Pray Without Ceasing

Pray Without Ceasing

 

How is your prayer life? Do you have a regular prayer regime? Is the praise of God always on the tip of your tongue? Back in the mid 90s a certain bible passage struck a cord with me. I took it as a personal challenge – to have an attitude adjustment: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

This book is a challenge to Catholics to embrace their baptismal and confirmation faith. My encouragement is to move beyond an elementary school level understanding of what it means to be Christian, and the Church. Moving forward, you’ll need to understand that the Protestant “sinner’s prayer” and the words you spoke in confirmation contain virtually the same meaning. The only valid distinction that should be made, whether you are Catholic or Protestant, is what was your “intention?” We’re you just going through the motions due to family or peer pressure? Or, did you have a heart-felt conversion (salvation) experience. This is your personal responsibility, not that of any particular church, priest, pastor or preacher.

Prayer is part of the secret to a rich and fulfilling Life in the Spirit

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Pray Without Ceasing

Preface

WOW, I’m not intending to be braggadocios, but I am approaching 50 years in the Christian Faith. During that period, I’ve been through both good times and not so good seasons. There have been times where my faith was rock solid, and, other times that faith was the furthest thing from my mind. However, the one consistency is that God was always there. Even in the messiest situations. Just like most Christians, I’ve gone through periods of my life where my only prayers seemed to be “Lord help me…” So, I know how you feel, I’ve felt that way myself. If you’re looking for advice from the “perfect Christian” – you’ll need to look somewhere else.

 

There seems to be a prevailing attitude in the world that “I’ll only approach God on my own terms.” Prayer for many is problematic, not due to a lack of faith, but lack of time. This aspect in particular resonates with my past. For others, they don’t “feel worthy” to approach such a Holy God. For these people, their self-perception of guilt is a barrier between them and the Divine.

How is your prayer life? Do you have a regular prayer regime? Is the praise of God always on the tip of your tongue? Back in the mid 90s a certain bible passage struck a cord with me. I took it as a personal challenge – to have an attitude adjustment: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

This has been my journey and focus for the past 20 years. I’ve found that it is possible to live this admonition. I am not saying that it was easy, or that I’ve found the perfect solution. I am not even saying that I never have personal failures along the way. What I am saying is that through some of the tips and processes that I’ve gleaned and put into practice over the past two decades, my personal focus on God has been strengthened and I have attained a heightened awareness of God’s presence. He is virtually top of mind in all that I say and do.

In this writing the terms Catholic and Christian are synonymous and usually interchangeable. At times I will be making comparisons and comments regarding Protestant and non-denominational Christian Churches. As I’ve journeyed to Catholicism via several Protestant churches, my comments are gleaned from personal experiences and study, and not intended to be pejorative. Even though I am a convert to the Catholic/Christian Faith, I still value much that my previous Christian paradigms have added to my own spirituality – we are more closely aligned than many wish to admit.

I was raised in a non-churched home, with a bit of Lutheran influence from my maternal grand parents. At about 8 years old I got on board the Bible Bus with a school chum and was “saved” at Nutwood Street Baptist Church in Garden Grove, California. Without follow through, either at home or in the church, that initial experience did not build a sound foundation in the basics of faith and a life in the Spirit. At its inception, this newfound faith had seemingly little impact. Like many youth I was influenced by peer pressure and did many things that, looking back I would not be proud to repeat today.

However, as a young adult, I returned to the Church of Christ. This time it was in the Church of God denomination. This Church is (similar to the Baptists) is more of a “fundamentalist,” bible-believing church that also would be considered a charismatic denomination. In this environment I inculcated the fundamentalist stance, rejecting the “traditions’ of the Church as if they were merely “teachings of men.”

Life for many can become messy, and our paths can and do take quite a few twists and turns. One such twist, for me, was my journey to Catholicism. As a divorced, Evangelical, Protestant, I married a Cradle Catholic. I guess, in some ways, this might have been sort of a conversion project on my part; I would win her over to the “true Christian Faith.” What occurred was just the opposite. My wife and I eventually found ourselves within an independent Catholic Church, where all Christians were invited to become full participants in the sacramental ministry. In fact, the pastor of this particular parish was a former evangelical minister as well.

This was the beginning of my journey into Catholic spirituality. My heart opened up to the beauty and fullness that the ancient Church had to offer. In my searching and study, I found that my Evangelical Christian heart could faithfully translate the language of Catholic faith.

The Roman Catholic Church speaks about the “fullness of faith.”1 In the past, my heart translated that as being a smug, and spiritually egotistical statement of exclusion. To my Evangelical ears that statement threw up walls that seemingly confirmed all that my early Christian education taught.

Some regular subjects on my frequent blog posts are the need for a “radical transformation,” and a “right focus.” When my own faith focus changed from self assurance, of which is (IMHO) a common result of evangelicalism/fundamentalism, I was able to truly understand how much I didn’t know. This was, for me, another radical transformation.

Embracing this lack of knowledge was quite liberating, it allowed me the freedom to explore the ancient traditions of the Church with a new mindset. It became apparent (in my mind), that in their zeal to disavow all things Catholic, the reformers had lost sight of the beauty and efficacy of ancient Christian spirituality. Yes, Protestants pray, and even encourage prayer, but, generally speaking, they look upon the ancient rituals and prayer methodology with disdain and suspicion. To be fair, many Catholics, due to cultural inculcation as well as insufficient formation, may misplace their focus. But, Catholics are not alone in this matter. You’ll find Christians of every flavor who are not fully or rightly formed in their faith.

The further in time we are removed from any practice the less we understand. In the instance of prayer, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. Though traditional Catholic prayer life may include ancient elements, ritual and repetition, it is not the repetitive nature that is important, it the locus of the focus. Saints, angles, or repetitive prayer will not “save you,” to use Protestant vernacular, it is only the gift of God freely given that we find the ultimate hope of salvation. It is through Christ focused, faith-based prayer that we are able to appropriate God’s blessings into our lives.

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MICHAEL CALLAHAN

Michael Callahan is the Presiding Archbishop of the Catholic Church in America as well as the International Catholic Confederation. Bishop Callahan is also the founder of Koinonia News and has been a conservative blogger for several years.

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