In the Catholic Church we have a tradition called the "O Antiphons". Although these are usually prayed during the time before Christmas, they provide an excellent way to reflect and pray during the Christmas season. The antiphons give seven titles for the Savior and relate to seven prophecies in Isaiah. They are O Wisdom, O Lord, O Flower of Jesse's Stem, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O King of All the Nations, O Emmanuel.
Wisdom, of course, is a common title for God in the Old Testament. In Isaiah we find it among the gifts of the Spirit in 11:2-3. "The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord - and he will delight in the fear of the Lord."
For Reflection: Many people tell me they have trouble praising God. To praise someone is to compliment them on their good traits or good deeds. So let's use just these two verses from Isaiah to praise God.
Let us pray. Jesus, you are wise and understanding, you are powerful and have all knowledge, you give sound counsel and you delight in the fear of God.
Monday we spoke of the diplomatic mission of Kingdom ambassadors. The message of that mission is reconciliation with God, with ourselves and with others. For whatever reason, Christians have not yet completed that mission.
We are not alone in this mission, as no ambassador is alone. We have the full faith and credit of the Kingdom of God behind us. We have Jesus behind us. He promised, "I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20). We have the Holy Spirit behind us. "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16).
For reflection: Many people will be gathering with family this week. It is often our families with whom we most need to be reconciled. Can we humble ourselves and be the first to say, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"
Let us pray. Jesus, there are people in my family whom I have hurt. Please open the door and help me to say, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"
What else might the Kingdom of God on earth look like? The next line from Isaiah, read by Jesus in the temple, is "recovery of sight for the blind" (Luke 4:18). This restoration of sight can be spiritual or physical. Either way it is a good thing and helps to bring about the Kingdom.
Spiritual sight would mean that people would know God. If all people on earth knew God the world would be a different place. It would be a world of love and mercy, peace and justice. For if we know Christ and have the Spirit of God, then "we have the mind of Christ" as St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 2:16). Being like-minded in Christ is a recurring them for Paul. "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ . . if any fellowship with the Spirit . . . (have) the same love, (be) one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:1-5).
For reflection: Do I know God? Do I have the Holy Spirit? To what extent am I spiritually blind? Do I really see other people and their needs?
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to be like-minded with you. I want to see people the way you see them. I want to see people's actions and circumstances the way you see them. I want to help bring about the Kingdom of God on earth. Your kingdom come, your will be done.
Asking for needs versus wants can seem like a disappointment in prayer if our basic needs for food, shelter and safety are met. But Jesus considers something else as a basic necessity: Holy Spirit. He tells us this in Luke 11:11-13, "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
The fish and the egg represent a basic necessity - food. And a child needs to have food given to her. We wouldn't expect a child to earn food. Further Jesus speaks of his Father as giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives does not have to be earned and is as much a necessity as food.
For reflection: How much Holy Spirit do I have in my life? How much do I need?
Let us pray. Father, giver of all good gifts, I ask today for more of the presence of your Holy Spirit in my life. I have a great need for the strengthening, the power and the love of the Holy Spirit.
Lately I have been asking God for keys. (No, not car keys or house keys.) What is the key for healing autism? What is the key for healing multiple sclerosis? What is the key for healing down syndrome? What is the key for healing asthma or allergies? I haven't been asking for treatments, I've been asking keys to healing. When Jesus walked the earth, he healed people, he didn't treat them. He didn't offer a treatment to the 10 lepers. He didn't offer a treatment for blindness or lameness. That's not to say that I don't appreciate everything doctors today can do to treat and heal. I do appreciate them and their knowledge. But there are so many diseases for which we have no answers as to cause, no treatment for relief, and no cure.
Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Luke 11:9).
For reflection: Can we join together in asking God for keys to healing? What disease affects you or your family?
Let us pray. Jesus, we are asking, we are seeking, we are knocking. Please give us the keys to open the doors of healing. Holy Spirit, author of hope, inspire us with the answers.
Paul's letter to his assistant Timothy is full of instructions. Earlier we looked at his instruction about praying for governmental leaders. Today let's look at 1 Timothy 2:8. Paul says he wants "men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing". I don't know how common it is for men to pray with hands uplifted. It is probably more common in some churches and gatherings than in others. Lifting hands is a sign of lifting hearts and minds to God. That prayer posture - lifted hands - also causes us to lift our heads. It's a completely different prayer posture from bowing our heads and clasping our hands.
Paul's instruction "without anger or disputing" was probably because Timothy's group had been doing just that. It reminds me of Jesus' admonition in Matthew 5:23-24, "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift". Lifting hands and hearts is difficult when we are angry or arguing with someone.
For reflection: What posture(s) do I assume when in prayer? Do they differ with the type of prayer (prayer of thanksgiving, praise, petition, sorrow)?
Let us pray. Today, Father, I lift up my holy hands in praise to you. You are the King, eternal, immortal, invisible. You are my source of inspiration. Honor and glory are yours forever and ever.
After putting on the armor of God there is one more element Paul mentions for success in defeating the enemy, and it is prayer. Paul says, "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Eph 6:18). I realize that praying in the Spirit, or praying in tongues, is controversial. I don't know if it was controversial in Paul's churches or not, but he speaks of it and recommends it frequently. He thought it was extremely important as a tool for both offense and defense, and for worship.
Just as the armor of God is a gift (there is no way to earn it or manufacture it), praying in the spirit is a gift (see 1 Cor 12 - 14). We can ask the Father for it and receive it as long as we will be responsible for using it. We must be diligent in using whatever God gives us. I think praying in the Spirit is the only way we can "pray always" or "on all occasions". With practice we can train our subconscious to pray in the Spirit at all times.
What about "with all kinds of prayers and requests"? I often think my prayers are not big enough. I don't have God's vision for the big picture - and I should. We know that God wants all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-5). We can pray for the safety and salvation of entire countries, or certain populations, or even towns.
For reflection: What area or what people is God laying on my heart for prayer? Is it a nation, or people who suffer from a certain illness, or refugees, or a religious denomination?
Let us pray. Father, I open myself more to your Spirit. I open myself to praying in the Spirit. Lead me to pray as you want for what you want, to join my vision to your vision, to see as you see, to love as you love, to bring about your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Paul continues in Ephesians 6 to describe an entire suit of armor to protect us in battles against evil. In addition to the belt of truth, he mentions the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation. Those are all for defense and really depend on faith in God and what God can do and has promised to do.
The sword of the Spirit is an offensive weapon. It is the word of God which can be used to combat the words of the evil one such as Jesus did when tempted in the desert. He came right back at Satan with Scripture (Mt 4:1-11) to contradict what Satan said. We can't fight the father of lies if we don't recognize the lie for what it is and know the Scripture which contradicts and overcomes it.
The other part of God's armor which Paul mentions is the shoes of the gospel of peace (Eph 6:15). Most see these as another defensive weapon, but I see them as an offensive weapon. The shoes of the gospel of peace enable us to go forward, to tread on the enemy (Christ has put Satan under his feet), and to spread the gospel of peace where the enemy engenders war, chaos and death.
Again, our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:11-12).
For reflection: God provides the armor. Will I take it up and use it?
Let us pray. Jesus, help me to recognize my true enemies. By faith help me to take up your armor and continue to go where you lead me, spreading your good news, your gospel of peace throughout the earth.
On the national Mall today there is a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the famous "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King. Dr. King had a big dream, but God's dream is bigger still.
God's dream is contained in Jesus' prayer, "that all may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:21-23).
For reflection: Have I bought into God's dream? What am I doing to bring it about?
Let us pray. Jesus, we join our prayer with yours today - that we may all be one even as you and the Father are one.
We interrupt our story of Cornelius, the Roman officer, to let you know what is happening with Peter. We skipped over Acts 9:43 about Peter staying in the home of a tanner named Simon. Since a tanner handled dead animals, Simon would be considered "unclean". So Peter was breaking a Jewish tradition, and making himself ritually unclean, by staying with Simon.
About the time Cornelius is sending his men to bring Peter to his house, Peter has a vision wherein a voice tells him to "kill and eat" all the kinds of unclean animals he is seeing. Peter refuses because he has never eaten unclean foods before. The voice says, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Peter carries on this exchange three times (Acts 10:9-16). Peter comes out of the vision, and while he is still thinking about it, the Holy Spirit tells him three men are coming to fetch him (the ones sent by Cornelius) and he should go with them.
The next day Peter and a group of disciples set out for Cornelius's house. Going into the home of Cornelius, a gentile, also breaks another Jewish tradition which would again make Peter ritually unclean just as staying in the home of Simon the tanner did. But now Peter realizes the message God was giving him in the vision - he should not call any person unclean (Acts 10:27-29).
For reflection: Am I judging others as being "unclean", beneath me or not worth my time? (By the way, I saw Woody Allen's movie "Blue Jasmine" over the weekend, and it has this same theme. The truths of the Gospel are always current.)
Let us pray. Father, forgive me for the times when I have looked down on others, turned them away, passed them by. Help me to see all people as persons you have created and whom you love. Help me to see them and love them as you do.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.