Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017

Chapter 10: Prayer

Prayer: A Fluid and Dynamic Process

My mother taught me the hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" when I was in primary school. This hymn epitomizes prayer and I very often find myself going back to the words of this hymn. Above all, my mother's faith in God's presence in every situation, especially in her last few years of life, has given me the lifeline to hang on to prayer no matter what my circumstance is. ...

A Simple Rule of Prayer

The following short rule is sometimes called the "Rule of St. Pachomius," sometimes "The Little Rule of St Seraphim." It is said to have been given by an angel to St. Pachomius of Egypt, who used it each hour of the day and night. Saint Seraphim of Sarov assigned it to many of his spiritual children living in the world, telling them to use it morning and evening. Many variations exist. ...

Introduction to The Perfect Prayer

When we turn to Christ's teaching on prayer we discover something odd: One of the many curiosities of the Christian tradition is that when Jesus undertakes to teach about prayer he begins by waving us all away from meaningless repetitive prayer…

The Qurbano (Eucharist) fulfills the Lords Prayer Word for Word

Is it not beautiful and miraculous that Christ's perfect prayer is mirrored in His perfect Sacrifice? ...

What Jesus Teaches Us About Prayer

One of the aspects of the life and teaching of Jesus that is found in St. Luke's Gospel is the reality of prayer. Prayer is explicitly mentioned 25 times. This includes moments and teachings from Jesus' life and ministry. It also includes the importance of prayer in the lives of Zechariah and the Blessed Mother. ...

How to Pray When Life Blows Up

Pray! Pray, Pray, and keep on praying. Do for others what others have done for you. When we can serve people in no other way, we can pray for them. By prayer we cast a pebble of faith into a lake of hope. Though the pebble sinks, the ripples go on and on and on. We'll never know the difference our prayers have made until we get to heaven. ...

Five Reasons Why God Isnt Answering Your Prayers

It might feel like God is ignoring you when He doesn't answer your prayers the way you're hoping. But Scripture offers us insights as to why God might appear to be silent. One verse that I've found most helpful in my own life - when it comes to unanswered prayer - is Psalm 84:11 ...

Recovery from Critical Illness by the Intercessory Prayers of Pampady Thirumeni

The Lord will be compassionate to a person even by the prayers of others. In accordance with the exhortations of Jesus Christ, "Those who believe in me shall live even if he dies; those who live and believe in me shall not die." Orthodox Church teaches that there is no death for a faithful and even though 'dead' is a word in common usage, it is only meant to denote one's departing from the earthly body. ...

A Word from the Lord and a Saint as to what Prayer Does

I know that I am the result of prayer. My conversion to the Lord and my subsequent healing over the years are inexplicable to me, except that someone, indeed, some many, were praying for me. ...

Chapter 10: Prayer

Prayer: A Fluid and Dynamic Process

by SS (Australia)

When the Editor of Malankara World asked if I could write about my maternal grandparents' prayer life, I felt I knew very little as I had not grown up in Kerala. The request made me reflect on my prayer life, which has been different from that I was used to growing up, and most probably very different from my grandparents'!

"A Form of Common Prayer and Catechism published by The Orthodox Syrian Church Singapore (1973) defines prayer as "the raising up of the mind and heart to God" (page 21, point 5). I was able to recall this definition accurately today, a product of rote learning and needing to pass Sunday School tests and exams! The Catechism also prescribes the number of times one should pray, the times for prayer, and facing the East for prayer.

As a child, family prayers in the evening before dinner were compulsory. A hymn was sung, followed by the evening prayers in Malayalam. When I started my own family, grace was sung at every meal, and we prayed as a family in the evening. However, this practice became extinct due to various reasons.

It has been about 35 years since I married and started to worship in the Roman Catholic tradition. For the past several years, I read the Bible each morning (based on the RC set of readings), and praying has evolved to what I define as fluid and dynamic.

When my mother could no longer pray audibly due to Parkinson's Disease, I'd take my copy of the above-mentioned prayer book during my visits to Singapore, and pray with my mum the Morning and Evening Prayers. My mother appreciated this very much. I have since said these prayers every now and then, and remember the times I spent with my mother.

Let me explore my current prayer practice in the 21st Century. I have broadly categorized the types of raising of my mind and heart to God as:

(a) Praise and gratitude – Thank you
(b) Forgiveness - Sorry
(c) Requests - Please

I start and end my day with the Kauma and a short prayer. Throughout the course of the day, however, prayer takes the form of appreciating nature, gratitude for the people I interact with, thankful for the many blessings including food and safety, and, asking for Divine Protection for family and friends. I also sing hymns or Christian choruses (mentally) that come to mind in a particular situation. The privilege of my Methodist school experience and family influence has meant that I have a reservoir of resources to draw from in times of need, worry and problems; and in times of joy and plenty.

My mother taught me the hymn, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" when I was in primary school. This hymn epitomizes prayer and I very often find myself going back to the words of this hymn. Above all, my mother's faith in God's presence in every situation, especially in her last few years of life, has given me the lifeline to hang on to prayer no matter what my circumstance is. (Whilst I didn't include a fourth category in paragraph six, there are times when I let God know I am annoyed….very annoyed!).

In conclusion, I pray whenever, wherever, and don't necessarily face the East; formally and informally. It keeps me close to those whom I care about deeply, maintain optimism, and, help to face the unknown- an anchor to hold on to.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

2. Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

3. Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.

Text: Joseph M. Scriven, 1820-1886

[Editor's Note:

SS wants to remain anonymous; so I am going to skip introducing her. She had been a frequent contributor to Malankara World and makes it a point to read every issue on Saturdays, at a pre-established time. Thank you SS. ]

A Simple Rule of Prayer

ascribed to St Pachomius and to St Seraphim of Sarov

The holy Apostle Paul has told each of us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Most of us know that we are far from achieving this goal: to pray without ceasing, we must first at least pray frequently; and to pray frequently most of us must first pray regularly - according to some rule.

The Church gives us many helpful rules of prayer. Most prayer books include useful sets of morning and evening prayers, prayers at mealtimes, and so on.

The following short rule is sometimes called the "Rule of St. Pachomius," sometimes "The Little Rule of St Seraphim." It is said to have been given by an angel to St. Pachomius of Egypt, who used it each hour of the day and night. Saint Seraphim of Sarov assigned it to many of his spiritual children living in the world, telling them to use it morning and evening. Many variations exist.

The rule can easily be memorized, and thus can be used without the need for a prayer book. It gives us practice in the precious Jesus Prayer, which we can then begin to use throughout the day, learning in small ways to pray without ceasing.

The text below is taken with some modifications from the Jordanville Prayer Book. You should feel free to use the translation that best suits your needs and the practices of your parish.

The Rule

In the name of the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee.

O Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere present and fillest all things,
Treasury of good things and Giver of life:
Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of all impurity,
and save our souls, O Good One.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal,
have mercy on us. (Three times)

Glory to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever,
and unto the unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us.
O Lord, blot out our sins.
O Master, pardon our iniquities.
O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name's sake.

Lord have mercy. (Three times)

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.
Amen.

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers,
Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.

Lord, Have mercy. (Twelve times)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever, and unto the unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O come, let us worship God our King.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ our King and God.
O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and God.

Psalm 50

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Thy great mercy;
and according to the multitude of Thy compassions
blot out my transgression.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know mine iniquity,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against Thee only have
I sinned and done this evil before Thee,
that Thou mightest be justified in Thy words,
and prevail when Thou art judged.
For behold, I was conceived in iniquities,
and in sins did my mother bear me.
For behold, Thou hast loved truth;
the hidden and secret things of
Thy wisdom hast Thou made manifest unto me.
Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop,
and I shall be made clean;
Thou shalt wash me,
and I shall be made whiter than snow.
Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness;
the bones that be humbled, they shall rejoice.
Turn Thy face away from my sins,
and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence,
and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation,
and with Thy governing Spirit establish me.
I shall teach transgressors Thy ways,
and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee.
Deliver me from blood-guiltiness,
O God, Thou God of my salvation;
my tongue shall rejoice in Thy righteousness.
O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips,
and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.
For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I had given it;
with whole-burnt offerings Thou shalt not be pleased.
A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit;
a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise.
Do good, O Lord, in Thy good pleasure unto Zion,
and let the walls of Jerusalem be builded.
Then shalt Thou be pleased with a sacrifice of righteousness,
with oblation and whole-burnt offerings.
Then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.

The Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages;
Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made;
of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens,
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;
And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
And arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures;
And ascended into the heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead;
Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life;
Who proceedeth from the Father;
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
Who spake by the prophets.

In One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the remission of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead,
And the life of the age to come.
Amen.

The Jesus Prayer:

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. (100 times)
or
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. (100 times)
or
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. (100 times)

Dismissal

It is truly meet to bless thee, the Theotokos,
ever blessed and most blameless, and Mother of our God.
More honorable than the Cherubim, and
beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim,
who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word,
the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify. (Three times)

or

Virgin Theotokos, rejoice!
Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb;
for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls. (Three times)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Lord, have mercy. (Three times)

O Lord, Bless.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
through the prayers of Thy most pure Mother,
of our holy and God-bearing fathers, and all the saints,
have mercy on us and save us,
for Thou art good and the Lover of mankind.
Amen.

Forms of the Jesus prayer:

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me"

is the most traditional form.
Especially in the Slavic tradition, the prayer is often expanded to end with

"…on me a sinner."

The short form

"Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me"

is widely used today on Mount Athos.

Introduction to The Perfect Prayer

by Mark Shea

Fr. Simon Tugwell notes that the very first thing we should know about prayer, according to St. Paul, is that we do not know how to do it. Paul makes this fact clear when he tells the Romans that:

[T]he Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
 - (Romans 8:26-27).

Because we don't know what we are doing when we pray, God sends us help. The principal help he gives is the Spirit who, if you will, prays through us and in union with us. That doesn't mean we are empty vessels and that every prayer that pops into our head is an oracular utterance of the Very Mind of God. It means that God the Holy Spirit guides and helps us to pray more and more like Christ in the power of his Sonship. And that, in turn, directs us back to the fact that Christ is our teacher in the school of prayer, especially in and through his inspired word in Scripture. With his disciples, we say, "Lord, teach us to pray!' and he does, especially in the Sermon on the Mount.

When we turn to Christ's teaching on prayer we discover something odd: One of the many curiosities of the Christian tradition is that when Jesus undertakes to teach about prayer he begins by waving us all away from meaningless repetitive prayer…

And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. (Matthew 6:7)

…and in the next breath gives us a prayer which he obviously expects us to repeat - a prayer we have indeed repeated for 2000 years: the Our Father. Is this a contradiction?

No. For Jesus is warning against meaningless repetition, not meaningful repetition. He has in view a sort of magical notion of prayer in which we can somehow gain power over The Unseen by mere repetition, or by getting just the right magic words so that God has to knuckle under to our will, like a djinn. There's something at once childlike, superstitious, and savage in such a picture of prayer, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to fall into. It reduces God to something more like a capricious sprite who spends his days scrutinizing trivialities ("Was that ten 'Hail Mary's you said this decade or only nine? Denied!") rather than a God who is Father and filled with love for his children.

Curiously, it is children who are most likely to fall into this way of praying because they are the ones who really want what Evelyn Waugh referred to as "little systems of order". It is the same spirit which half-believes that if we step on a crack we'll break our mother's back that constructs superstitious prayer practices that promise us "discipline" and deliver instead captivity to scruples and a vision of God as a kind of cosmic vending machine demanding correct change.

Against all such temptations to reduce God to a sort of faceless inscrutability awaiting the correct magic spell to subdue his power to our will, Jesus drives us in exactly the opposite direction: toward personal relationship. He wants childlike disciples, not childish ones. He makes this plain when he tells us to avoid the ways of the pagans, "for your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:8).

That's an odd thing to say if you think like a Greek logician. After all, if the Ground of Being knows what you need before you ask him, then why ask? But Jesus' logic was different. For Jesus, it is precisely because God knows us already that you can tell him anything. In short, it's all about a personal relationship for Jesus. Prayer is not addressed to a God who has faded into a faceless inscrutable Power. It is addressed to a thunderbolt who has revealed to us a Father's face. That is why the prayer begins "Our Father" and not "In the Name of Allah, Master of the Universe". Jesus' whole counsel on prayer can be summed in the words, "When you pray, say, "Father!" When he gives his disciples the model prayer, this is where he begins.

About The Author:

Mark Shea is Senior Content Editor for Catholic Exchange and a weekly columnist for the National Catholic Register. You may visit his website at www.mark-shea.com check out his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!

Source: CatholicExchange.com

The Qurbano (Eucharist) Fulfills the Lords Prayer Word for Word
In the Mass we renew our baptism vows in our Creed and make the Sign of the Cross as we are signed in Baptism. We can now call God "our Father."

We are in Heaven with Him because we have lifted up our hearts to Him.

We have hallowed His name by our prayers and listening to His Word.

We have united our sacrifice with Jesus' eternal Sacrifice so God's will is being done on Earth as it is eternally done in Heaven.

We have Jesus before us, our daily Bread.

The Eucharist forgives us our trespasses because it wipes away venial sin. (Hoosoyo)

Through the Eucharist we know mercy, so we then give mercy by forgiving those who trespass against us. We offer peace to our fellow men.

The Eucharist gives us new strength over temptation and delivers us from evil.

Is it not beautiful and miraculous that Christ's perfect prayer is mirrored in His perfect Sacrifice?

Our Daily Bread

"Give us this day our daily bread" became much clearer for me last August, when I was preparing to be Lector for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The first reading was from Exodus 16. In verse 4, the Lord said to Moses,

"I will now rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion . . ." In verse 15, when the Israelites asked one another what the fine flakes on the ground were, Moses told them, "This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat."

The Gospel reading was from John 6, which ended as follows:

So they said to him, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?

Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

So Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

Indeed! Jesus Christ is our daily bread.

What Jesus Teaches Us About Prayer

By Fr. Marcus Pollard

Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

In this week's Gospel reading, St. Luke describes Jesus' teaching to the apostles about how to pray:

"Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished … ."

One of the aspects of the life and teaching of Jesus that is found in St. Luke's Gospel is the reality of prayer. Prayer is explicitly mentioned 25 times. This includes moments and teachings from Jesus' life and ministry. It also includes the importance of prayer in the lives of Zechariah and the Blessed Mother. Zechariah, the priest, was in the midst of the liturgy prayer and rites of the daily incense offering in the temple when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him with the annunciation of gift of a son to Zechariah and his elderly wife Elizabeth, their son St. John the Baptist. The unforgettable statement made by St. Luke about Mary's prayer life as the events of Jesus' annunciation, birth and childhood proceeded is:

"And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."

Our Lord is described on five different occasions praying before major events and announcements. This Gospel also records Our Lords command concerning persecution and eventually His second coming:

"But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man."

So for us, before we even address how to pray, this Gospel clearly reminds us of the essential role of frequent, serious and varying kinds of prayer as part of the Christian life. All by itself that can pose a real challenge. Day-to-day life is busy; it is full of all sorts of important activities. Yet in last week's Gospel commentary here in the Catholic Herald, Father Jerry Pokorsky clearly pointed out the importance and superiority of the contemplative dimension of the Christian life over the active dimension. As important as it is to feed, clothe and care for people's bodily needs, it is even more so for the needs of the soul.

"One of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.'"

What a great question. If all of us when we struggle to pray would only be so simple, humble and honest with Our Lord, our prayer lives would vastly improve. Most of the rest of this week's Gospel addresses and expands on the value of going to the Lord in prayer and doing so perseveringly.

As to the context of it, we see in this question an aspect of St. John's ministry that is witnessed by the apostles, but not explicitly described in the Gospels; he taught his disciples, St. Andrew being one of them, how to pray. Going back even further, formation in prayer and worship was one of the most important aspects of Jewish life. If spirituality is the dimension of religious life that is about the experience of a personal and intimate relationship with God, then spirituality was the font from which all true religion flows. From the Lord with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, to Noah before the flood, to Abram in the desert, to Jacob wrestling with the angel, to Moses on Mount Sinai, to the lives of the prophets, the whole life of faith presented in the Old Testament always begins with the personal encounter of the soul with the Lord. The Lord initiates and the first response is prayer: receiving, listening and responding to the Lord's call. Even in children today, the first truly and fully human moment of their faith life is the interior awareness of the reality of the Lord in faith and their personal response in prayer.

"He said to them, 'When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.'"

One of the most beautiful and useful modern commentaries on the Lord's Prayer is found in retired Pope Benedict XVI's work: the first volume of Jesus of Nazareth. He has followed in a long line of saints and theologians who have done so (among older commentaries, my favorite is the one by St. Teresa of Jesus in The Way of Perfection). In all that I have read about the Lord's Prayer, the idea that keeps coming up as central is that what the Lord shared with His disciples was the fruit of His own interior spiritual life. Further, central to that is the address: "Father." In the life of the divine persons of the Blessed Trinity, the Father is the source of the Trinity. In and through His sacred humanity, Jesus manifested His continual attention and devotion to His Father. If we were to go through the Gospels and count, we would find that Jesus explicitly refers to His Father about 200 times.

When we pray, we naturally call to mind the image or idea of the Lord that is most familiar. What Our Lord had in mind for the apostles was that part of His fulfillment of the old covenant was that all the Old Testament images and modes by which the Lord was known to the Jews be subsumed into this revelation of: "Father." Only the Son can reveal the Father; only the Father can reveal the Son; and only in the Holy Spirit who was sent can we call Him "Lord." To be open to the Holy Spirit and to be on intimate terms with Jesus all means that we can know our Father and His love for us.

"And he said to them, 'Suppose one of you has a friend … he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.' And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."

For the apostles who heard this, they would probably have struggled during the course of Jesus' public life and ministry because of all the opposition they ran into and in their fixation on the idea that the Lord was going to be the new Moses ushering in a new earthly form of the kingdom of God. The culmination of this frustration would have been their experience of Jesus arrest, passion and death. All their prayers would have seemed fruitless at that point. Fortunately they had the presence of Our Lady to encourage them and even challenge them. By late at night on Easter Sunday they would have begun to enter into a newly found respect for the Lord's admonition to continue in prayer and know that those prayers would be answered according to His will, His plan and His timing. The next experience they would have had of seeing the fruits of asking, seeking and knocking, again with Our Lady's help, would have been in the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost after the first novena, begun after the Lord's ascension.

Probably my favorite part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the section on the theology and practice of prayer, found before the commentary on the Lord's Prayer. If there is any section especially valuable as spiritual reading, that is it. One practical piece of advice that may be beneficial is that praying is essentially a matter of making the offering of our time and attention to the Lord and His word. We bring all of ourselves to our prayer and need to be more and more open to the Lord's gift and sharing of Himself to us, not necessarily as we want, but always as we need. Our asking, seeking and knocking guarantees that we will receive the good things the Father has in mind for when we do so with the conviction:

"Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done."

Fr. Pollard is parochial vicar of St. Mary Church in Alexandria.

Source: Arlington Catholic Herald

How to Pray When Life Blows Up

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13

"Prayer is not everything but everything is by prayer."

So said Ray Ortlund. All Christians would agree with that statement. No matter what our background, instinctively we know prayer is central to the Christian life.

We all know we ought to pray.
We all feel we should pray more than we do.

Life can change so quickly. The phone rings and a voice says, "I've got bad news."
It could be anything:

A failed exam.
The test came back positive.
Your granddaughter is sick.
Your son goes to jail for drunk driving.
The company doesn't need you anymore.
"I'm being sued."
A friendship suddenly ends.
Suicide.
You discover another woman or another man.

Time stops. Life will never be the same again. How will you find the strength to go on? You try to pray, but the words won't come. How do you pray when life blows up? We can find an answer in 1 Thessalonians 3:10-13.

Paul knew the Thessalonians were near the breaking point, and that's why he sent Timothy to check on them. When Timothy came back with a good report that the believers were standing firm under pressure, Paul's joy knew no bounds. He was encouraged (v. 7), the news was like a new lease on life to him (v. 8), and he couldn't stop thanking God for them (v. 9). That brings us to Paul's prayer in verses 10-13. Here is an excellent way to pray for those going through a hard time. It's worth pondering because every week we're asked to pray for people in difficulty. Very rarely does anyone say, "Things are going great. Pray for me."

Here are three ways to pray when life blows up.

First, you should pray for . . .

I. Faith Without Holes

"Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith" (v. 10).

Note these four facts about the way Paul prayed:

1. His prayer was constant.

Paul says he prayed day and night. When was the last time you lost sleep because you were praying? I remember Len Hoppe often talked about how God would wake him up in the middle of the night to pray. Has that ever happened to you?

2. His prayer was earnest.

Paul uses a very unusual expression that has the idea of going above and beyond all normal measures. You might translate it with the phrase "super abundantly." Prayer must be earnest to be effective. Weak, shallow, half-hearted prayers produce weak, shallow, half-hearted results. God says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). James 5:16 reminds us that "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (NKJV). So what is a "fervent" prayer? The Greek means something like "boiling." It has nothing to do with your posture, whether you are sitting or standing or lying down, and it doesn't matter whether your eyes are open or closed. A boiling prayer has nothing to do with how loud you pray or how many words you use. It's not about folding your hands or waving them above your head.

So what's a boiling prayer? Let me put it this way. When they take your four-year-old granddaughter away for life-saving surgery, no one will have to tell you what to do. You will pray a boiling prayer right there in the waiting room at the hospital. You may not utter any audible words, but your heart will pray a boiling prayer

I remember hearing a preacher say that when his wife was in a terrible automobile accident, he was so overcome that all he could do was cry out, "Oh God! Oh Jesus!" Looking back, he said it felt like that was the first time in his life he had really prayed.

When anything becomes life or death to you, you'll pray an earnest, fervent, boiling prayer, and it won't matter how long or how short you pray.

Paul cared so much for these young Thessalonian believers that he couldn't help but pray earnestly for them. We should do the same for the people we love.

3. His prayer was practical.

He said he was praying "that we may see you again." Do you pray about your everyday affairs? If you are a salesman, you should pray about your appointments. If you are a doctor, you should pray for your patients. If you are a teacher, you should pray for your students. If you work in an office, you should pray for your fellow workers. Nothing is too small to bring to God's attention. If it matters to you, it matters to him.

4. His prayer was purposeful.

Paul had a particular goal in mind. He wanted to supply what was lacking in their faith. The word "supply" was used for mending torn nets and setting broken bones. He used the same word in Galatians 6:1 for restoring sinning saints and in Ephesians 4:12 for equipping all the saints for the work of ministry. It's what an equipment manager does before the start of a football game. He makes sure the players have their helmets because if they go into the game without a helmet, they are going to get clobbered in the head.

So here's the prayer:

"O God, my brothers and sisters are in a great spiritual battle. I pray they will be fully equipped for whatever they might face. Grant them strong faith-with no holes!-so they can stand and fight victoriously no matter how hot the battle may be."

We pass on to the second way to pray when life blows up.

II. Love Without Limits

"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you" (v. 12).

Love is the supreme grace. You can never have too much of it. You can never have enough of it. Paul is saying, "I pray God will make you an overflowing fountain of love." He is praying they might become "Super Lovers."

Many years ago this song was made popular by Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

I've had occasion to think about that over the long, hot summer months that brought such turmoil to cities across America. We happen to live in Dallas. Not in a suburb, but in the city itself, not far from White Rock Lake on the east side of the city. Many times I've taken a bike ride along the Santa Fe Trail to downtown, ridden Main Street through Deep Ellum, and then on Main Street down to Lamar in the heart of the city. That's where I head north on Lamar to Houston Street, where I turn right and ride past American Airlines Center where the Dallas Mavericks play basketball. I catch the Katy Trail, then cross North Central Expressway, and start winding my way back home. I mention that because I've ridden my bike many times at the intersection of Main Street and Lamar where the shooting took place on July 7th that ended with five Dallas police officers killed and nine others wounded.

That tragedy shook our city and made headlines across America. The morning after the shooting, Dallas police officer Bryan Woodard posted a video on Facebook (viewed over 7 million times) that urged people to pray for peace. Near the end, he repeated a phrase that has spread around the world: "I refuse to see hate live while love dies."

That strikes me as a truly Christian point of view. If we know the Lord, then love must be our rule of life, even when people around us have given in to anger and hatred. We discover a lot about ourselves when we are tired, discouraged, angry and afraid. I don't mean to suggest that increasing and overflowing in love is easy. It isn't, especially in trying times. But it is precisely at this point that what we believe about the gospel gets put to the test. If someone asks me to give the answer to the problems that plague our world, I don't know the political answers or the legal answers, but I do know the gospel answer. We are all sinners in desperate need of the grace of God. The ground is level at the foot of the cross because God doesn't play favorites. We're all in the same boat, and the boat is going down. If God doesn't do something, we're all going to drown.

But God has done something!

In the cross of Christ, the love of God has broken through to rescue us, to heal us, to forgive us, and to make us a community of brothers and sisters who show the world that reconciliation and healing is possible. I know we're far from that reality today, but if we believe what the Bible says, then we must believe real change is possible, not only on a personal basis but also on a community basis.

When the church is united, God is glorified and the world is amazed. In a world filled with so much killing, so much pain, so many broken hearts and so many fractured lives, a truly united church will be irresistibly attractive to many hurting people. But it's easier to talk about this than to put it into practice. We're all pretty good at liking people like us. But lots of people aren't like us, and they aren't very easy to like either.

How can we apply this truth? I have two suggestions:

A) Pray for unity. Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring unity in the larger body of Christ. Pray for a deeper unity in your congregation. Ask God to reveal and remove any wrong attitudes that hinder the work of his Spirit in your midst.

B) Ask yourself a hard question: "Am I willing for God to change me?" It's a lot easier to think others need to change. "My kids are driving me nuts. Change them, Lord!" "My husband ignores me. Change him, Lord!" "My wife is getting on my nerves, and my boss is a jerk. Change them both, Lord!" Perhaps we should all pray this simple Chinese prayer: "O Lord, change the world. Begin, I pray Thee, with me." As the old spiritual says, "It's me, it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer." Before we ask God to change anyone else, we'd better look in the mirror.

Let's pray for ourselves and for each other that our love might increase and overflow, not only to our friends but to those we don't know and even to those who may not like us very much.

There is yet a third way to pray when life blows up. Pray for . . .

III. Strength Without Flaws

"May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones" (v. 13).

The word "strengthen" means to buttress something, like the famous "flying buttresses" of cathedrals in the Middle Ages. If you are going to stand strong in the time of trial, your heart must have a strong foundation, one free of cracks, flaws, and weak areas. Nothing reveals the true condition of the heart like difficulty, setbacks, opposition, and hardship. Most of us can be strong while the sun is shining and life is good, but when the thunder clouds of trouble rumble overhead, all the inner flaws are likely to be revealed. Whatever is in the heart must come out eventually. If there is anger in the heart, it will eventually come out. If there is greed or lust, it too will come out. And if there is love and kindness and forgiveness and mercy, that will also be revealed. Nowhere will your heart be on clearer display than in the trials of life.

God uses our trials to say to the watching world: "Here is what a real Christian looks like!" He has been battered and bruised by life, his face is streaked with tears, the days are hard and the nights are long, but here—yes, here!!! —right here, this is what a Christian looks like. Is he always victorious? No. Is he always triumphant? No. Does he sometimes have doubts? Yes. But here he stands, a supernatural creation of the grace of God. Take a look, world. He is not perfect, but he is a child of God.

Here, then, is a prayer to pray when life blows up. Pray for . . .

Faith without holes,
Love without limits,
Strength without flaws.

Think about this for a moment. You are where you are today because somebody prayed for you.

Somebody prayed, and you came to Christ.
Somebody prayed, and you found a job.
Somebody prayed, and you were healed.
Somebody prayed, and you were rescued in the middle of the night.
Somebody prayed, and your marriage was saved.
Somebody prayed, and you said no to temptation.
Somebody prayed, and you didn't give up.
Somebody prayed, and you made the right decision.
Somebody prayed, and you experienced God's power.

No one knows how much sin and sorrow we've been saved from because somebody prayed for us.

What is the application? Pray! Pray, pray, and keep on praying. Do for others what others have done for you. When we can serve people in no other way, we can pray for them. By prayer we cast a pebble of faith into a lake of hope. Though the pebble sinks, the ripples go on and on and on. We'll never know the difference our prayers have made until we get to heaven.

I close with the question Jesus asked in Luke 18:8, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" As we move closer to the Last Days and the end of the world as we know it, anxiety will rise, tumult will increase, nerves will fray, society itself will be shaken to the core, troubles will mount, and it will seem as if the world is spinning out of control. What should we do to hold on to our faith?

We should pray.
Earnestly, fervently, repeatedly, unitedly, persistently.

If you believe Jesus is coming back . . . pray, pray, and keep on praying.

When the Son of Man comes . . .

Will he find faith in your church?
Will he find faith in your family?
Will he find faith in your heart?

Lord Jesus, grant that we might not be discouraged even a little bit by the things that happen around us. We want to pray and to pray more than we do. We ask for "praying grace" so when the Son of Man comes, he will find faith on the earth made manifest in our prayers. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.

Five Reasons Why God Isnt Answering Your Prayers

by Cindi McMenamin

Do you ever feel like God isn't answering your prayers?

I heard from someone last week who asked "How long am I supposed to pray if God continues to ignore me?"

It might feel like God is ignoring you when He doesn't answer your prayers the way you're hoping. But Scripture offers us insights as to why God might appear to be silent. One verse that I've found most helpful in my own life - when it comes to unanswered prayer - is Psalm 84:11, in which the Psalmist said "No good thing will [God] withhold from those who walk uprightly." I find three principles (and loads of encouragement) in this verse for why God might not be answering my prayer or yours.

1. God's idea of a "good thing" might be different than yours.

You might be praying for a husband, a job you've been hoping for, or to win the lottery. Why would God not give you any or all of the three? Because even though you might feel it's good for you to be married, or to be working in a job you like, or to have more money, God's opinion might differ. Just because something makes us happy doesn't mean it's good for us, eternally. And God has our eternal best in mind.

In Matthew 7:11 Jesus said, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him."

We want our children to be happy, but not at the expense of their health, and therefore we don't give them candy at every meal. We want them to hold down a good job, but we won't do that job for them because learning responsibility and the consequences of a bad decision are more healthy and good for them in the long run. Trust that God, your Heavenly Father, knows what is best for you. And while you may be heartbroken at His "no," He may very well be sparing you a bigger heartache down the road.

2. God is waiting for you to be obedient.

Scripture exhorts husbands to be considerate of their wives and treat them with respect so that their prayers aren't hindered (1 Peter 3:7). And Psalm 84:11 says "no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Are you walking uprightly? Is your life not only obedient, but surrendered to Him? If not, God may be withholding or refusing to acknowledge your prayers to get you back into line with His will and purposes.

3. It isn't the right time.

God has three answers. Yes, no, and wait. Because He can see what's eternally best for us, and He can also see what's coming down the road (and we can't), trust His judgment. Don't second-guess Him. His timing is always better than yours. If you are walking uprightly and what you're asking for is truly a good thing then, according to Psalm 84:11, God is not withholding after all. It just isn't time.

4. You aren't asking in faith.

How we pray is just as important as what we pray for. In James 1:5-8 we are told:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do."

Furthermore, Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." So ask in faith and without hesitation or doubting. God may be waiting for you to truly believe He can do what you are asking for.

5. God has something better for you than what you are asking for.

This is my favorite reason for why God says "no" but we so often forget to consider it. Because He is good and knows what's eternally best for us, and doesn't want us to settle, God sometimes says no or closes a door because He has something better for us that we haven't even thought to ask for. He is One who can do "immeasurably more" than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). Trust His timing. Trust His "no." And trust His idea of what is eternally best for you. He really is a good father.

About The Author:

Cindi McMenamin helps women and couples deal with the struggles of life through her books, When Women Walk Alone , When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts, When Couples Walk Together and When God Sees Your Tears. For more on her 15 books, national speaking ministry, and free resources to strengthen your soul, marriage or parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Recovery from Critical Illness
by the Intercessory Prayers of Pampady Thirumeni

by LL Geevarghese Mar Ivanios

While Lord Jesus Christ was teaching the multitudes, some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They tried to take him inside the house and put him in front of the Lord. However, as they could find no way due to the thronging of the crowd, they climbed on to the roof, removed some tiles and lowered the man on the bed down into the middle of the room, right in front of Christ. When Jesus Christ realized the magnitude of faith they had, He said to the paralyzed man, "Your sins are forgiven". He then uttered, "I tell you, get up, pick up your bed and go home". At once the man got up in front of them all, took the bed he had been lying on and went home.

- as recorded by St. Luke in the Holy Bible.

It is quite evident in the above instance that our Lord cured the paralytic person not because of the faith shown by him, but on the contrary, by witnessing the staunch faith delineated by those who brought him. This incident points out and clarifies that the Lord will be compassionate to a person even by the prayers of others. In accordance with the exhortations of Jesus Christ, "Those who believe in me shall live even if he dies; those who live and believe in me shall not die", Orthodox Church teaches that there is no death for a faithful and even though 'dead' is a word in common usage, it is only meant to denote one's departing from the earthly body. Moreover, the Orthodox Christians believe that even though the departed faithful are invisible, they too, like any other living persons, are members of the Holy Church and the same fruition can be availed when they pray for a living person, similar to the effect of prayers by the living faithful for one another. One can attain Lord's grace by his own prayers for self or by the prayers of others for him.

It has been our untainted faith that the Saints who departed from their bodies live with Christ and they also continue to pray for those living in their bodies. When the Saints are requested to intercede for them by those who take refuge in their prayers, mediation of the Saints is wholeheartedly accepted. They get a chance to share the solidarity of the Saints. Moreover, they also become obliged to imitate the Saints. The author of the Epistle to Hebrews instructs the faithful to remember those who had preached the Word of God and led them. He advises to reminisce the memory of the end of their lives and be imitators of their faith.

Pampady Thirumeni, although departed from the earthly body, still continues to live. He persists to pray for others still, the very same way he used to do while living in the body. Prayers of that Saint are effective and fruitful. Those who indulge in the refuge of the Holy Father's intercessory prayers are numerous.

I had served Karapuzha Mar Gregorios Chapel as its Vicar from 1973 till 1985. In 1978, I was confronted with a fatal illness. First, I was admitted at the Carithas Hospital. Later on I was transferred to Kolenchery Hospital. But once again I was shifted to Carithas Hospital where my illness got diagnosed. I soon realized that I was affected with the deadly disease Cancer, which had already begun encompassing me. I reached a particular mental state of affairs.

Everyone felt that healing/remedy was impossible. Just before I was being taken to Adayar Cancer Institute in Madras from Carithas Hospital, my colleague at seminary, Rev Fr. K.M. Alexander came near me and asked, "Acha, What are your feelings in your mind right now?".

I replied that a Bible verse was surfacing in my mind then. St John 11:40, "You will see God's glory if you believe".

Respected Achen prayed only after pacifying me to expect and believe so. My relatives and friends who had gathered there bid farewell to me. In the meantime an unaffordable amount had been already spent on my treatment. Bill of Carithas Hospital was settled with an amount taken as loan. Immediately after reaching Adayar Cancer Institute and undergoing the preliminary check up, the Chief Medical Officer informed me, "Father, you must be admitted immediately. You need not pay anything. We will do our best. The rest is in God's hands".

Chemotherapy treatment started instantly. Before long, I started losing my hair and beard. At one point of time only three whiskers remained on my chin. I was moving into a hopeless condition. The second phase of treatment was very crucial and critical. I became unconscious. I slipped into a sinking stage. Fierce fight against death had already begun. Doctors informed my bystanders that they would come to know the result within 10 minutes. My colleagues and friends had already undertaken arrangements with regard to transferring my dead body back home and elaborate plans for funeral also got finalized.

At that time, while being in an unconscious state, I had a vision. Four Saints were standing near me! One of them asked me, "Why are you lying down?". He told me to sit upright. I saw that he was lending a helping hand to make me sit on the bed. Suddenly all the four Saints disappeared.

Myself and those near me were wonderstruck as I was by then sitting upright on the bed, fully conscious, as if resurrected from death. I got miraculously cured! Treatment was started in May 1978. But, by November 1978, by the Grace of God, I was again able to celebrate Holy Qurbana!

After 2 years, while on a check up visit to Adayar, Dr Subramanya Swami (the earlier mentioned Doctor who had treated me during the critical period) asked me, "Father, How are you?" I replied that I was keeping good health. His reply was, "Father, I am very pleased to see you in good health. Now I believe in prayer".

I was bestowed with the grace of God in abundance. I was relieved from a very critical illness. Gradually my hair and beard began to grow. I regained my former status. In March 1979, I was raised as Ramban. In 1985, I reached the position of Metropolitan. I was infected with cancer while I was in the service of the Chapel of Pampady Thirumeni. I am sure that Pampady Thirumeni had been praying for me. I had been taking refuge in the intercessory prayers of Thirumeni regularly. I firmly believe that by the power of prayer, especially by the prayers of Pampady Thirumeni, my illness got cured. I received the blessings from the invisible hands of the Holy Saint while serving in his Chapel. It was because of those blessings that I was fortunate to become his successor as the Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese. The Lord hears the fervent prayers of the righteous.

Source: English translation of an article written by H.G. Geevarghese Mar Ivanios of Kottayam Diocese, published in Malayala Manorama special supplement dated 19th January 2006. by George Abraham

A Word from the Lord and a Saint as to what Prayer Does

by Msgr. Charles Pope

I think one of the joys of heaven will be to finally see what our prayers actually wrought. Yes, even our distracted and imperfect prayers, by God’s grace may well have had the power to bring immense healing, cast out demons, cancel discouragement, push back temptation and even turn away wars.

I know that I am the result of prayer. My conversion to the Lord and my subsequent healing over the years are inexplicable to me, except that someone, indeed, some many, were praying for me.

And so, something tells me that a special joy of heaven will be to know and see what prayer did for us, and what our prayers did for others. For now, things can seem discouraging at times. The effects of our prayers may seem subtle or even non-existent. But God is working his purposes out and collecting and dispensing the fruits of our prayer in due season.

Anyway, I thought of all this yesterday as I was reading from The Dialogue of Catherine of Siena. And therein, the Lord speaks to her of what the prayers of the faithful do and how they release grace and set souls free. Here are some excerpts:

The sufferings you endure will, through the power of charity, suffice to win both atonement and reward for you and others…The stains of your foolishness will be blotted out, and I will no longer remember that you have ever offended me.

As for the others, because of your loving charity, I will pardon them in proportion to their receptiveness….They will come in this way to truly know and regret their sins, and so, because of my servants’ prayers they will receive the fruit of grace….They will receive both forgiveness and its gifts, unless their stubbornness is such that they despair….

I look on them and give them light. I rouse the dog of conscience within them. I make them sensitive to the perfume of virtue and give them delight in the fellowship of my servants. Sometimes I allow the world to show them its true colors….that they may know how inconstant it is and be more eager to seek their homeland in eternal life.

The eye cannot see nor the tongue tell, nor can the heart imagine how many paths and methods I have, solely for love and to lead them back to grace so that my truth may be realized in them. (Dialogue # 4)

Yes, here is what prayer and sacrifice unleash. Continue to pray and do not doubt the words of the Lord who says that our heart cannot imagine all the paths he can open for others back to grace, the Church and the Sacraments, back to Him.

Of this I am a witness that, by the prayers of others, especially my Grandmother and mother, that the dog of conscience was roused, the glory of virtue came to be appreciated, the gift of walking in fellowship with the Church was restored, the true colors of the world were seen, and the goal of heaven loved more dearly. I have see these things come alive, mysteriously, but truly. And I know it was not me. It was the prayers, and it was the Lord.

Keep praying and don’t lose heart. It will bear its fruit in due season.

Source: Archdiocese of Washington

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