Tag: prayer

Out on a Limb for God

A friend once told me, “Being out on a limb for God is the perfect place to be in ministry.” It is such a simple yet profound thought, and it reminds me of another phrase I often hear: “The way you spell faith is R-I-S-K.” While I can envision those phrases being used as an excuse for lack of preparation or as a license for a foolhardy person to undertake every crazy idea that pops into his or her head, there is still undeniable truth in them. Church history is filled with countless examples of saints and regular modern-day Christians risking everything to follow the Lord, traveling to foreign lands to evangelize, and accomplishing heroic feats up to and including the ultimate sacrifice of giving their life for the Lord in martyrdom. In fact, Jesus himself gave the humanly risky command to his disciples to “take nothing for the journey . . . no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no second tunic” (LK 9:3). He asked them for nothing short of total dependence on Divine Providence and the generosity of others. But what does it mean in my own life and ministry to “go out on a limb” for God?

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It all starts with prayer. Communication with God in prayer fosters a relationship with God that roots us in our identity as his son or daughter, and then overflows into mission. Prayer is the first domino in the chain reaction. Therefore, the first question is not so much, “Am I bold and courageous enough?” But rather, “Am I encountering God every day in prayer?” Through prayer, we become the kind of person that can’t help but speak the name of Jesus. Through encountering the Lord in daily prayer, we gain a “fire in our bones” like Jeremiah that we cannot keep inside (Jer 20:9). Then we can echo the words of St. Paul, “For if I preach the gospel, it gives me no grounds for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). As baptized Christians, we are called to evangelize and embrace the mission of Jesus “to seek and save the lost” (Mat 28:18-20; Lk 19:10). This is our foundation, but it is only when prayer and discernment provide clarity of the specific task or mission God is asking of us that taking a risk for God comes into play. In short, God does not give us a mission without giving us the grace to accomplish it.

Therefore, it is in the response of prayerful obedience that taking a risk for God has its proper context. For example, if you receive a consistent prompting in your personal prayer life which is confirmed by the advice of a spiritual director or by the encouraging prophecies you have received from Christian brothers and sisters, then it is reasonable to conclude that God may indeed be giving you a specific mission that should provoke a response of faith. That response may very well include something out of your comfort zone. If we only trust God when it is easy, then do we really trust God at all? Many times, it is in the step of faith that the Lord will bless you with great graces.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to speak to a Charismatic group near Columbus, Ohio, with Peter Herbeck. In preparation, I kept hearing the voice of the enemy say, “Who are you to speak to a group of people who have been moving in the Spirit since before you were even born? Plus, they came to hear Peter Herbeck, not you. You will make a fool of yourself.” But, instead of listening to that voice, I took to heart the words of 1 Timothy 1:18, which says, “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the good fight.” I reflected on and declared all the truths I had received in personal prayer that were consistently confirmed by prophecies from brothers and sisters in Christ. I said, “In the name of Jesus, I believe and I declare that I am a Kingdom Builder. You have given me an apostolic anointing to boldly preach your name and spread your Kingdom not by own ability but by your grace and power. When I keep my eyes fixed on you, I radiate your goodness and compassion, and your lost sons and daughters return to the Father’s house. On my own, I can do nothing. But with you, God, all things are possible.” When God’s truth shattered the enemy’s lies, I had a renewed conviction that God was asking me to speak boldly in his name and leave the results to Him. What followed was one of the most powerful exhortations I have ever given. It had little to do with the content or the preparation, but through my simple words and my act of obedience, the Spirit of God convicted hearts in a way that I rarely see.

You see, the Lord only gives the grace of mission when you take a step of faith into your mission. In the words of C.S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” It is not enough to believe that we have a mission. We must have the courage to step into that mission for the glory of God and the salvation of others. This is not mere natural courage, but a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember it was the Holy Spirit that gave the courage and conviction for the apostles to preach at Pentecost, which was the spark that spread the gospel message to the ends of the earth. We need to be fearlessly open to the Holy Spirit prompting us to actions that are out of our comfort zone—and perhaps at times beyond what we would have concluded by human reason alone.

Let me pose a question. When St. Peter got out of the boat to walk on water toward Jesus in Matthew 14:28-32, was Peter more safe and secure when he was closer to the boat or closer to Jesus? While the boat is a mere creation of man, Jesus is the Creator who holds all of the universe in the palm of his hand. Ironically, the closer Peter gets to Jesus the more secure he actually is. It is only in taking his eyes off of Jesus that he begins to sink, prompting Jesus to say, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” From a human perspective, Peter had every reason to think it was unreasonable and impossible for him to walk on water. But, from heaven’s perspective, walking on the water with Jesus at his side is even more secure than sitting without Jesus on a boat or even walking on dry land for that matter. When our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit, we can see that taking a prayerful and obedient step of faith is really only a risk in earthly terms. Yes, we may fall flat on our face and look foolish. But, as Mother Teresa said, “God does not call us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful.” Our reward is in the obedience, and the fruit is up to God. In heavenly terms, there is no risk at all. For it is nothing more than a step deeper into God’s hands and into greater dependence on our good Father who delights to give us the Kingdom (Lk 12:32), and who always gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Lk 11:13).

In that sense, the farther we “go out on a limb” in faith and obedience to the promptings of God, and the more we fall into the arms of our heavenly Father in total and radical dependence on Him, the more secure we will be and the more solid the ground beneath us becomes. For indeed, we are standing on the eternal Rock—on Jesus Christ, our firm foundation. Relying more fully on God will look different for each of us according to our state in life and the mission to which God has called us. But all of us must live in the constant faith-filled expectation that God will always supernaturally provide for the life and ministry He has called us to, even in situations that seem hopeless and impossible from a human perspective. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith—trusting more in God’s providence than on our human abilities and plans. When the Lord is our shepherd, we will lack nothing. When we seek first the Kingdom, we truly will have all we need.

Casting Nets: Prayers for Healing in the RCIA

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The following article is the third in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”

By John

I love RCIA, because evangelization is expected. I had two topics that I wanted to get across on this particular night. First, prayer is the most important thing that we need to learn to do, and second, that prayer can seem simple, but it is hard to do it well. I began by challenging the RCIA class that “if prayer didn’t work and if, in fact, we were just speaking words to the sky and God never answered us—then why even bother? Why are we are wasting our time?” It was blunt, but honest.

I then I gave two personal examples of answered prayers in my own life, and a couple of the candidates also shared their stories. I then began to teach about how to pray. I spoke about rote prayer, spontaneous prayer, contemplative prayer, healing prayer, intercessory prayer, meditative prayer, etc.

Then I announced that we needed a prayer practicum. I told them about my ministry (healing and deliverance) and told them about some of the things I’d witnessed. Using Mark 16:17-18 as a spring board, I said that I would teach them what I knew about healing prayer and how to pray with others. I then asked if there was anyone present with any injuries, aches, pains, etc. The first person to step forward was an ex-Detroit police officer. She said she had bad knees and that they hurt mostly after sitting. We gathered around her, and I told her and the others what I was about to do, explaining it slowly and carefully. I told her to relax and just let me know if she felt anything. We prayed. She began to sweat and was feeling heat all throughout her body. I asked her to try her knees out. She walked around and said that they were “a little better.” We prayed again, and on the second try, she said that they were “definitely better.” Praise God!

The five candidates were now paying closer attention, but I detected some skepticism, because this was not something visible. Plausible, perhaps; visible, no.

I asked if anyone else had any aches or pains. A woman who was studying to be a nurse reported hip problems and sciatica. Again, I explained the process, but before we even started praying for healing, she said she was feeling tingling. I pointed out how our good and gracious God was already at work—even before we had asked Him. I pointed out that this was not atypical when the Spirit is stirred up, and we prayed into the feeling. After a minute or so, I had her test her back, and she said she felt about the same, but was “sweating like crazy.” I offered to pray more for her. It was then she said something I’d always wanted to hear someone say. She said, “You can pray if you want, but the reason my back hurts is because I have one leg that is shorter than the other.”

Yes! Thank you, Lord! I had always wanted to see this malady healed and had been praying for the opportunity for some months.

I had her sit and put her feet on my knees, and sure enough, the right leg was about three-quarters of an inch shorter than the left. I lined up her boots so that everyone present could see the difference. I simply prayed “In the name of Jesus Christ, right leg, grow.” She said she felt something tingling in her knee, and after about five seconds, we all watched as the leg began to stretch, and we saw the two heels come together perfectly. Total time—about twenty seconds. I asked the candidates “do you see this?” Needless to say, they were all wildly excited. In fact, they wanted to pray over each other. We spent the rest of the class talking about God’s abundant mercy and love—and yes, all joined the Church the following Easter.

Note: I challenged the class to go and do the same (evangelize and heal), stressing that Mark 16: 17-18 applied to all of us—not just to me. Two weeks later, one of the young ladies in the class told me how she prayed for healing for a college classmate who was a “professed Baptist who hated Catholics.” He received healing for his back and is now reevaluating his view of Catholics.

Meeting Jesus for the First Time

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The following article is the second in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”

The names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy, and the author has been kept anonymous because he would like Jesus to have the credit for this work.

By John

As my wife and I arrived at the crisis pregnancy center, I had word of knowledge (a “nudge”) about someone with an ankle problem. It came and went so quickly and so quietly that I doubted it and initially brushed it away. However, as we were setting up for our Communion service for the seventeen women present, I overheard someone mention having sprained an ankle (perhaps I dismissed that nudge too soon). As my back was turned, I did not know who had said it, but no matter; God provides. My wife and I introduced ourselves and said that we were from the Catholic Church in town.

“Oh! I’m Catholic,” said a young woman who I’d estimate was between sixteen and eighteen years old. I asked, “Oh? Which church do you belong to?”

She hesitated. “I don’t really belong to a church right now.”

“Oh” I said. “Which church do you live near?”

She did not know the name of the church. I asked her, “When was the last time you went to church?”

She couldn’t remember that either. It became apparent that she was living in a non-practicing Catholic household and, in fact, she later admitted that she had not even been baptized. I had prepared a sermon based on the readings for that day, but this young lady didn’t even know the first thing about Jesus, so I abandoned my plan. I felt the Lord wanted me to focus on this young woman, so I asked her, “How is your prayer life”? “Honestly” she said, “I don’t even know how to pray.” “That’s OK,” I said. “I can help.”

I led her in an impromptu prayer that went something like this: “Jesus, I don’t even know if You are real, but people tell me You are, and You sound awesome. I’ve really messed up my life down here, and I can’t fix it anymore. I need some help. If You are really there, I invite You to come into my life and ask You to please help me. Amen.”

“That’s a prayer?” she asked. I laughed, “Yes; it’s a prayer. It’s a very open and honest prayer from the heart.”

We then spoke about the Holy Spirit, and then I led the whole group in a prayer to the Holy Spirit, followed by some quiet time. I told them that I had the sense that someone was feeling peace, another forgiveness, and that there was someone present with an injured ankle. As it turned out, it was the same young woman who I’d just taught to pray. She was surprised that I called out the ailment. I asked if it would be OK if my wife and I prayed over her. “What do I do?” she asked nervously. I smiled and replied, “Nothing at all. You just sit there and receive.” I asked the group to extend their hands in her direction and imagine Jesus fixing her ankle.

I thanked the Lord for her life and told her that I was going to put my hand on her ankle. I asked her to let me know if she felt anything. After a short while, she began to weep and said she had just felt a wave of emotion. She didn’t understand why she felt that way or what was going on, but I told her it was quite common. Someone else in the group told her it was the Holy Spirit. She said she felt a cold feeling on her ankle. She was shaking, crying, and laughing all at the same time, as the Holy Spirit fell upon her. I asked her how her ankle felt. “I don’t know,” she sobbed.

I said, “Well? Stand up and test it!” She began walking around—completely pain free. It was a very beautiful moment, because she didn’t understand what had happened or why she was healed. She was just completely overwhelmed with emotion and God’s love, and she just kept sobbing and saying, “What? Why? How?”

While reflecting on the incident, it struck me that in a scant fifteen minutes, this young woman—who previously had no idea of who Jesus was or if He even existed—met the risen Lord more powerfully than most people will in their entire lifetime. She went away that day knowing two things for certain: there is a God, and He loves her.

A Prayer for Troubled Catholics

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The following prayer was shared with us after the release of Ralph Martin’s letter Dear Troubled Catholics

By Susan Domen

Heavenly Father, we praise you! You are goodness and love, you are holy and perfect!

We come to you, Father, with heavy hearts, looking to You in Your infinite mercy, to console us in our grief, send clarity where there is confusion, repentance where there is sin, obedience where there is obstinance, truth where there is silence, and love where there is indifference.

Help us to fast and pray in reparation for our sins and for those who have led astray and compromised the faith of so many. Have mercy on us, look upon us as harassed and lost, as like sheep without a shepherd.

Father, we beg You, send Your Holy Spirit to breathe upon us, to renew; to make holy, beautiful and most pure, the Church, the bride of your beloved Son, Jesus. Holy Spirit, fall upon the most hardened hearts, as well as those of the faithful and devout. Fill them with the fire of Your love. Grant them holy boldness to speak truth in the face of corruption and intimidation. Let them not be silent, let them stand together in unity, in confidence that truth and goodness will prevail and the gates of Hell will not stand against the pressing in of the Holy Ones, the body of the Church, Christ’s Bride, to be made pure, holy, and undefiled.

Father, we come to You in our littleness, looking for comfort, looking for justice, looking for answers. We know You are most merciful, thank You for hearing our prayer. You are able to bring goodness through even the darkest of days, all in accordance with your divine will. We pray this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, one with You, through the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

How Does God Want Us to Pray?

The following article is from a talk Sr. Ann Shields gave at a Word of God Community prayer meeting. It can also be found in our Renewal Ministries’ September 2018 newsletter.


Our intercession is pivotal to the graces, power, and love that God wants to give His people. Intercession is not easy. Intercession takes a great commitment and perseverance.

As an example, English Protestant Pastor Andrew Murray once wrote about a grapevine that, during a time of war, starvation, and misery, when all the other vines had subsided, kept producing clusters of grapes. Shocked, they tapped the root system of that vine and discovered that the grapevine’s root system had traveled over a mile, into the Thames River. That vine had everything it needed! Andrew Murray used that grapevine to illustrate what needs to happen to us in prayer. We need to find the Source, who is God. Rather than just saying, “God, this is a catastrophe, a difficult situation, please do something,” we need to say, “Lord, how do You want me to pray?”

Perhaps it seems obvious how we should pray: a person is sick, and we want to pray for them to get better. That’s fine, but if we want to intercede for our own family, friends, and acquaintances—and if we want that intercession to really bear fruit—we should take the first few days to say,

“Lord, here’s the situation.
How do You want me to pray?”

He knows the details of the situation—the mind and the heart of the person or people we are praying for—in a way that we don’t. John 15 says, I am the true vine and my father is the vine grower. He removes every vine in me that bears no fruit.

He prunes, and sometimes that’s what happens to us. We pray, and sometimes it seems like things are getting worse. The temptation is to say, “I’m backing out of this. You need somebody who is a really good intercessor, and I’m not it.” But in reality, what ought to happen is that we say, “Lord, teach me. Is there a different way You want me to pray or approach this situation? Show me what it is.”

In my extended family, there was a sixteen-year-old boy who was out on the streets, struggling with drugs, alcohol, everything. No matter what the family tried to do, nothing bore fruit. They asked a group of us to pray, and someone said,

“How should we pray?”

Everyone replied,

“It’s obvious how we should pray.”

But the person said,

“No, it’s not obvious; God knows the heart and the soul of this young man. How does He want us to pray?”

We concluded that we should pray that the young man would give his life to the Lord and repent of his sin. We prayed that way for about a year, and nothing looked different. Then one night, I got a phone call: he had given his life to Jesus and repented of his sins. His life changed!

We were going to pray for good doctors, for good counselors, for all of the different experiments on dealing with drugs. But God took care of it. Sometimes it doesn’t come out that simple, but in this case it did. I think God, in His mercy, wanted to show us that if we take on His priorities, His will, and His way, it can bear tremendous fruit.

How much confidence do we really have in God and His will? When push comes to shove, we tend to say, “Oh God, oh God, please!” What a difference it makes to instead say, “Oh God, I put all my trust in You. I wait upon Your Word. I wait upon Your will.” His will is the most loving thing that could ever happen. Do we know that in our own lives?

Sometimes we want God’s will, but it nevertheless makes us shudder a bit. We think it is going to cost so much, and sometimes it does. However, the fruit of it is the peace, wisdom, joy, and confidence that only God can give. Let me encourage you: Trust Him more. There is a deeper trust that God wants for our own roots to get into the River of Life—for our own roots to drink more deeply of His Spirit. Rather than saying, “Oh God, please don’t let this happen”—which I pray sometimes too—we can say, “Lord, Your will. Your will is love.” That’s who God is—God is love. We should be praying:

“Lord, let Your will flourish in my life.
Let Your will flourish in the life of my family.”

I think God would be so delighted to hear a group of people praying that way. I think He would be very generous with them.

John 15 says, “I am the true vine and my father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.” Keep that in mind when something seems suddenly eliminated from your life. Or something is asked of you, such as: Would you let go of that to do this? It may be the Lord speaking.

The body of Christ needs genuine intercession—people flat on their faces saying, “Show us the way; teach us to pray.” Everything out there is getting darker. And where is the light going to shine, if not in the followers of Christ? God wants His light to shine through us—through kindness, a helping hand, shared wisdom, and the like. The more I decrease and He increases, the more I see His will over my will. Instead of presenting our plans to God, we need to yield and to say, “Lord, I’m your child, teach me how to pray, even when—especially when—I think I know what to pray for.” It’s amazing what God can do when we ask Him what He thinks we need, and when we listen. We need warriors of prayer, and that means giving up our own will and praying as He wants us to.

In fact, the most important thing is our own submission to the will of God. Otherwise, we start planning how we are going to accomplish things. I’m not saying plans don’t have a place. But don’t go there first. Simply say, “Lord, here I am. Send me. Use me today.”

A few years ago, Pope Francis declared a Year of Mercy. Because I travel a lot, I said to the Lord, “I’ll give up reading and sleeping on the plane. I’ll put aside anything You want if You want me to speak to anybody. If You want people to know the Father’s mercy, I’ll do it.” That was a sacrifice! I love being on a plane when I can just read or pray. But I felt prompted to say that to the Lord. And during that Year of Mercy, not once did I have a moment to read or pray, and not once did I initiate the conversation. They came right up to me: “Pardon me, are you a sister? Can we talk to you?” They’d bring the whole family. I’d never had that happen—never.

My reason for using that example is the mercy of God is right here. God wants to pour out mercy on His people. And He wants to use us, so if we as intercessors are in a position of wanting God’s will and wanting to be channels of His mercy, God will use us. This city cries out for help. Nobody hears it, because the facade is all there. We look like we’re prosperous (to some degree), we look like we’re successful, we look like all kinds of things. But under the surface—look at the situations in people’s lives—who’s going to pray? You.

We need an army of intercessors, not just for our families, but for all of the people we encounter. It’s a tremendous work, the work of intercession, and we can do it no matter what our circumstances are. If you are suffering, you can offer your suffering. Wherever we are, we can make our lives bear fruit, for ourselves and those around us.

If my experience on the plane is any indicator, people need help, and they don’t know where to go. If God would use me, why wouldn’t He use you? If we are Christians with open hearts, God will send people to us. Say to the Lord every day,

“Use me. However you want, use me.”

Pray for anyone you may encounter each day. Ask the Lord to give you what you need. And He will.


Put it in Practice…

Peter Williamson, who teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary with Ralph and Dr. Mary Healy, wrote the following prayer in response to Sr. Ann’s talk on intercession. We hope it is a blessing to you!

Lord, help us to sink our roots deep into you. Help us to pray at all times in the Holy Spirit. Help us to slow down and listen to you. And help us to pray with great faith, according to your will and purpose.

In particular, Lord, we pray for miracles. We pray that you reveal your power to the sick among us, to those among our family and friends who have wandered from you and need conversion. Do whatever it takes to turn them back to you and the path of life!

Reveal yourself also to our neighbors and co-workers and those in the city and country where we live, and for the whole world. Your love extends to all; save those most in need of your mercy! Let us Christians be radiant with your light and love. Work signs and wonders that will show those around us who you really are!

Thank you, Lord, for hearing our prayer!


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