PRAISE PRIORITY

 

 

– Praise: our eternal vocation

– Praying is making a meeting and letting us being moulded

– Praying “incessantly” and “without getting discouraged”

– Praying on each occasion, until we “become prayer itself”

– Praying in the Spirit can transform us into Jesus.

 

We have always been called to prayer.

At the dawn of a still innocent Creation, Adam “would talk” with God, Who liked to stay with him, while walking in the garden in the evening. Throughout the Scripture we can see “God’s friends” being attracted into an intimate and confident talk. Abram welcome God home, together with a promise. Because of that, afterwards he would dare ask Him not to destroy his town. Moses prays on the top of the mountain and receives the Tables of the Covenant in order to form and lead a People. In Psalms we can read that God “sleeps” while we are like sheep led to the slaughter… Those who have fully accepted to belong to Him can express themselves with the whole authenticity of what they feel in their hearts, those hearts that God will “search” night and day. In the same way Job too can struggle and bemoan about his misfortunes but he is anyway convinced that “happy is the man who is corrected by God”. And so on . The Story of Salvation, which leads all mankind to be able to recognize and receive the One Who is Salvation, is the story of all those let themselves being attracted into this mysterious talk, where they have been made able to show that originally man “was made in God’s own image and likeness”. In fact was able to talk to Him face to face.

With Jesus this talk becomes a perfect one: “..even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:21). Then Jesus goes on: “…they also may be in us…”. We consider that being attracted and merged in this love talk is not only a gift and an “opportunity”. It is the only way if we really want to belong to Him. That is not an optional of our Christian and charismatic life. It is what defines our identity, making it possible and feeding it.

We the Christians are “defined” as such by prayer: whether and how do we pray, what intensity and quality has got our prayer…?  Are we aware that we are the voice in the world which is able to recognize Jesus and proclaim Him as the Lord. praising and blessing Him? Our prayer is not just for us but for the whole Creation and for our times. Only through our prayer, they can be disposed to wait for the final completion of everything, while trying to anticipate the coming of the Kingdom of Heavens, according to the Lord’s promise.

We live in order to pray. We live with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the New Man who has Himself fully become a living prayer. We live to give back the full primacy to the Grace, in the certitude that we can do nothing without Him, nor we want to. “There is a temptation that always hampers each spiritual path and pastoral action itself – wrote Pope John Paul II – that is to think that results depend on our ability to make and plan. Of course God asks us for a genuine cooperation with His grace and so He invites us to put all our intelligence and effectiveness skills into our service for the cause of the Kingdom. But for Heaven’s sake never forget that “Without Jesus we can do nothing!” (Duc in altum, no. 38).

And, what is more, being the Risen Jesus Community, we bear His name!

We were born with this specific vocation: we are a “community of praise and evangelization”, as our statute says. On the other hand, this vocation is the same for the whole Charismatic Renewal, which is really founded on prayer and, through it, on the Holy Spirit’s charismatic action.

Without prayer neither the wait for the Spirit nor His manifestation and His gifts would exist. As a consequence the Renewal would not exist nor we would.

Such is the “Holy Path” that the Lord gave to us freely, without anyone of us making big efforts to get it or deserving to find it someway.

“What is the Holy Path that God gave to us that live the Charismatic Renewal? said Jacqueline in her teachings – It is the charismatic prayer, which is listening to God indeed, to the Spirit’s request. Praying charismatically is to live again the explosion of God’s power which founded the Church, it is to live again the experience of the Cenacle, the wait for the Spirit. When we are distracted, when we are caught back by our human nature, then we gather, waiting that the Spirit will manifest Himself in us. The Spirit will let us waiting for a bit, since he wants us to be purified of our defects, of our idols, but then He shows Himself. He does that not only during the Baptism in the Spirit….everyday I have to wait for the Spirit, letting that He will manifest Himself in the different situations of my life. I have to offer myself to the Spirit. I have to welcome Him, letting myself being filled by Him. Offering ourselves to God is to make ourselves available , saying to God: “Make of me whatever you like: here I am, Lord”. Such is the attitude of the saints, such is the attitude of Mary, of Abraham, of the prophets.

Like them, we are called to host the Spirit in us, to follow his ways, his leading, when He speaks to us during the charismatic prayer by the Word of God, which is not only a moral lesson, a nice precept, a good advice but it is God Himself, being present as a whole in His Word. If we listen to it with our hearts and being available, this Word will become real in us. Thus Jesus – the Word of God – will speak through us, our words and life, and we will really become his witnesses, his Community”.

 

In order to be provided by the Source, we need a lot of prayer.

This prayer is not a monologue neither is just to “say” prayers, as if those may have a mechanical effect, cut off from our hearts involvement. Prayer is a dialogue and is made by two people. So the first thing we have to do,when praying, is to be aware of the Lord’s presence: before thinking what to say, we have to make a meeting! We have to meet Him like a person, otherwise we risk to do a soliloquy. We make a long request list to Him and that’s all.

Prayer is not speaking and speaking but is listening, contemplating and loving. It is doing that that it becomes real, vital and authentic. Neither is thinking a lot but it is, rather, putting ourselves into a sort of stillness, of confident abandon and listening, so that the Lord, always being present, may attire us “into his presence” to speak to us, while filling us with Him and giving us His life.

Thus our faith loses its purely rational feature and opens us to a living experience: God is loving me! And while I am discovering this love, letting it penetrate into the deep of my being, this fact becomes the loveliest thing in my life: it’s something that gives full sense to my life and that pulls me to get out of myself in order to love in my turn. And so a thirst, a wish and a need of a fuller and fuller communion, of a mutual possess light up: He in me and I in Him. Praying is letting us be moulded by his love. It is to welcome this love, give it to others in our turn and then come back to draw it again…without being able to secure it for ourselves alone. We have to be continuously stretched towards God in order to be filled again, while forgetting all that happened yesterday or a moment ago, since today, now, “God is doing new things”.

Praying is to rejoice at our poverty. The Spirit can go into a poor heart only, emptied of everything.: complaints, claims, grudge…or losses and diseases. Everything comes after God. A poor heart is the one which looks at God only, as at the sole richness. It knows how to be fully caught by the thought of God and is held out to taste His greatness and beauty, longing “to stay with Him”. So at last it manages to abandon its control and possess over things.

This heart stops being linked to earthly things in order to get the heavenly ones. Without such poverty, one cannot be charismatic. So we shall look out and watch, since we may always lose this sort of poverty and humility, this beauty of the Spirit while feeling pleased, satisfied and content with so many experiences. Instead, may we experience through and through our God, so huge and unfathomable, in a continually new way for us. He works extraordinary things and grants to us to come into his friendship, over the gap between heaven and earth and as an advance of the paradise glory. So we can get out of the imprisonment we are caught in by this world’s fleeting things and we timidly step forward, to eternity, which meets us in glory and bliss. Being aware that we are nothing make us free and solace us. We do not need to produce something. Instead, we can grant God to show his greatness and mercy. When in front of Him, especially during personal prayer where we have no other supports, God only is our support, the One we have to trust in.

We are called to a great purity of heart, to a great transparency, since we are there in order to please God and not to run after ourselves, our personal realization or the mere satisfaction of our needs!(anyway our Father knows what we really need much better than us). The one who is only running after himself will be abandon prayer soon, particularly when it does not give to him the satisfaction this person expected or has already experienced, being, instead, in difficult moments or in an aridity of spirit.

 

Saint Paul remember to us that we have to pray “without being discouraged”, even when we do not feel anything, when our wounded sensibility suggests us that God is absent or that He has abandoned us. On the contrary, our faith and hope, if well-trained by prayer, tell us that God is there, being always present, and that He “never repents about his gifts”. So I believe that God is here, that He loves and speaks to me, even when I am not able to listen to Him. Because of that, I never cease praising Him.

Jesus himself  order us to, we shall pray “incessantly” and not when we are in the mood to or now and then or just when we have a particular petition to make to Him. Praying is the only thing He asked us to make without interruption. He too made the same. He never ceased praying and still today, in His glory, He keeps on interceding for us.

We shall persist in prayer believing in the Presence who loves us, believing to have already got those graces which are late to arrive. We shall not grow weary of repeating our requests (those growing pure because of this intimacy stretched in time, as well), being sure that we shall be answered, just as the untimely friend who was asking for bread at dead of night, or as the widow who got justice because of her insistence.

Sometimes I remember to the Lord: “Look, it was you that taught to us those parables…thus repeat this request and that one too…”. Then I start praising you, being sure that I was answered to. And still I praise Him when I have obtained what I asked for. Throughout all these years we have contemplated real miracles as well.

Anyway praise is superior to intercession or request prayer. On one hand it is true that each form of prayer completes and enriches the other ones and that all of them are an implicit acknowledgement and a declaration to ourselves and to the world that God is God, that He is the Lord and that we depend on Him in love. On the other, praise goes beyond all that, since it shall be made even when things “go wrong”, that is when they do not go according to our idea of good and our projects. We shall praise in our small and big daily difficulties, in humiliations, in moments of sorrow. And it is not so easy. Sometimes that requires a real heroism. I heard brothers and sisters praising God kneeled on the floor, on the asphalt , before one of their family run over by a car and badly hurt. I heard: “I bless you, Lord, and I praise you” before serious diseases, financial troubles, children to be drawn out from drugs and married partner from adultery. And each time, since it had been stirred up by praise, I saw the power of God unfolding, acting where no human possibility could act at all. I saw people healing, coming back, recovering…

And even when a member of the family had died, I saw my brothers and sisters keeping tight to the Lord, “Who has given and has taken away”. I saw them putting their lives in the service of others, so contributing, in their turn, to make everything cooperate to the good of those who love God.

The praise prayer defeats the Accuser (the one who accuses mankind before God and God before mankind), since it puts God first place and not his benefits. Praise helps us to trust in His love and providence beyond appearances, because it makes everything become a cue for prayer. It helps us to really pray “incessantly” and, this way, “to consecrate” the world to God. All that we offer to God – included the most heavy things for us, those ones which we would have rejected and thrown away – God takes on Him instead and He transfigures it. Thus He sets the seal of redemption not only to men and women but also to our poor human vicissitudes and to the course of history.

 

We are called to become prayer and to let that our same lives, our most simple and daily actions become prayer. “Offering yourselves as a living sacrifice, this is the real worship to God”, this is the liturgy of life, which draw its strength from the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which we celebrate together on Sundays and which spreads through us. And then, while praising God “for” our family (and not “in spite of” our family!), for our work, for the people living next to us, for those who abused us, for those who work evil on a large scale…, so we expose all these people and situations to the saving grace of God.

“Always give thanks to God for everything”: not just for some good things and not for others because they are unacceptable events. If we want to see the dead rising still today (and those who are in mortal sins are worse than dead people), we shall expose them to the light of resurrection through praise. We shall not “to realize it” rationally first. We shall do it. Then, since the Lord is good, He will let us understand as well. We are helped to do that by the power of the Spirit, which is the Source of prayer itself and which wants to repeat in the Mystic Body the filial prayer that was in Jesus. Jesus would spend hours and hours in prayer, at night, on a mount, in order to dwell in intimacy with His Father. What a talk should be that one! Today the Spirit wants to reproduce it in us, though according to our capacities. So He expresses Himself by “groanings” which are too deep for words but which intercede for us within the Father, coming to help our weakness. And the Spirit cries out in us: “ Abba, Father!”, so that, like little children, we may learn to repeat this wonderful and very tender name, while going into it through and through, discovering ourselves as really loved children.

The prayer in the Spirit, moved by Him and led under his anointment, with its movements, is not made by human efforts. We do not ascend to God. It is He Himself who descents to us, leaning on us and revealing Himself. He comes to dwell with us, to “live” in us to pass on his gifts to us.

Prayer, like the Kingdom of God he prepares us to, “is not made up of words but power”. It is not made up of “techniques” either. Even if at the beginning of our prayer we will begin with our poor human words: praise, praise…(as if we put in front of Him a little bread and fish), then He comes and prays in us and for us, introducing us in the deep of the love life of the Trinitarian family! How is it possible to seek elsewhere? Whoever may give us such a richness? Today a lot of Christians will wander about, searching, within other religions, especially if exotic ones, after learning how to pray. Why do they do that if the source of prayer itself, the Holy Spirit, is in their hearts? Many people try to acquire the “techniques” and “to better” the practice of Christian meditation through them as well. But if we have got “techniques”, do we need the Holy Spirit of God too? It is not the ritual of positions, breathing and concentration which gives me God. It is He who wants to give Himself to me. Though he also wants to convert us.

Then many others complain about how hard evangelical precepts are to be observed, particularly in our times, while they have never experienced that it is impossible to comply with them by our strength only but it becomes possible through the strength of prayer. When we are in so a deep intimacy with the Lord (“mouth to mouth”, as the Scripture says. And such is the meaning of the words: “oration” and “ad-oration”), His breath is in us and ours in Him! The only breath of life: Ruah, the Holy Spirit!

 

Another strong temptation is time, which never seems to be enough. Today, especially in our western culture, time seems to be a sort of idol, a strength which would like to dominate and overwhelm us, while we are called to reaffirm our domination on it. It is us the masters of time and not the contrary. So we shall know how to accurately defend the time space we fixed to be daily dedicated to prayer, watching about the temptation, which is always lying in wait, to delete or to shorten it.

This sort of temptation is generally fed by the excuse that we have “so many things to do”, so many holy engagements that cannot be postponed to fulfil in our family, work and community…anyway a lot of things we risk to carry on with more difficulties and less fruit if we do not keep the presence of the Spirit alive and working in us.

Though, in very many cases, a good number of such engagements are not so genuine ones. It was us who decided to take them on, since we need to fill all the “gaps” that still are in our lives, gaps which we did not grant the Lord to fill in.

Always being overengaged people is a signal indicating that, really, the Lord is not enough for us.Just because of this reason, if we have to omit something, it is better that we leave out some practical activities, deciding to give the primacy to our inner life, so that we may be healed.

Thus the gift of our time will even more look like the offer of that pot of precious nard which the sinner woman breaks with an absolute gratuitousness attitude and pours on the Lord’s head, as a sign of  her offer and love. And the Lord, who cannot be won as to His liberality, will bless our time and all that we shall do again, increasing the fruit of our work. And more, as the Scripture says in a wonderful passage (which I personally have never ceased guarding and testing), “He will give of it to his friends while they are sleeping”

 

Not to pray is the same as wasting grace: the grace we did not guard in our hearts and the grace we did not get for us and for the world, since we did not implore to obtain it nor we welcomed it in faith, perseverance and agreeing on praying all together for it. If prayer lacks, everything becomes difficult to be understood and performed, notwithstanding all the teachings, all the testimonies and all the exhortations. We can never manage to do it! God is a personal God: He is my God! And only if I dwell with Him, contemplating His face and letting me be healed and pervaded by His word, I shall be able to meet my brothers, in my Community, in the Church, being a strong support for them.

Otherwise our faith will remain weak, our service will be flat, poor and did unwillingly, as if we were some “prayer professionals”, who go on with their strength alone, with their memories, with the experience they made through years, not relying on God’s action in me.

The risks remembered by John Paul II (in the “Novo Millennio Ineunte”) are serious ones: losing the pleasure of prayer , the inner bliss of a love dialogue with God, means to soon become “very ordinary Christians”, if not “Christians exposed to a risk”, those who finish up surrendering to substitutes offered by falsely spiritual movements and “alternative” beliefs, so far as they fall into superstition, magic and the thousand and one traps of the devil.

As Jesus will exhort us to, we shall pray not to fall into temptation. We shall not believe we are already holy and successful people. We shall not have too a high consideration of ourselves.

Because of that, sometimes we flee from the presence of God in very many ways and we easily divert our minds or leave our eyes heavy with sleep, as it was for the disciples in the Gethsemane. We really do not want the Lord to show us where we are making faults, revealing us our incoherence and unfaithfulness. We do not want to see ourselves as we really are nor to be purified.

And thus, in this situation as well, we shall hold our position, while letting Him coming to take a place so poorly comfortable in our heart, healing and filling it with light.

 

Praise, a simple praise for what we are before God (mean, incoherent and bombastic people…) delivers and heals us. It sanctifies us.

When it is lived in faith and shared with our brothers, when it is strong, praise is a genuine prayer of deliverance and the devil flees, being “suffocated” by it. As the climax, when really true, praise will lead us to fully comply with what the Father wants  to do for us and through us. The same was for Jesus, who could say (by his life, besides his words): “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me” (John 4:34). A continuous training of prayer purifies and makes us progress with the Spirit, towards our full sanctification. It enables us to listen to the prophecies that heal us or direct us to healing, those which give us peace again, which give us wisdom, which fill us with strength. About what can we talk to our brothers if we did not listen to the Lord? We shall finish up speaking about ourselves or about things we know through culture only.

Praise introduces us, day by day, into the full comprehension of our personal vocation and enriches us with any sort of gift. Whatever fruit we are called to bear, will mostly depend on the spiritual experience which makes it grow. Vision, courage, preaching, discernment…everything depends on prayer. Our simplest daily human relations too, as we already saw, are involved in prayer and transfigured by it. Praising our thoughts are plunged in God and, when they come back to us, they give us His vision on creatures and situations. Then, instead of “reacting”, as we are used to (immediately, thoughtlessly and excessively), we shall be able to “respond” (keeping control on our feelings and on the scale of their expressions). Most of all, we shall respond the way Jesus will do, now, at this moment, in this case, with His peace, mildness, sympathy with others, concern for their salvation.

 

The more we are “christocentric people”, the more we have to be christocentric while praising.Jesus shall be the centre of each one of our prayers and the centre of all that is enlightened and built by prayer. We are called to invoke His name incessantly: “Jesus, Jesus! Praise to you, Lord!”. We are called to be those “elected people who are crying out to Him night and day”,. They make themselves heard, proclaiming His beauty and majesty from the top of their houses. They believe in the power of that invocation, in its power of keeping high the attention of believers, so that the Son of man may still find faith on the earth, when he comes back.

The one who invokes continuously the name of Jesus becomes like a living sanctuary, an icon of The Risen One’s glory. Then the Lord, dwelling at the core of our hearts, like in a throne, begins revealing Himself to us in a new way, showing us, alternatively, the different aspects of His person and kingship. So we are able to know something more about His humbleness , His obedience, His wisdom… knowing these things through books or because the Lord are revealing us some of them are different matters. What we know by God’s grace will get out of our hearts very hardly. On the contrary, that will go on transforming us, granting Jesus Himself to reproduce His life in us through His Spirit and making us take His thoughts, feelings and intentions.

Then we discover that all that we read in the Gospel is true and alive for us today. At that point there is no distinction between life and prayer any longer, since we live charismatically and we pray charismatically. So we start shouting to everybody that He is alive, in each man’s heart in each event of history. He is not a principle or a moral doctrine, He is a living Person. He is the Risen One who wants to stay with us till the end of times.

 

  1. A.   Alberta Avòli and Roberto Ricci – “They lived together”

Guidelines Collection, No. 5 – The Risen Jesus Editions – pages 47-56.