus. This hope is not based on wishful thinking or restricted to certain positive personality types; nor is it the outcome of psychological techniques or theological double-talk. It’s born only as we’re reborn, through faith and baptism, in union with Jesus. And once it’s born, it can grow and grow and grow until it reaches its completion as what is hoped for comes to pass.

Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he who in his great mercy gave us new birth; a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; a birth to an imperishable inheritance, incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you who are guarded with God’s power through faith; a birth to a salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days. There is cause for rejoicing here (1 Peter 1:3–6).

There really is cause for rejoicing here. The hope that’s born through faith in Christ is based on the real and awesome deeds and words of Jesus, demonstrated most strikingly in his resurrection from the dead. As we profess our faith in Jesus we become heirs to the promise of our own glorious resurrection from the dead, and that, in the end, is the only thing that can make it all worthwhile.

Sometimes the circumstances of our lives can seem completely overwhelming. That’s usually because we’ve never realized, or have forgotten, some of the most significant circumstances of our lives. Namely, that Jesus has offered up his life for us; he has risen from the dead for us; he is right now preparing a great heavenly inheritance for us; and he is interceding right now, for us, in the midst of all the circumstances of our lives.

The prayers of Jesus are powerful and effective. If Elijah stopped the rains in Israel for three and a half years as a result of his prayers, and if the prayers of a righteous person are powerful in their effects (James 5:16–18), just think how powerful Jesus’ prayers are, now, for us!

Jesus has not only shown us the way to eternal happiness; he himself is that way. He not only reveals to us the truth; he himself is that truth. He not only has come to give us life and life in greater abundance; he himself is that life. He is not only with us, but in us, and for us. He not only died on the cross so our sin and guilt can be washed away, but rose from the dead so all our tears can be wiped away, and sent us his Holy Spirit so our joy could be full. He is with us even now, no matter what we may be facing or experiencing. He not only has come to bring peace, but he himself is our peace. He not only founded a Church, which sometimes meets in buildings, but he founded a Church which is his very own body, his very own bride, a family of brothers and sisters bound for glory.

He is so powerful, so good, so loving and so wise that even our mistakes, sins and failures, even all the catastrophes and tragedies, can be used by him for our great good.

The mighty sacrifice of his life is powerful in what it has opened up for us. Right now, through baptism and faith, God is pouring his love and life into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit. And this is just the down payment of what he is preparing for us in heaven, when we join him, where he is, at our deaths or his second coming.

Let us hold unswervingly to our profession which gives us hope, for he who made the promise deserves our trust (Hebrews 10:23).

There is a profound link between faith, hope and love. Faith can be compared to the roots of a plant, hope to the stem, and love to the fruits.

Now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have gained access by faith to the grace in which we now stand, and we boast of our hope for the glory of God. But not only that—we even boast of our afflictions! We know that affliction makes for endurance, and endurance for tested virtue, and tested virtue for hope. And this hope will not leave us disappointed because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:1–5).

It is in the spirit that we eagerly await the justification we hope for, and only faith can yield it. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:5–6).

In the last analysis the only thing that really matters in life is that we come to faith in Jesus, so hope can be born, grow and express itself in daily love.

 


This article is an excerpt from Ralph Martin’s booklet Is There Any Hope for Me?. In this booklet Ralph uses the promises of God found in the Scriptures to impart hope to you and those you love. He invites you to be renewed in your faith and live with imperishable hope founded on the resurrection of Christ and His Word.

Order booklet»

A New Pentecost: Why Now?

Pope John XXIII implored the whole Church to pray in preparation for the Council, asking God to send us a “new Pentecost,” and Benedict XVI called for the whole Church to pray for a renewal of Baptism and confirmation and be “baptized in the Spirit.” For more than 40 years there has been a strong and continuing emphasis coming from the Popes on the need of the Church, and each of us as individuals, to experience today the work of the Spirit as we see it described in the accounts of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles. As one surveys the persistent calls for a rediscovery or reappropriation of the work of the Holy Spirit as first experienced at Pentecost one is struck by the fervor and depth of conviction in these repeated pleas. Sometimes even a note of desperation.(1)

…The continuing papal calls for a New Pentecost seem to be based on two main perceptions. One perception is of the weakness of the Church and the “collapse of Christendom” or as John Paul II put it, the end of Christian society as we once knew it. This is related to the growth of an international, secular culture characterized by a “dictatorship of relativism” which is increasingly hostile to claims of truth, and most especially the claims of Christ and the Church. A situation has now developed that is more similar to the situation the early Church faced than anything we’ve known in many centuries.

The second perception is that what is most needed is a renewal of a personal relationship with God himself, a relationship that “comes alive” in the reality of Pentecost, in both its contemplative and charismatic dimensions. Quite bluntly, it appears that the Popes are crying out:

We need God! We need a new Pentecost!

This is in turn opening us to the perception that indeed, God is hearing our prayers and that we are beginning to see the unfolding of a new Pentecost, most notably in various renewal movements, but hopefully extending in an ever-widening circle to the entire Church. Pentecost and the gifts of the Spirit are not the property of any one movement or all the movements together, but the heritage of the entire Church. The movements perhaps can be seen as a “vanguard” of the renewal the Lord has in mind for the whole Church. The values and realities we see embodied in the movements and new communities are intended to stimulate the renewal of such values and realities throughout the Church, beyond the bounds of the particular movements or communities.

This seems to be clearly the view of the recent Popes. The first signs of “springtime” or “renewal” or “new Pentecost” or a “Pentecostal season”—characterized by “passion,” “ardor,” “fervor,” “enthusiasm”—while most intense in the “new movements” are seen to be the harbingers of a wider springtime that encompasses the entire Church. The Popes clearly see the universal need for a “new Pentecost” and the universal possibility of it, since the Pentecostal graces, both contemplative and charismatic, are constitutive of the Church. The charismatic dimension of the Church’s constitution is seen to be “co-essential” with the institutional dimension, and the whole Church is invited to cry out for the gifts of the Spirit, receive them gratefully, and use them for the good of the Church.

(Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, & Fear of the Lord)*


NOTES

1. Edward D. O’Connor, C.S.C., The Pentecostal Movement in the Catholic Church (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1971) cites several instances in which John XXIII links the meaning of Vatican II to a “new Pentecost.” 287–289.


This article is an excerpt from Ralph Martin’s booklet A New Pentecost. In this booklet Ralph describes the insistent calls of the recent Popes for a “new Pentecost.” Using quotes from these Popes and the scriptures, he explores this “new Pentecost” and how we can personally appropriate it.

Order booklet»

*The list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit was an addition to this article and not contained in the original booklet text.

Personal Prayer—Being Present Is Essential

 

Prayer is simply the name that has traditionally been given to communication, or conversation, with God—it is awareness of Him, consciously being present to Him, and Him being present to us.

Most of the laws we discover in the development of our human relationships apply also to our relationship with God. For example,

  • In a marriage relationship, if the husband and wife don’t take time regularly to communicate and just be together, their service to one another, their children, and others will deteriorate. Just being physically present to one another, or even working together on something, isn’t enough to sustain and deepen the relationship.
  • If the family functioned as a group all the time and there were never times when a child and one of the parents could simply be together and communicate, the child would tend to withdraw, not develop quickly, and in general lose his or her vitality and joy.
  • If two friends were friends in name and not in deed, if they never spent time together and never got to know each other increasingly well, the friendship would not be very supportive or satisfying.

The same laws of intimate communication apply to our relationship with God. If we don’t spend regular time alone with Him, not doing anything else, there will be something missing in our relationship, and it will manifest itself in a variety of ways—in less enthusiasm for the Christian life, little growth in becoming a new person, greater susceptibility to sin, and less power in witnessing.

Long ago, I recognized that a daily time of personal prayer was essential for knowing the Lord in the way in which I sensed Him calling me. Over the years, I have taken this daily time in my room, in a church, or even in my office. Sometimes it was just before supper or just before going to bed, but usually it was the first thing in the morning, before I started work. Occasionally, there have been particularly busy times when I was simply unable to have time for personal prayer, but these periods have seldom extended beyond several days.

Faithfulness to a daily prayer time has made a significant difference for me in following Jesus and living the Christian life. If, in earlier years, I missed a day or two of prayer, it showed up in obvious ways. If I was somewhat irritable or distant, my wife would ask, “Ralph, have you prayed today?” My enthusiasm for the Christian life diminished, God seemed less close and personal, it became harder to relate lovingly to people, and my desire to serve others flagged.

In fact, I would say that the single most important decision I have made, after turning to Christ and deciding to commit myself to my fellow Christians, was my commitment to daily personal prayer. The trouble of working a personal prayer time into my daily schedule has been well worthwhile.

I have never met anyone, in centuries past, in Christian literature, or today in my own experience, who has succeeded in having their whole life and work as genuine worship without spending definite time in regular personal prayer. In a mature and unusually blessed marriage relationship or friendship, the people involved may be able to be constantly present to one another and in profound communion with one another for days on end, without taking time specifically to spend together—but if that is even possible, it is very rare, and it certainly cannot go on indefinitely. Jesus, who had the most intimate relationship with the Father possible, and the most unbroken communion, except when it was willingly sacrificed as He tasted desolation and death for us, set a conspicuous example of slipping away to spend time alone with the Father, even whole nights, and directed His followers to do the same:

“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:6).

 


This article is an excerpt from Ralph Martin’s booklet How Can I Pray? In this booklet, Ralph sets forth a simple explanation of prayer and outlines an easy-to-follow method for daily personal prayer, including how to deal with obstacles to prayer and how to pray for things as God intends.

Whether you are just beginning in prayer or already pray regularly, this booklet can help you to grow in intimacy with God.

This booklet is no longer in print but is available as a FREE electronic download on our website!