If, as believers in Jesus, we are going to take back the strongholds of the enemy, then we need a massive outpouring of the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Nothing less can bring lasting change, but we have to do our part and go deeper in our relationship with God, and call out to Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit from the deepest places of our hearts and recognition of our need for Him.
It is a lot easier to do that together, than it is to do it on our own. So let's pray this Pentecost.
What do we pray for? Our deepest need is for charisms of preaching and teaching. When someone preaches under the charism of preaching, we forget who the preacher is because he has made Jesus real for us and we are enabled to focus on Jesus and our hearts are touched by Him. This is something far beyond any natural gift of rhetoric. When someone teaches under the charism of teaching, we feel that it is Jesus Himself teaching us. This brings about an infusion of divine understanding in students and is far beyond any natural gifts of teaching.
Why do we pray? Can you think of the last time any preaching or teaching 'cut you to the heart' cf Acts 2:37? Or made you feel that God was talking directly into your heart? How often do we make our way home unmoved by what we have heard and unable to recall it even a day later? Without these precious charisms of the Holy Spirit we cannot extend the Kingdom of God. Paraphrasing Romans 10:14-17: Faith comes from what is preached and taught, and since people cannot begin to believe in Jesus unless they have heard of Him, and they won't hear of Him unless a preacher or teacher is sent, we profoundly need the Holy Spirit to empower and send us. For this the Holy Spirit needs willing helpers, and the gauge of how willing we are is the depth of our prayer and asking.
What matters is that Jesus is preached, and that Jesus is taught. Believers of any denomination or non-denomination can agree with that. There are people that the Baptists can reach that the Anglicans cannot, and vice versa. There are people that the Presbyterians and Uniting Churches can reach that the Catholics cannot, and vice versa. But together we can unite in praying for these charisms of the Holy Spirit for us all.
When: Sunday 4 June 2017. Formal prayers from 1pm-2pm. Informal prayers from 2pm onwards.
Where: St John the Baptist Catholic Church, Woy Woy, NSW (wheelchair accessible)
Who should come? Everyone, but especially those with a ministry of preaching or teaching, and those who regularly intercede for others in their prayers: That's priests, deacons and pastors, catechists, Sunday School teachers, Kids Club teachers, Children's Liturgy teachers, primary and secondary Scripture class teachers, those who prepare children and adults to receive sacraments, those who teach newcomers and those who help adults grow in faith. If you long to be used more powerfully by God to bring people to Jesus through your regular preaching or teaching, come!
I want to come, but I am unable? Find a friend who is coming, and give them a photograph of yourself to bring with them. They will act as proxy for you.
So that there is no visible confusion between preachers and teachers, we ask that priests, deacons and pastors wear some visible sign of their office eg, clerical collar, metal crosses on lapels of shirts etc
Please use #Letuspray2017 when you spread the news about this on social media.
Here's an A4 flyer to print and share:
PS. If you live more than 100kms away, you have full permission to use the same PDFs to host a Let Us Pray 2017 in your own region as long as you 1) try to make it as ecumenical as possible and 2) do the right thing with regard to music licensing.
Now some of the hymns that we will use may be unfamiliar to you. Most have been chosen because they have been used by centuries of Christians before us. When we pray and sing these ancient hymns in a sense we truly pray and sing with those generations of believers who have prayed and sung them before us. So here are some recordings to listen to:
Veni Creator Spiritus
Come Holy Ghost, Creator Come
Litany of the Saints, John D. Becker
Our Father (this version is sung very flat, but I couldn't find one closer to how it is actually sung)
This version is close, too, but it has a few extra notes and differences in syllable emphasis to how it is actually sung
Sub Tuum Paesidium (although it is odds on we will say and not sing this one)
Magnificat – Amazing Grace tune
Holy God we praise Thy Name
God can do it again
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYPAcEDYNjU (a bit flat)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwo5zLP0Pek (a big high)
Frequently asked questions
Will someone who is uncertain about the whole charismatic thing feel comfortable?
During the formal hour of prayer from 1pm-2pm there will be nothing overtly charismatic. The closest we will come is during the prayers for various groups of preachers and teachers. At that time those present will be invited to pray in unison using English or any other language. For some people it is more comfortable to pray in their native language or in a prayer language.
From 2pm onwards - which is optional - we will try our best to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and be open to any charismatic gifts.
Haven't I already received the Holy Spirit in Baptism, Confirmation (and if applicable Holy Orders)?
You have indeed received Him in those sacraments. No question about that. The question is not how much you possess the Holy Spirit, but how much does the Holy Spirit possess you? How much do we live under His direction and guidance? We can always grow in greater responsiveness and surrender to Him. The Holy Spirit is always willing to give us fresh gifts to help us grow in holiness and to build up the Kingdom of God Eph 4:11-13. Those gifts have results beyond what is humanly possible Acts 8:4-8. The Holy Spirit acts like a gentleman, and never forces His gifts upon anyone, but we are invited to ask for them. Luke 11:9-13, 1 Cor 12: 31a, 1 Cor 14:1
Why the Latin hymn to begin with?
Because when you are serious about calling on the help of the Holy Spirit you dust off the very best bits of your prayer arsenal. This hymn has been used for over a millennium and for the most important occasions. It is part of our shared Christian heritage. But even more than that the melody has a lot to teach us about the respect, adoration, intimacy, longing and reverence with which we should seek the Holy Spirit.
What's with asking the saints for prayer?
This is another of those very best bits of your prayer arsenal. It, too, has been prayed in various formats by Christians since at least the late 3rd century, and for the most important occasions. All of us at some time or other have asked our earthly friends to pray for us. If that is OK and normal, surely it is OK to ask our heavenly friends to pray for us. Jesus Himself said, 'For to Him all men are in fact alive'. Luke 20:38b We know that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God Rom 8:27b, and surely that is truer for the residents of heaven than for our holy friends on earth. The scriptures teach us that while God can act sovereignly and sometimes does, He prefers to collaborate with us. Take that strange story in Ezekiel 37 about the dry bones as an example. God could have done it all Himself, but he kept giving words to the prophet to say. When in John 12:20-22 the Greeks went to Philip and said, 'We would like to see Jesus', and Philip went and got Andrew, and together they went to Jesus – was the glory of the mediation of Jesus decreased? Of course not! Wasn't Jesus more glorified and honoured this way than if the Greeks had gone to Him directly? Didn't more people share in the good work of bringing people to Jesus? Asking the saints to pray for us and to pray with us is concretely acting upon the belief we share as Christians in the Apostles Creed: 'I believe in the communion of saints'. This particular sung version of the litany of the saints is an easy tune to pick up.
Can saints hear prayer? Can they answer prayer?
1 Sam 28 where king Saul decides to consult a medium rather than one of God's prophets. He wants to hear from the deceased Samuel. In the dialogue that follows Samuel knows what is going on (so yes saints can hear prayers) and God has permitted him to bring an answer to Saul (albeit one that Saul doesn't want to hear). Matt 25:21 'You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much' is a promise fulfilled on earth and in heaven. There are far too many Christian shrines dotted over the world with the testimony of crutches and other aids left behind when people were healed to deny that saints hear prayer. They hear our prayers just like any true friend would, they add their prayers to ours and take them together to God on our behalf, and when God permits they have a role in delivering God's answer back to us. Does it make you happy when your good friend gets honoured? Then why is it so hard to understand that it makes God happy when we honour His best friends? Is it hard to believe that it delights God to see His friends, earthly and heavenly, working together for the good of His Kingdom? Any honour we show them redoubles to God's glory, because God is the source and origin of their holiness.
Is the presence and intercession of Mary important?
Without her 'Yes' to God, Jesus would not have become incarnate for us. When it comes to collaborating in the works of grace, the mother of Jesus has no equal. She was there at the foot of the Cross of her Son when He entrusted all of the disciples He loves to her maternal care John 19:26-27. Who else but the woman overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in Luke 1:35 can best teach the believers in the Upper Room awaiting the promised Advocate about Him? Would the Holy Spirit do anything important without collaborating with His spouse? We take Jesus for our model. We know that He kept the commandments perfectly, and He kept the commandment to honour His mother. We honour her because Jesus honoured her first. He chose to involve her in all the most important parts of His life, and all of the most ordinary and hidden parts of His life too. With this example, how can we do otherwise? If God Himself wanted Mary at conception and birth of His Son, He also wanted her at the conception and birth of the Church, His body, the body of Christ. How then could we fail to take this Godly hint to invoke her presence and intercession at crucial times in the life of the Church?
What is a charism? Why would you want any?
A charism is a free supernatural gift from God for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth. Eph 4: 7,11-12. Think of the difference between a hand held paper fan and an electric powered fan as an analogy between a natural gift and a supernatural gift. Both move the air around to make it feel cooler. The hand held paper fan has a limited range, and eventually your hand tires and you stop and rest. It does a good job for the one or two people within its range, but there will eventually be burn-out. The electric powered fan is plugged into a power source (the Holy Spirit) and switched on by prayer and consent. It can cool down a whole room, will not burn-out and the amount of power released is proportional to how surrendered our lives are to God – we can set it to low, medium or high depending on our surrender and co-operation with God's grace. Our free will is never compromised, we always have the choice to decrease the power, switch off, and unplug. When a charism is operating people see Jesus in action, and hearts are changed.
Maybe a story will help:
St Vincent Ferrer lived in Spain between 1350 and 1419. He became a priest of the Dominican Order. He had a special God-given charism of preaching. Many people were converted to God just by listening to him preach. St Vincent counted on God. He also asked for the prayers and penance of many people for the success of his sermons. He knew it was not his words or his talents that won people over. That is why he prayed before every sermon. But one day, when he knew that a very important person was going to listen to him, he worked harder than usual on his sermon. He ran out of time to pray. This sermon which he had prepared so carefully did not affect the nobleman much at all. God let that happen to teach Vincent not to count on himself. Another time, this same important person came to listen to Fr Ferrer preach. But this time the priest did not know it. He prayed and counted on God as usual. The nobleman listened to the sermon and was greatly impressed by what he heard. The nobleman explained it like this: ‘In the first sermon it was Vincent who preached. In the second sermon, it was Jesus Christ.’ From 'Saints for Young Readers' Volume 1, April 5
Is it OK to feel excited and scared at the same time?
Yes. God is very generous with His gifts, but He never ever forces them on anyone. Having a charism doesn't mean you are holy, but it can be a means to help you grow in holiness. Many of them only operate when God wants them to.
Do you have to have experienced 'the baptism in the Spirit' to have charisms operate?
No. Sacramental baptism or the desire for sacramental baptism is sufficient, together with a desire to bring people to Jesus and the desire to respond to the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit. Often it feels like St Peter felt when Jesus said, 'Come' and invited him to get out of the boat and walk across the water in Matthew 14: excited and scared at the same time, but trusting in the One who says, 'Come'. There is an argument that Joel 3:1/Acts 2:17 implies that the promise to pour out the Holy Spirit on all mankind covers the non-baptised as well. At the same time it must be acknowledged that the asking and yielding/surrendering to the Holy Spirit that are part of the baptism in the Spirit experience have frequently been responded to by God with the outpouring of charisms.
So I don't have to worry about turning into a raving loony if I ask God to give me the gifts needed for me to serve Him better and be more effective at bringing people into His kingdom?
That's right. You will still be you, just more supernaturally equipped for ministry. And you will still need to do your part to provide the raw material for God to collaborate with (ie prayer, study, preparation of lessons and/or homilies, and seeking holiness).