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Archive for August, 2010

Praying in the Spirit

Praying In the Spirit

Praying in the Spirit

“… if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also. “ (1Cor.14:14 -15)

My Fellow Pilgrims,

There are several sayings of the Apostle Paul regarding “praying in the spirit” that I could quote to initiate the discussion on this subject, but I chose this one because it goes directly to the point – a point many of us would try to avoid. That is, that “praying in the spirit” involves praying in tongues and that when we pray in the spirit it is our “spirit” that is involved and that it is distinct from “praying with our minds”, that is, our soul. This distinction between soul and spirit is one many moderns seek to avoid.

Speaking or praying in tongues is one of the more controversial gifts of the Holy Spirit (as per, 1Cor. 12 ff) because many see praying in a language you don’t understand as a demeaning of our persons – especially our intellect. After all how can it be prayer at all if you don’t know what you are saying? How can spouting what appears to be a bunch of gibberish be called prayer? This mystery can only be understood if we properly understand that man has been endowed with a capability to transcend the natural – that capability is embedded in what scripture calls the “spirit” of man.

The main reason for our lack of understanding of this gift is that most of us Christians don’t believe or understand that God created us as a tri-partite being consisting of body, soul, and spirit. For most of us, the only levels of awareness we normally experience is at the body and soul level.  That is the awareness that come through our senses, our physical body and our intellect, thoughts, emotions, feelings and self-identity, that is, our soul. However there is within us, at the very center of our being a sense of awareness that is non-conceptual and non-verbal. This center of our beings is the where our conscience and our innermost unexpressed desires are formed and reside, it is what we might call “our secret place”, or what Jesus termed “our closet” in his sermon on the Mount. Paul also refers to it as our “inner man”. It is this place of inner awareness that the scriptures term “the heart of man” or “the spirit” of man (eg., Is. 57:15, Ezek. 18:31, Ezek. 36:26,  Ps.51:10, Heb. 4:12). It is at this level of awareness that we are enabled, by God to communicate with Him ”in the spirit”. This spiritual capability is there by God’s design so that He could, through this intimate sense of awareness, maintain a personal relationship with every individual human person. Because God is “spirit” it is only at this spirit-to-spirit level that we can commune with God. That is why Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that…

“… the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, however, this spirit-to-spirit connection with the Divine was broken, not only for them but for all their descendants, that is, humankind. So while we are still born with a spiritual sensitivity, that sensitivity is NOT attuned to the Divine, because our fallen nature is only attuned to the world and our own self-will and NOT to God’s will. So, it is in this sense that our spirit is termed “dead to God” and, thus, may only be revived by God Himself, because, ”only Spirit can beget spirit” (John 3:6).  For this reason, because of the Father’s love for us, His creation, He sent His beloved Son, Jesus, to pay the price for Adam’s sin and the sins of all humankind so that our spirits could be regenerated (1Ptr.1:23), thus enabling us to be restored to the relationship with the Divine for which we had originally been created, that is, to be His Children, to be formed into the image of His Son.

Without a renewed spirit to enable communion with the Father, not only is the sincerity of our worship hampered but our prayer life as well. That is why on several occasions Jesus rebuked the Scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in their observance of prayer and worship, saying to them …

“ You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, ….’” (Matt. 15:7-9)

Now, in order to function as a true child of God in the image of Christ, enabled for communion with the Father, we not only need a regenerated spirit but an empowered spirit as well. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus that …

“ … “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” (John 3:5)

That is, that one needs to be converted and baptized in water in order to have a revived spirit and then you need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to be empowered to share in Jesus’ ministry in this world. Jesus himself, although He was sinless, models this pathway for us in His baptism with water by John and His subsequent empowerment by the Holy Spirit. For our benefit, John the Baptist tells the seekers of his day that, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt:3:11)

In another place and in another setting, Jesus put it this way…

“Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matt. 9: 17)

So it is, brothers and sisters, that before we can be filled with the  Holy Spirit’s empowerment we need to have “new wineskins” – a renewed spirit in Christ.  Then, and only then, can we receive and hold “the New Wine”, the infilling of the Holy Spirit and His empowering gifts within us.

The empowerment with the Holy Spirit is what we receive with the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This empowerment is manifested through the Spiritual Gifts summarized in 1Cor. 12. Among the gifts we receive, is the gift of praying in tongues or speaking in other tongues. This gift is what enables us to “pray in the spirit”

This spiritual empowerment is absolutely necessary for the church to carry on the ministry of Jesus. That is why he told His disciples, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49)

This empowerment by the Holy Spirit is the Promise of the Father (Acts 1:4) that was given to the Messiah and was than imparted by Him to His disciples at Pentecost and to all believers who have converted and been baptized in water. This is testified to us in the book of Acts when Peter preached to the astounded crowd after the Spirit had fallen upon them.  When they were convicted in heart by the message, they asked, “what then shall we do?”.  He told them: “… repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and [then] you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

In a later post I will go into more detail on all of the Empowerment Gifts of the Spirit (as distinguished form the Sanctifying Gifts on which I have already posted some articles). Right now the emphasis of this article is to advise you as to the importance of “praying in the spirit” and why there is such a need to accept and exercise this gift for our personal edification and for the good for the community.

Now the Apostle Paul said that he would prefer that everyone would prophesy as opposed to speaking in tongues.

“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy. For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their up-building and encouragement and consolation.

Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.” ( 1 Cor 14;1-5)

The reason that he said this is because prophecy works directly to the building up of the Body of Christ and that was a more urgent objective to him, at that time, than the building up of the individual. However, in our modern culture today, If we neglect the spiritual growth of the individual, the community will also suffer because that neglected individual will not be able to contribute to the community if his or her spiritual growth and thus, the maturity of their gifts, is not at the stage where they can contribute meaningfully to the growth of the community.  In fact they may become a drag on the community because they may require more personal ministry than those who have matured and are better able to minister to others.

One of the reasons we lose many of our youth to the world today is exactly because their spirits have not been activated through praying in the spirit and, thus, sensing a spiritual emptiness in the rote expression of their religious traditions, they wander off into the world in a vain attempt to fill that vacuum in their spirits.

Much of this could be avoided if we introduced our children to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit at an early age, especially the gift of “praying in the spirit”. For you see this gift continues the infilling process of the Holy Spirit in us, The more we pray in the spirit the more of the spirit we imbibe, bringing us to a greater spiritual maturity. This spiritual maturity begins to provide the infilling our spirit is seeking turning us closer and closer to the Divine.  It also permits us to enter into worship in a way that we could never experience at the soul level alone. For instance, John the Revelator was in alone in a cave on the island of Patmos on the Lord’s day worshipping “in the spirit” when he was caught up into Heaven and into the Sanctuary of God (Rev. 1:10)

Praying in the Spirit is usually manifested in a person’s private prayer closet but it may also come up in some of the smaller more cohesive prayer groups where the members all participate in prayer simultaneously as led by the Spirit and where the prayer in tongues (in the spirit) spontaneously erupts into singing in the spirit in praise of the Divine.  In such cases the gift also helps build up the community. The fruit of this type of prayer is the wisdom and love needed to appropriately exercise the other gifts within a community.

Now, speaking in tongues may manifest not only in personal prayer but it may also be the media whereby the Lord wishes to express a word of prophecy to the community. In such cases it is necessary that there be someone in the community to interpret so that it can be of benefit to all.  One is also free to ask the Holy Spirit to interpret their prayer language when praying in private.

One of the main reasons that individuals resist accepting this gift is the erroneous concept that you are going to be controlled by the Holy Spirit like a puppet. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Holy Spirit values your freedom even more than you do. You see the true agape Love He desires in you can only be derived from a free spirit – otherwise it is not agape Love. What the Holy Spirit is seeking is your freely given cooperation, in Love, so that He may inspire you to freely open yourself to what He is giving you. When you do, He gives you an uplift in your spirit that brings you a joy and peace that is beyond understanding and you also experience the intimacy of the presence of God in your hearts. It is this, His presence in you, which fills you and satisfies the longing of your spirit, for this, the purpose for which we were created.

If you really want to know what you are praying in the spirit, just ask the Holy Spirit for understanding. St, Paul, in fact, tells us that we can be praying in our understanding at the same time as we are praying in the spirit (1Cor. 14:14-15).  When you begin praying in the spirit you will find that you do not lose the capability to pray in the understanding at the same time. In fact, this should indicate to you that our spirit and our intellect are two distinct faculties that can operate independently.

Prayer, true prayer that reaches the heart of God, must come from the depths of a pure and sincere heart – a heart that resonates with the Love and Compassion that is in the Father’s Heart, The closer our prayer is to the desires of the Father’s heart the closer that prayer is to being answered. And, because, our access to the heart of God is through His Spirit that is in us, it is, when we pray in the spirit, that is, out of the depths of our heart, the sanctuary of His Spirit, that our innermost desires become one with His and our prayer is, de facto, “according to His Will”. Of course, if you are NOT “in Christ” you have no access to the throne of God or His sanctuary and need to get in Christ as quickly as possible, through confession, repentance, and conversion ( see Related Links).

Praying in the Spirit is the gift that permits us to enter into that sanctuary and where we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that our prayers are inspired by His Desires – The desires of the Living God.  In order to express these desires through our prayers in the purity they deserve, the Holy Spirit speaks through us in an unknown tongue so that our own intellect and human motives will not taint the pure prayer that comes from the heart of God through us.

The is why the Apostle says that those who speak in other tongues are not speaking so that other people may understand but they are speaking mysteries (praying secretly) to God (who does understand) (1Cor. 14:1-5).

The exercise of this gift permits the Holy Spirit to use us as His agents, through prayer, to ask for those things the Father desires to achieve in us and through us so that His will might be accomplished and His Kingdom might be manifested in this world.

Now, it is possible for us, using our human abilities, to pray the same prayer with our understanding, but because of our limitations it would take many hours of meditative prayer to get to the depths of our prayer needed to obtain the same level of purity and harmony with the Lord’s desires that praying in the spirit can achieve (see the article on St. Theresa and the Four Levels of Prayer in the related Links).

Thus, from its operation in us, we see that this gift is a supernatural tool that the Holy Spirit uses to permit our very common and otherwise very limited human nature to participate in bringing forth God’s Kingdom without requiring the human effort and prayer talent required to achieve the same level of prayer and communion with the Father’s heart.

We also understand from experience that the practice of this gift increases our spiritual awareness to the Father’s will and desires so that our own spiritual growth is enhanced through the continuous practice of this gift. Our increased maturity, in turn, will assist the community through the increased wisdom and love that flows through our service to others.

And, of course, we must never forget the Apostle’s admonition that, unless we practice the spiritual gifts out of unconditional, selfless agape love, it gains us nothing.

“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13.1-3)

I pray brethren that this has been of benefit to you and an encouragement to receive and practice the gift of praying in the spirit!

May the Lord richly bless you as He takes you deeper in prayer through the gifts of His Holy Spirit!

Your brother in Christ Jesus … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2010])

RELATED LINKS

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

The Double Portion Anointing

The Kingdom of God: Our Inheritance

St. Theresa: Regarding Prayer

Releasing the Spirit

The Key Of Knowledge

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About Prayer: An Overarching Perspective

(By Jorge Madrid Sr., posted with the author’s permission)

Ark-within-the-Holy-of-Holies

Within-the-Holy-of-Holies

“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

Prayer, like love,  is a “many splendored” thing – for, in fact, true prayer, to be prayer at all, must be driven by agape love for it is an expression of the love of God which has been poured into us by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).  It is the media of communications through which we express the love and sincerity of our intent as we live out the surrender of our very selves to the Living God!

It is “many splendored” because of the beauty and multiplicity of its facets. Facets that are designed by God to permit we flawed humans to draw near to the Holy one and express our love and devotion to Him and to Him alone in an infinite variety of ways.  And we know that the only reason we are able to express this love for Him in this way is because, through Jesus, we have come to know Him personally, because He first loved us so that we could love Him!

For many of us, the most common facet of “praying”  is asking or petitioning God to help us in the various difficulties and trials of our lives or to intercede through supplications for the healing or salvation for those around us.  And that type of prayer is certainly exemplified in the Psalms. But from the insight we sense about prayer from reading the scriptures we begin to understand that prayer is the means the Lord uses to draw us closer to Himself by moving us from merely pleading for His assistance, to entering into a relationship with Him by bringing us into his courts with Praise and Thanksgiving and then into the Holy of Holies of His Presence for the ultimate expression of prayer – the Worship of the Most High.

Prayer, can take on many conceivable forms, from a just a whimper of a call to God for help, to a Glorious Chorus of the “Messiah”, to the ultimate prayer of worship at the Eucharist. It may be expressed in our silent adoration of the Sacred Host, or our meditation on His Word. It may be verbal, or non-verbal; it may be as a spiritual song in other tongues, or it may be as a simple prayer of petition. It may be instrumental music, spiritual dance or some other pious action.  But for it to be truly prayer it must come from the very depths of our heart. For it is in the stillness of the sanctuary of our hearts that the Lord desires to meet with us.

To really understand prayer from this level of perspective, we must go beyond the rudimentary concepts of prayer that are rooted in the limited religious experience we received as children. If we wish to go deeper in prayer, we need to first meditate on God’s Prime Directive regarding how we are to love Him because true prayer must be motivated above all by our love for the Lover of our Souls. That is why He says to those who have dedicated themselves to honor Him, “Thou shall love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might”[1].

The first thing we notice is that the directive specifies the three states or levels of awareness that comprise the human essence, namely, spirit (heart), soul (mind), and body (might or strength). These are the three states or levels of human awareness in which Jesus was tested by Satan[2] at the beginning of his ministry. Clearly Jesus was being tested on His faithfulness to this Prime Directive  regarding the intensity of Love for the Divine. Had he failed on any count, Jesus would have been disqualified to fulfill His mission because he would have disobeyed the direct command of God, His Father (and Satan knew this).

Jesus In Deep Prayer

Jesus In Deep Prayer

Applying this directive to our own lives, we see that loving God requires our full commitment at the three levels of awareness of our own person (body, soul, and spirit). Since ideal prayer consists of our expression of love for God, our prayers should necessarily encompass all three levels, although not always simultaneously.

However, the one level each of us must always strive for in order for prayer to be true prayer, is that the intent of our prayer must be driven by the sincere and utmost desire of our hearts (“spirit”) to express our love for God.  The purity (sincerity) of our intent is the altar of incense from which our prayers move to the throne of God. Without this underlying basis our prayers are merely words or thoughts that we utter to ourselves in order to assuage our self-guilt or self image (as in the comparison given by Jesus of the prayers of Pharisee and the Tax collector[3]).

In fact, this impulse of Love toward God is in itself the purest of prayers even when it does not become a thought or a verbal prayer or a pious action[4]. There are those who have dedicated themselves to perfect their personal prayer at this level, the prayer of silence. These are termed as “contemplatives”. For most of   us, however, such a pure intent of love is clouded over by our very human nature that is conditioned to express itself through mental, verbal, or pious action. In many cases we also harbor barriers within our souls that inhibit entry into the purity of the ideal contemplative state. For this reason, unless God has especially graced us with this state of pure prayer, we first must usually first pass through the levels of prayer that involve the expression of our love for God through mental, verbal and pious actions.

The mental level of prayer is sometimes termed “meditation” in the Ignatian[5] sense. At this level we use our mental abilities, including our imagination to ponder the Word of God and the life of Jesus to purify and intensify the loving intent of our hearts before God. Usually the period of meditation is interspersed with pious activities such as acts of repentance, fasting, and confession that reinforce and perpetuate the work of meditation in our hearts. The main intent of this type of meditation is to permit the Holy Spirit to take us from a mere intellectualization of the events of salvation history and bring us to a real spiritual awareness of what this great salvation has accomplished for us individually and to hear the call of God to our spirits to repent and draw near to Him! As we grow in understanding during this period we also begin to see that as the pure desire of  the love of God permeates our being that every thought and act that flows from that love becomes a steady stream of continuous prayer.

As prayer begins to take over our lives we find that the world around us no longer dominates our thinking or our desires. Yes, we are still able to function in the world but now we function as a channel of God’s love for the world. We are more and more able to see the Kingdom of God being manifested in the circumstances and people around us. We no longer need to be in control  because now every circumstance in our lives is redeemed to be used by our Creator for the manifestation of His Kingdom. Praised be His Name forever!

Prayer is integral and essential to a person’s spiritual life. St.Theresa of Avila in her masterful treatise on the spiritual life, “The Interior Castle”, she states that “… souls that are without prayer are as people whose bodies or limbs are paralyzed: They possess feet and hands but cannot control them. In the same way there are souls so infirm and so accustomed to busying themselves with outside affairs that nothing can be done for them, and it seems as though they are incapable of entering within themselves at all. Unless they strive to realize their miserable condition and to remedy it, they will be turned into pillars of salt for not looking within themselves, just as Lot’s wife was because she looked back.”

Regarding entry into the spiritual life, our “interior castle”, she continues saying,

“As far as I understand, the door of entry into this castle is prayer and meditation. I do not say mental prayer rather then vocal, for if it is prayer at all, it must be accompanied by meditation.[6]

If you  are hungry for God, if you are seeking Him and Him alone then find the door to your “interior castle” and enter in through prayer, centering on Him who is the “Door”, Jesus, the Son of the Living God! For He says to us: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you”[7]

~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~

Entering the Inner Stillness

Enmeshed in life’s commotion,

Our ears deadened in the strife,

As cries our famished spirit

For the real sustenance of life.


From an inner thirst and hunger

Beyond all the world can impart.

Beyond the parched desert of emotions

For a Love that satisfies the heart.


Why then, do we refuse to listen,

If so desperate our plight ?

To words of Life beyond our hearing,

To visions of Love beyond our sight.


A Love that knocks incessantly

‘Til our gates we open to its Life.

To drink in the Living Water

And consume the Bread of Life.


Enter then, that inner stillness,

God’s sanctuary, in your soul,

And imbibe that Love Eternal

That fills and makes you whole!

Jorge Madrid Sr., AMDG

~~~~~~~

(By Jorge Madrid Sr., as excerpted with permission from “Thy Kingdom Come” by Jorge Madrid Sr.; © 2003 Madrid Family Trust, all rights reserved)

Footnotes

[1] Deuteronomy. 6:5

[2] Matthew 4:1-11

[3] Luke 18:10-14

[4] See Chapter 3 in the booklet “The Cloud of Unknowing”

[5] I  refer here  to “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola”

[6] See First Mansions, Chapter Two, Paragraphs 6 and 7 in the “The Interior Castle”.

[7] Matthew 7:7

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Recommended Links :

True Spirituality

St. Theresa of Avila on Prayer

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You Shall be Free Indeed

Free at Last!

Free at Last!

“… Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him,  ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’

They answered Him,  ‘We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say,  ‘You shall become free’?’

Jesus answered them,  ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.’ ” (John 8:31-36)

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My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Sometimes the Lord has to shake us up in order to get us to understand what He is saying to us through His Word. As humans we tend to read and interpret scripture through the lens of our natural faculties.  Thus, in order to force His disciples to understand the Word he was bringing to their attention, He had to break them free of their normal way of understanding so that the spiritual meaning of the Word could get into their hearts not their minds.

For instance, in the scripture cited above, Jesus shocked those Jews who believed in Him when he declared to them that if they really wanted to experience real freedom they needed to come to knowledge of the truth and that this knowledge would make them free.

They were shocked because, in their thinking, the Jews (and Israel)  were a free independent people since the time of Abraham when the Lord promised that He, the Lord would bring forth a great new, independent nation from the union of Abraham and Sarah. The fact that they had been in bondage in Egypt, then in Babylon,  and now under the control of Rome were seen by them as just  passing stages that could not nullify God’s covenant with Israel to be a free people that belonged only to God.  It was only from this viewpoint that they could respond to Jesus with the statement  “… we have never been enslaved to anyone”

Today, we are similarly shocked because we have a worldly understanding of what “freedom” entails.  In the world’s way of thinking, personal  “freedom” means the ability of a person to do what that person chooses without restraint from any outside regulation or impediment. In the political sphere it is the right of a people or nation to determine their own destiny apart from the tyranny of an alien power.  We don’t really understand how “knowing” a concept or principle could set any one free in and of itself.

Take the term “freedom” itself. Just knowing the meaning of the term does not set anyone free. I can say that “I am free” all I want but If the government in my country places restrictions on what I may say and do I am not truly free.

Thus we moderns also find it difficult to understand just what is this “freedom” to which Jesus refers. And not only that, but what is this “Truth” that by knowing, will truly set us free?

The problem stems from the fact that, we, like the Jews of His time, we also tend to interpret all communications in terms of our cultural understanding of what freedom entails in our limited natural and temporal environment. We completely ignore the fact that there is an eternal spiritual environment that is by far more important than the brief interval we spend in our earthly frame of existence.  In doing so we are also ignoring that there is a spiritual and eternal “freedom” that is more important than any expression of “freedom” we find in this world.

What Jesus was trying to tell them, and us, was that, by God’s grace, an entrance to this true and eternal freedom, spiritual freedom, is now available to man. A freedom to become what the Father originally intended for humanity. A freedom to be in harmony with His will and a deliverance from the sin nature that held us all in bondage. Jesus’ message to them, and us, was that entrance into this ”freedom” depends entirely on “knowing the truth” and that that this “truth” would be the only way they could come to know what true “freedom” really is.

As a result of Adam’s sin of rebellion against God, all of us inherit in our flesh a spirit of rebellion (sin) from Adam and, in giving in to this rebellious spirit, we thus become the slaves to our own fleshly instincts rather than the freedom that comes from being in total harmony with the will of God as his Children. We are born as slaves to our sin nature and Jesus came from the Father to take on our sin nature and, thus, deliver us from slavery to sin, restoring us to the true freedom of the Children of God.

In this true freedom we are transformed into the image of the Son and we become God’s instruments to bring forth His Kingdom into this fallen world.  In this state the Father, working through the Holy Spirit, uses the spirit of Jesus in us to accomplish His work in this world.  In order to do so He depends on our freedom so that out of agape Love we willingly do what He places in our hearts. This exercise of freedom to choose what God chooses can be termed “the Liberty of the Children of God”.

This is the “Truth”, the good news, that Jesus came to bring, and, in fact, since  He, Himself, is the “Truth the Way and the Life”, it follows that “no one comes to the Father but through Him”. This is the “Truth” that, when accepted by faith into our hearts, does indeed set us free from sin, death, and the oppression of the world. This “Truth” is communicated to us through His Word and made Life to us though its activation in our lives by the Holy Spirit.

The problem we Christians have today is, that although we have received the “Truth” through the Word, many of us have not put the Word into action, through love, as we ought. That is why Jesus declared to those who followed Him that in order for this “Truth” to take root in their lives, His Word must abide in them, such that it becomes a living principle through which they act out their lives in agape love. He further told them that if they yielded to God to bring them to this stage, then and only then, could they really be His disciples.

But how, you may ask, is this freedom of the Children of God manifested in the world we live in?

By faith and through faith.

By faith we understand that what we experience in this world is passing and we place our sights on that which is eternal.  And through faith  we make our choices  to act in this world in the Liberty we have as God’s Children.

“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2)

By faith we detach our selves from the circumstances which surround us and hem us in, knowing that in exercising our liberty as children of God, we are fulfilling the will of the Father and that our focus is on Him and Him alone, to do His will. It is in this manner, then, that our true freedom is manifested – the freedom to act with  our free will in the liberty accorded to the Children of God.

What we, as spiritual pilgrims, then need to be seeking, is this true freedom that will liberate us from the world regardless of the circumstances that encompass us. This is the “freedom” Paul and Silas found in the Philippian dungeon (Acts 16:22-36), a freedom to praise and worship the Lord in the midst of their suffering and oppression.  This Liberty of Spirit is the freedom that permits us, by the grace of God, to make the appropriate choices in our lives as we walk along the way of truth  and love.  The exercise of this freedom permits God’s will to be accomplished in our lives and in the lives of those around us. It is only through this spirit working in us and through us that we can proclaim as Jesus proclaimed “ I have overcome the world”

For instance, Blessed Bransma who died in solitary confinement in a German concentration camp wrote these words about the “freedom” of spiritual prayer he found in his enforced separation from human contact,

“Leave me here freely all alone,

In cell where never sunlight shone,

should no one ever speak to me,

This golden silence makes me free.”

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(In order to provide you with a deeper insight into these concepts, we continue the Post with the following excerpt from a talk given by an anonymous nun at the Visitation Monastery in St, Louis Mo. on the principle of Liberty of Spirit as taught by St. Francis de Sales)

Liberty of spirit is an inner freedom that allows each one of us to recognize and then to respond to God’s constant and challenging presence in our lives. This freedom to choose and act is essential to our nature as human beings according to approach to spirituality as taught by St. Francis de Sales.

God has given us the gift of free will to enable us to cooperate freely in the work of our personal salvation, but the choice of whether or not we do so is still ours.

In my other talk, “The Two Wills of God” ., we learned that we become co-creators with God whenever we make life choices based on discernment enlightened by our powers of judgment and the movements of our hearts. Add to this the innumerable calls on us to do this or that. Life becomes a series of choices, a few major ones but most of them very insignificant. I am going to let you in on a secret: 99% of the time, God is pleased with whatever we do provided our actions are motivated by agape love.

God loves us and wants us to become our true selves and to live in harmony with the desires of our heart. This may be the rub. Do we know our deepest desires? Foreseeing the events of the day with our Lord during prayer is one way of getting in touch with these desires and even with our true selves. The love inspiring our choices will be purified by this prayer encounter with the Spirit of God dwelling within us.

St.Francis and St. Jane

St.Francis and St. Jane

In his October 1604 letter to St. Jane de Chantal, St. Francis discusses the meaning of liberty of spirit. He says that liberty of spirit is the freedom of the children of God who know they are loved. It is the detachment of a Christian heart from all things so that it is free to follow the known will of God. Provided that the name of God is hallowed, that His kingdom is coming in us, that His will is being done, a free spirit has no other concern. I always like to point out the timelessness of Salesian spirituality which allows us great freedom to follow what might be called a spirit-led approach to religion and life. These teachings of Jane and Francis from the 17th century are still relevant today.

For a 20th century approach to liberty of spirit, I paraphrase Paul Tillich in “The Eternal Now” who says that God is present to our spirit, not as the creative ground of all things nor as the stage director of history, but as a presence in our personalities that grasps, inspires and transforms us. For the Spirit at work in us awakens a desire to strive towards the sublime and gives us the courage to say “Yes” to life in spite of the difficulties we experience around and within us. The Spirit gives us the strength to throw off false anxieties and provides us with insights into ways not only to cope with the happenings in our world but even to rejoice in the challenges presented.

Salesian spirituality says that we exercise our freedom of choice primarily by the way we choose to love. We can choose between loving for self-serving ends that satisfy our ego desires and loving with a “pure love” that models God’s unconditional love for us. We choose between objects of love that by their nature could lead us either away from or toward God. We have a choice too in whether or not we love the facts of our lives, the unique situations in which we find ourselves.

How do we accept the things that happen in our lives? In the Salesian view, our human nature was created with a desire for good and an inner dynamic of love that moves us towards conformity to the divine will. But our human nature is wounded. Augustine in his prayer, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O Lord,” described the plight of each and every one of us. According to Tillich, we all try to escape from God. We may flee to work which then becomes a necessity and a compulsion. We may lose ourselves in the ecstasy of living, the abundance of life. But God pursues us as Francis Thompson says in his poem, the Hound of Heaven. ‘Nigh and nigh draws the chase, With unperturbed pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy; And past those noised Feet A voice comes yet more fleet– ‘Lo! naught contents thee, who content’st not Me.’

The poem ends with: Ah,, fondest, blindest, weakest, I am He Whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.’

So, the essential task of our life is to recover the ability to love purely.

In the fine arts center of the St. Paul Visitation Chapel there are stained glass windows depicting Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal. Etched in the glass of one window is this saying, “All through love, nothing through constraint!” This quotation from Francis de Sales was the background music of our formation as Visitation nuns, and echoes Jesus’ words at the Last Supper found in John 15 verse 9b and following. “Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love…This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A person can have no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.”

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With the above in mind, my friends, let us seek the Liberty of Spirit to be active in our lives each day so that through the love that impels our walk with Jesus, the will of the Father may be accomplished in this world!

“Baruch ha Shem!”, Blessed be The Name

Your Brother in Christ ….  Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2010])

Recommended Links

St. Francis de Sales and Salesian Spirituality

The Two Wills of God

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