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Shall we then continue in sin that Grace may abound? (Rom. 6:15)

God forbid! (cf., Rom, 3:31; 6:2; 6:15; 7:7; KJV)

The King within us

The King is coming – are your ready?

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2Tim. 4:1-3)

Brothers and Sisters,

The signs of the times clearly indicate that we are indeed in the “Days of Noah” and the “Days of Lot” as indicated by Jesus in the Gospels (cf., Luke 17:16-28 ) and also in the “perilous times” as indicated by St. Paul to Timothy:

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.” (2 Tim. 3:1-9)

false_prophets_2I am posting this article because we all need to be made aware of the many false teachers and preachers in our midst who are twisting the Word of God to peddle their “gospels” of permissiveness, self-indulgenece, and prosperity as being  “enlightened” forms of understanding scripture.

Recognizing False “Gospels” Regarding Grace”

Amongst the many false deceptive messages being delivered today is that of a libertine form of “Grace” (a licentious grace) that teaches that, because of Christ’s atoning work on the Cross we are no longer under “law” and can live pretty much as we wish and be assured of our salvation. Since all of our sins have been paid for and since we have all been reconclled with God through Christ, the moral law, declared by God for all humanity is of no more consequence to us who consider ourselves to be “under Grace”.

This devious, anti-nomian concept (lawlessness) is attractive to many in today’s world because it is in line with the ego-centric, self-centered, free-wheeling spirit of the current generation, who abhors any constraint on their ability to live as they please and who are in the process of being conformed to the “world”.  It comes from a religious spirit that wants to put a fig leaf over their moral nakedness so that they may continue dabbling in the world system with it’s enticements, lusts, greed, and carnal excesses, without exacting any feelings of guilt. The intent of what is being taught is, of course, to attract uninstructed youth to fall into their snare by attempting to appease their consciences using selectively misinterpreted scriptures, out of context, telling them that “God’s Grace” has freed them to do whatever pleases them without losing their salvation – while all the while they are being used to satisfy the pride and greed of the false teachers, whose own spiritual lives are in tatters.

In the attempt to justify themselves the proponents of this deviation from the true purpose of Grace in our lives, teach that since God has reconciled us to himself in Christ it would be an act of unbelief to “repent” of our sins, since our sins have already been forgiven at the cross. In a previous post, “Be Reconciled to God” I provided a scriptural argument against this  erroneous position. In that article I point out that it is the apostle Paul, himself, who, after having proclaimed that God has “reconciled us to Himself”, is, in this same letter, he then exhorts the Colossian beleivers to “be reconciled to God” (Col.1: 21-23). Clearly indicating to us, that we, whom God has reconciled, also need to respond to His infinite act of Reconciling Love by an act of faith that activates in our renewed spirit the reconciliation He offers.  This act being our repentance.

Now that act of faith, is in effect, an act or word on our part, that acknowledges our godly sorrow, our need for reconciliation, and our willingness to receive God’s forgiveness – an act that, directly or indirectly, expresses repentance, on our part. Being keenly aware, that this act of faith is incited by God’s Grace and Love, as an act of gratitude and is NOT deemed by us as somehow earning a grace or favor that was freely provided to all humanity while we were yet sinners more than two millenia past.

Jesus:  Regarding the Gospel of Repentance

After His resurrection. Jesus gathered his disciples at an unscheduled prayer beakfast and tried to explain to them that what had happened in Jerusalem during His Passion was all contained in the scriptures, saying to them …

“…This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)

Quickly bring  a robe and put it on him ...

Quickly bring a robe and put it on him …

In the parable of the prodigal son (cf.,Luke 15:11-32), Jesus, portrays very clearly how  the Grace of Reconciliation is received through a sincere act of repentance. Namely, when the son who has left the father’s house to “do his own thing” in a far-off land finds himself in a famine with nothing to eat and feeding pigs instead of himself, he, because of his circumstances, “comes to his senses” and says to himself “I will return to my father’s house”. And the father, who, holding nothing against him, has been lovingly waiting for his son, such that when sees him approaching he runs to him and embraces him, telling his servants to provide the son with a family robe and sandals while he places the ring of family authority on his finger.

In this parable,Jesus paints  an allegorical picture about how grace and repentance relate to one another! It is provided to us through scripture for our instruction to let us know how we are loved by the Father, without condemnation, and how we, in returning to Him, should respond to the unmerited Grace he showers upon us by accepting his embrace and the symbols of His love for us: the Robe, the sandals and the ring he places upon us,as unworthy as we are. But the story also tells us that when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and, although sensitive of our own unworthiness, we need to freely turn to the Lord without fear of condemnation, because we know in our hearts that He loves us and  will accept us as we are. (see also my article on “The Prodigals Amongst Us”)

Branches Bearing Fruit

Branches Bearing Fruit

In another allegory, Jesus tells us that our relationship (fellowship) with Him should be like the branches to the Vine, that is,   in our attachment to Jesus. And, just like the branches, if we are to function and bring forth fruit, we must remain attached to the Vine. Otherwise, if we become detached (lose our  fellowship with Him) we risk being like dried up branches that must be cut off and burned (John 15:1-8). Our fellowship with Jesus is, of course, is the outcome or the purpose for the Grace of Reconciliation and implies  that this Grace, that comes through the Vine, must continuously  flow in our lives in order for us to remain attached to the Vine and  bear fruit for the Kingdom and the Glory of the Father. (see also my article on “Bearing Fruit Through Prayer”)

Through Jesus parables like these and through the teaching of the apostles in scripture, the case can be clearly established that this Grace of Reconciliation through Repentance is freely provided to us believers, not only to enter into fellowship with the Divine, but also in order to continue in and maintain that fellowship throughout our lives so that we may bear fruit!

The Apostle John; Regarding Fellowship, Sin, and Confession

John the Evangelist affirms this thesis when he says in His first epistle…

“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1John 1:6-10)

And, in order to ease our discomfort, when we do sin, he says…

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.  (1John 2:1-6)

The Apostle Paul: Regarding Putting on the New Self after our Justification

The apostle Paul also make some clear statements regarding how to carry out our responsibility to “walk as Jesus walked’, in our loving response to the Grace of Reconciliation and Fellowship which we freely receive at our justification. Now, it must be clearly  understood, that this ability to maintain fellowship also emanates from the Grace of Reconciliation and reflects the work of the Holy Spiirt in us in conforming us to the Image of Christ. (Rom. 8:29)

From all of this, It is should be clear to us that when we sin by living by the flesh rather than the Spirit we begin to break out of our fellowship relationship with the Divine and the Holy Spirit, who is in us, works in us to help us recognize our failings, so that through the on going Grace of Reconciliation, we may be brought back into full fellowship with the Divine.

I challenge you to take seriously, these statements from the apostle Paul, who is sometimes misunderstood or misquoted on the subject of being “under Grace and not under law”…

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

CrossBy no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Rom. 6:1-2)

Here also for your discernment, is  his exhortation to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:17-32) regarding the sin problem amongst (apparently) justified believers, and what Paul proposes they do …

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

To this, Paul, adds an important statement indicating that the intent of living a holy life after justifications is not to claim any gain on our part for His Magnificent and free provision of Grace, but to lovingly yield ourselves to Him in acknowledgment  and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of His Son for our salvation.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph 5:1-14)

What then is to be our response?

In conclusion brethren, in light of what I have just presented and in light of the darkness that is coming over this world, I think we all need to pray and meditate on these scriptures and, in discerning God’s will, we should ask ourselves:

<>”Have I arisen with Christ?” or am I just sliding along in life with one foot in the “world’ and the other foot in “church”?

<>”Have I truly awakened to the light of Christ and the Resurrection Life He brings us, or am I still stumbling along in the spiritual darkness of the world and its enticements?

Let us then awake and rise up, understanding that the full intent Grace that God provides is not merely  to “justify” us so that we can go to heaven, but to also give us the opportunity to yield ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit so that He may initiate the process of conforming our lives to the image of our master, Jesus. So that, being under His anointing for service, we may be filled with His Light and become envoys of His Light to this fallen world in which we live, for the Glory of His Name and for His Kingdom!

May God, our Father who loves us, and His Son who saved us, be praised for ever and ever. Amen!

Your Brother In Christ and Fellow Pilgrim … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2013])

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How then Shall we Pray? –

                     Reflections Regarding True Prayer (Part 2)

sheepfollowing

My sheep hear my voice …

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“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)

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My Fellow Pilgrims and brethren in Christ,

In the introductory scripture Jesus makes it very clear that if we are to be His disciples (His sheep) we must be able to: (1) hear His voice, (2) have a personal intimacy with Him, and (3) follow Him by obeying the directives He gives us for our lives.

We cannot do this without prayer – true prayer that is, prayer that enables us to fulfill our roles as His disciples.  The scripture cited also indicates to us that the primary purpose of true prayer is to affirm our spiritual union with Him and establish a clear and intimate channel of dialog so that He can communicate His person and His purposes with us in such a manner that we may come to know Him personally. In this way, by becoming His intimate partners in establishing the Kingdom, our obedience to His guidance will be performed out of a love-enabled spiritual relationship and NOT by obligation!

However, we cannot interact at the spirit level with Him, unless the spirit-self within us has been reborn by the Holy Spirit (Cf., John. 3:3-5). Without such a rebirth we humans are insensitive to the voice of our Shepherd. So the first thing the Holy Spirit does, when He draws us to Himself, is to awaken our spirits and lead us to Christ through conversion and baptism so that He may baptize us in the Holy Spirit and thus revive our spirit nature so that we can hear His Voice and thus enable us to respond to Him as truly His Sheep!

Unfortunately, due to the deleterious influence of the world, the spiritual awareness of all Christians has been dulled into insensitivity so that even most of our churches never really teach us laity how to move into the spirit realm but mainly teach us at the intellectual and devotional level in the hope that somehow our head knowledge will open the doors to a deeper spiritual awareness.

Because of this deficit of a truly reborn and mature spiritual sensitivity in us, our prayer life for most of us, has been stunted in that our prayers never enter the realm of the spiritual but, sadly, remain at the soulish mental and emotional level of expression and awareness, seeking only our own self-fulfillment rather the fulfillment of the Father’s will and purpose in our lives.

In general, for most of us, as a result of our current state, our communications with the Lord has become mainly routine one-way expressions of petitions or supplications for healing or assistance in our very day problems but lack the heart-felt loving intimacy of a child asking his or her father for help. Prayers, that, because of the Father’s loving faithfulness to His Promises, are answered according to His loving providence, but are nonetheless lacking in spiritual depth on our part.

Do not hinder themWhile there is no doubt we are in desperate need of His help in our affairs and, that He, as our Father, is more than willing to come to our assistance, our prayers become for us mainly a routine practice that lacks the intimate yielding, in love, of a child to the Father. And that, above all, is exactly what the Father is seeking of us, in our interactions with Him! It is as Jesus pointed out to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven”(Matt.18:3).

Remember, our spiritual growth is directly related to maintaining our child-like intimacy and relationship with Jesus and His Father – this can only be accomplished through “true” prayer.

In order to help those of you who feel a need to assess the state of your prayer life and are seeking to go to a deeper level with Jesus, I thus present to you a sequel to Jorge Madrid’s previous introductory article on the nature of prayer that may incite you to continue on your spiritual journey and a more intimate and personal relation wit the Divine.

With the author’s approval, Part 2 of his “Reflections Regarding True Prayer” follows this preface.

May the Lord move in you as you pray and read through this latest posting, all the while reconciling everything that comes into your mind and your heart with His Holy Word. Amen.

Your Brother in Christ … Bartimaeus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2013] )

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Reflections Regarding True Prayer (Part 2)

By Jorge Madrid Sr. (AMDG)

Faith: The Foundation For Prayer

Faith is the prime requisite for prayer for scripture tells us that “…without faith it is impossible to please God because those who come to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).  Now one might then argue, “How is it then that unbelievers can become believers? Or how is it that God will answer the prayer of the skeptic: ‘God, if you’re there, help me now when I need you’”.

My words are spirit and they are truth

My words are spirit and they are truth

Let us answer the latter challenge first. His word tells us that He has placed the light of faith in every man (Jn.1:9, Rom.12:3). Even though it is as small as a mustard seed every person is born with at least the faith to cry out to God for help. However, each person can ignore that grain of faith and let skepticism and doubt control him/her and so quench the faith needed for prayer. There is a limit as to how far God will strive with man to keep this seed alive. Once this seed is dead through man’s own decision to reject God, the Lord is not obliged to revive faith again in that person. But God in His mercy and grace has given us His Word of Salvation to be proclaimed so that real living faith can be revived in the those who hear the word and receive it into their hearts (1Ptr. 1:23). This answers the first challenge as well because it is through the hearing of the Word of Life that unbelievers are brought to life through faith.

Now, although faith is necessary to enter into prayer, it is also true that prayer is needed for our faith to increase (Lk.17:5). For those who are seeking spiritual growth, prayer is essential. Prayer is the means through which our relationship to the Father comes to maturity, it allows us to be one in mind with Him and thus permits Him to work through us as He worked through His Son Jesus. In this way, true prayer permits us to discard the self and enter in through the narrow gate. Of course, in true prayer, we gradually surrender ourselves to His Grace so that we live out the results of our prayer by His strength and not ours. I say true prayer, because it is possible to deceive ourselves into thinking we are praying when we deny the Lord the privilege of working through our lives to produce fruit. Prayer that is not fruitful is merely quasi-prayer such as that of the Pharisee talking to himself (Lk. 11:18).

The Elements of Prayer

Communion in the Spirit

The next and foremost principle of true prayer is communion with God.  This is a communion that can only take place in the realm of the spirit. It is a communion that is unique because it is derived out of the spiritual relationship that we as Christians have with God as our Father through Jesus, His Son. Unfortunately, that level of communion is not often reached because we are unaware of the distinct modalities between spirit and soul. This lack of awareness keeps us from placing ourselves at the spirit level when we are praying. Children are able to pray more easily in the spirit because they are not hindered by the intellectual inhibitions with which we are afflicted as adults and thus have no problem in doing things strictly by faith (Mk. 10:14). As we mature as human beings, our rational faculties get in the way of interacting in the spirit because our minds begin to demand a reason behind everything we do whereas our spirit is an intuitive faculty. We also have certain expectations, which are engendered by our limited knowledge of God and His Word, and by the experiences we are having in the world.

Just as man is composed of body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23), so also prayer may be thought of as comprising of form, content, and spirit. Just as in man, God intended the spirit to be the main driving and motivating force, so also in prayer, spiritual dedication is of the essence.  This is so because God is spirit and it is only in the spirit that we can attain communion with him (Jn. 4:24) situation without really getting down to our spirit level. That is, we are usually only at our soul level (rational or emotional) when we say this type of prayer. Because of this, the effectiveness of our prayers is very much diminished. Remember what Jesus quoted from Isaiah regarding the religious people of his day:  “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts (spirits) are far from me”(Mk. 7:6) When we pray therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we enter into the Presence of the Lord with all our hearts, for it is only in this state that our prayers will be truly effective. It is only when we are attuned to that Heart of God that our prayers will be His prayers. And if they are His prayers we can be assured that there will be a response.

Now, getting to the “spirit level” is where most of us have problems because the distinction between spirit and soul has usually not been clearly made in our religious education. As a result we confuse the “religious” efforts of our soul as being “spiritual” and thus we usually enter into prayer usually at the soul or mental level because that is where our intellectual faculties are focused. Without going into an abstruse theological discussion, just remember that, as baptized, converted Christians, all we need to do to enter into the spirit is to make a decision of the will by “faith” to enter into that dimension where we are in His Presence. It is by faith because we are making the decision not on what we have reasoned or what we feel, but on the Word of God, which tells us “ Come near to God and He will come near to you”(Jm.4:8). As Christians, by making such a sincere act of the will, in faith, can we enter into His Presence, because the Blood of Jesus has purchased the way to the Father.

When we make take this step make sure that you are in a place where you can honor your decision by quieting your soul and placing yourself apart from distractions. Once we are in His presence we should place our desire on Him and Him alone – yielding even the desire we had to pray to Him.

intercessory_prayer-1By yielding to His Holy Spirit, the Spirit himself is now free to pray through us (Rom. 8:26). Even though we begin our prayer in the natural, the Spirit begins to take over our prayer so that by the time we conclude, it has been His prayer and not ours.  The Spirit will do this gradually, thus imbuing our prayer with the appropriate content and form. The Word tells us that the Spirit assists us in our prayer because we are limited in knowing exactly what and how to pray in certain situations. Because we are so used to expressing ourselves in formula prayers, this may at first appear difficult. But once you experience the Spirit working in your prayers you will not only delight in it but you will be edified by what the Spirit is working in prayer through you.

If you wish, you could begin with the prayers you are comfortable with. Invest them with your yielding to the Holy Spirit, only don’t let yourself be bound by them. As you repeat them slowly and meditatively, let the Holy Spirit express himself through your words. Don’t be surprised if you begin praying something different than with what you started, As you continue in prayer, you will also find yourself at a point where there are no words to express what you sense is in your spirit. At this point don’t resist the Holy Spirit if there are words coming out of your mouth that don’t make sense to you. Express the words as they come. Don’t hold back. You will than find that the Holy Spirit is praying through you the sentiments that are in your spirit but for which you don’t have the words. This is called “praying in the spirit”. In this mode your spirit is bypassing your mental faculties (i.e., your soul) to express to God those precious sentiments that God himself has placed there just for that moment (1 Cor.14:14)).

Of course everything I have just stated is with respect to personal private prayer. However, without understanding the basis for private prayer and learning to pray at the spirit level, your ability to effectively participate in group or public prayer will similarly be diminished. In the personal mode of prayer, our conversations are between the Lord and ourselves. We need to set aside quality time for these conversations. If possible we should find a nice quiet spot where we will not be interrupted and most of all we need to quiet our soul so that our spirit is able to discern the Lord and what he is communicating to us. Initially, our time in prayer may be short. However, you will find that the more you practice this mode of prayer, time will become irrelevant to you as you delight yourself in the Lord and lose yourself in the Glory of His Presence. Praised be His Holy Name!

Content

When we pray, the content of our prayer embodies our objective. Underlying that objective, and usually unspoken, is the motive behind our prayer. When I speak of content, therefore, I imply both the objective and the motive of the prayer. When we are praying, even though we are yielded to the Holy Spirit, it is important that we form in our minds the content or objective of our prayer is in accord with the will of God. In judging whether the content is in God’s will, we must also assess our motives. An objective, by itself, might appear to be something that God would approve, but if our motives are self-centered, you can be sure that it is not God’s will (Jm.4:3). In general, if your motives and your objective are not based on love (the God kind of Love), it cannot be God’s will.

Word-of-GodFor this reason, it is very helpful if your prayers come out of your meditation on the Word of God. In this manner God Himself, through the Holy Spirit will form the appropriate content for your prayer so that it is in line with His will. Jesus tells us that “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (Jn 15:7). The key to effective prayer is to lead a life that is in Him. Before we pray for specific objectives for others we need to examine ourselves to ensure that we are “abiding in Him and in His Word”. This is another reason why the daily reading of the Word of God is indispensable. If you still find difficulty in assessing whether your motives are pure or whether your prayer objectives are in His will, you merely, initiate your prayer time with a prayer for wisdom. Asking for wisdom is clearly in His will (James 1:5) and your desire to be in His Will ensures that you will have an answer if you will only open your heart and listen to what he tells you.

Another concept we must also understand is that those prayers of petition that are motivated by the responsibilities the Lord has placed on our lives are usually free of self-centerdness and go straight to the Throne of God. As for instance, the prayers of parents for their children, of pastors for their congregation, and doctors for their patients. In general, prayers for others tend to have purer motives than prayers for ourselves. That is why James exhorts us to “pray for each other that you may be healed”(James 5:16).

When praying for healing we need also to ask for the wisdom as  to how to pray in these cases because, although our God is a Healing God, He alone knows the full circumstances of a person’s life. Pray that the Holy Spirit lead you into the appropriate prayer for that person. Sometimes through a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom you may see what might be hindering God’s work in that person and through your prayer seek release from the bondage holding that person from the fullness of the Lord’s Grace. It may be that in a particular case, He may permit the illness to take its course, not because He doesn’t wish to heal, but because it may fulfill something greater He wishes to accomplish in that person. Like his/her salvation. The Lord does indeed desire healing for all. The only question is how and when that healing takes place. Either here or in eternity.

Form

As one who appreciates the poetic, I find myself admiring well-written formal prayers, wishing I could pray that way.  Although I sometimes use formal prayers, I do not use them without a little bit of preparation. The reason for this is that the Lord wants our prayers to be from the heart and in order for formal prayers to be from our heart, we first need to meditate on each prayer until we can adopt it as our own. When you do that, the form becomes secondary. For that reason, although I may use the formal prayer to inspire me, I usually end up modifying the prayer or making up my own prayer as the spirit takes over. It usually does not read as well as the formal prayer but it is MY prayer from MY Heart and that is what is important to the Lord. Form is mainly important to us because it provides the framework for the content, it keeps us from uttering sheer nonsense, and it permits us to create a beautiful expression that glorifies the Lord. However, there are no explicit guidelines for the form of personal prayer in scripture. Instead we find that the form of the prayer is whatever the Holy Spirit leads us to pray when we are in submission to His leading. Daniel, when He prayed for discernment regarding the Seventy Years of captivity that was prophesied for Israel (Daniel 9:2-3 ), was led into the form of prayer that was appropriate and necessary to intercede for his nation. Similarly when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1), Jesus provided them with an outline for a prayer that would enable them to minister in the Kingdom. In another place, Jesus indicated to His disciples that they needed to pray to the Father in His Name that they might receive. Jesus also told his disciples to keep their personal prayer private (Matt. 6:5-6) and to keep their prayers simple (Matt.6:7), other than that, He placed few constraints on form, His teaching on prayer mainly emphasized a heartfelt purity of objective and motive.

Now, we must keep in mind that praying to the Father in Jesus Name (Jn. 16:23-24) is not just an expression that we can tritely throw out at the end of our prayers without understanding its full implications. In the Hebrew culture, to use this idiom meant that you were the fully authorized representative of the person whose name you were claiming to speak for. So if you used this expression to do business for some important landlord it meant that you could transact any business in his name the landlord would fully support any decision you made. In using the Name of Jesus in petitioning the Father, you are basically asking the Father as if you were Jesus Himself! So before you can pray in His name you must be abiding in Him and He in you. If your spiritual state is such that you are not currently in fellowship with Him (1Jn1:6-7), then quickly and sincerely repent, confess your sin, ask forgiveness, and put yourself back in fellowship with Him. Then restate your prayer and boldly go before the throne because now you approach the throne not with your righteousness (which is garbage) but with the righteousness of Jesus (which is infinite holiness)! This is why praying in the Name of Jesus is all-important and why this should be the main guideline on form that is placed on our prayers. Praised Be His Holy Name!

From the examples of scripture, we see that we have a great deal of flexibility in the specific form of personal prayer as long as we are connecting with God, and our objectives and motives are pure. So be bold in your praying knowing that the Lord is not grading you on grammar, pronunciation, sentence structure, or poetic meter He only wants all of your love and He treasures the personal expression of that love in our prayers.

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2013])

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For those whose spirit has been aroused and are hungry for God, I recommend the following links to continue your instruction in true prayer. May the Holy Spirit Guide you on your way. …  Bartimaeus

Recommended Links to an Enhanced Spirituality

The Promise of the Father

The Promise of the Father is for all that believe.

Prayer of the Inward Man: Praying in the Spirit

Releasing The Spirit

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

Spirituality and The Mystic Dimension

The Art of Meditative Prayer

Music as an Aid to Transitioning to the Spiritual

Read Full Post »

Declare the Victory! Set the Captives free!

My Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

The Lord Jesus declared His “Mission Statement”, that is, the purpose for which He was sent from the Father, when He read in the synagogue the section from Isaiah that reads;

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me...

The Spiirt of the Lord is Upon Me...

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

    He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted,

to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free …

to proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor”

(Luke 4:18-19) (cf.,Is.61)

Yes, brethren, the Lord Jesus, has proclaimed the “Year of the Lord’s Favor”, the New Covenant of Redemption, but how many of us have appropriated the spiritual freedom that comes with that proclamation?

As it is for other spiritual statements in the Word of God, in order for this Word of God to reach our hearts and thus have any effect on our lives we must first, personally identify with it, accept it in faith, and let it make its home in our hearts! This is what is meant by a “Rhema” word – a Word that has been activated to produce fruit for His Glory!

In this regard, how many of us, brethren, can identify with the categories stated – those for which the Good News of the Kingdom is to be proclaimed, namely, the “poor”, the “brokenhearted”, the “captives”, the “blind”,  and the “oppressed”.

Most of us that live in relative prosperity and security can usually identify with one or two of the categories listed in the scripture cited above, but we usually have trouble in identifying ourselves with categories such as “poor”, “captives”, “blind”, and “oppressed”. It is my belief that this is one of the reasons why the Fullness of the Good News is not being realized amongst us in the prospering nations is exactly because our material circumstances prevent us from seeing that, with respect to our spiritual state, ALL of humanity is covered by the categories listed.

Because of the fallen state of our human nature and the influence of the world, we tend to only assess our material and physical circumstances and ignore our spiritual state before God. In essence we find it hard for this word to be a “Rhema” word for us.

For instance, we don’t identify with “captives”, because we only envision captives as those who are behind bars in a prison or prisoners of war in a prison camp. We think we are free but, spiritually, we are really in bondage to the emotional and psychological trauma brought on through the circumstances of our lives and our sin nature that keeps us in captivity.

The reason we don’t see ourselves as “blind” because we not aware of our spiritual blindness. And it is this very blindness that keeps us from assessing our spiritual captivity. We are blind because we have been conformed to the ways of the world and deception by the Kingdom of Darkness that controls the world systems so that we only see what the “god of this world”, Satan, wants us to see.

Because so many of us are psychologically and emotionally disabled, we may relate to the category of the “oppressed”.  But even there we attempt to avoid coming to the realization that our problems with oppression are more spiritual than emotional or psychological.

We all have this tendency to discount the spiritual over the material or physical that we observe and sense.

Even John the Baptist, when in prison, had this type of doubt. Since he was obviously a physical prisoner of King Herod, and, since he believed that Jesus had come to set the “captives free”, why wasn’t Jesus working on delivering him from captivity? For this reason John sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ” … are you the One who is to come or shall we wait for another?” (Matt. 11:3)

In order to help John to come to a proper spiritual assessment of who He was, in the spirit, Jesus, told John’s disciples to look at circumstances through a different perspective, God’s perspective, and see the Kingdom of God being manifested through His ministry. “Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Matt.11:4-6) (cf., Is.35:5 ff)

I bring this to your attention brethren, because, unless you understand the fullness of the deliverance and healing that comes from Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross, your faith in obtaining access to the Blessings and Victory of the Cross will be greatly diminished!

Yes, even if we don’t realize it, we are spiritual captives and in desperate need of the Good News that Jesus, by His death on the Cross and His Resurrection, has delivered us from our captivity in the Kingdom of Darkness and set us Free! But because we are in the grips of the world we have hardened our hearts to hear the Word of God, by which Freedom and deliverance is obtained through Faith!

Some of us are captives because we have been ensnared by the trauma of living in this fallen world – by the abuses we have suffered, by the broken relationships we have endured, by the addictions and sins we have committed and committed against us. By the rejection we have suffered and the weight of the emotional and psychological burdens the trauma of these circumstances have placed upon us.

This is the main reason many of us have hardened our hearts, so that not only do we not respond to our friends who try to help us, but we also close ourselves off from the very Word of God, which was sent to proclaim the Victory of the Cross and bring us deliverance from the very state we are in!

Free at Last!

Free at Last!

It is exactly from this type of captivity that the Lord has come to deliver us.

St. Paul put it this way: “… the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:2)

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This is the perspective of the Good News that your spirit has been waiting to hear – The Good News of the Victory of God’s Kingdom over the Kingdom of Darkness. A Victory that sets you free to be the person the Lord God created you to be.

It is the Father’s desire to set us free because He Loves us and wants us to be free so that we can fulfill the His will and His plan for our lives:

“ ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD,  ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.  ‘And I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD,..”  (Jer. 29:11-14)

Even though we are believers, we have let our fallen state lead us into the dominion of the world system. It is through the allure of this world, and the deception of the enemy that we have been wounded and taken captive by the enemy to hinder us from living out the destiny the Lord has for each of us.  And, because we have not been taught how to appropriate the deliverance from bondage – the spiritual freedom that is our legacy, we continue to be bound by these anchors of our past –  our sins our failures, our suffering through abuse and betrayals.

But NOW the Lord has come to proclaim His Word to us anew – a Word that proclaims that all our past sins and our past problems have been crucified on His Cross and that through His resurrection from the dead we are all become as New Creations through our faith in Him!  Praised be His Holy Name!

All we need to do is hear His voice calling to us and, through the hearing of faith, respond to His call – listen, then with your spiritual ears. to what He is saying:

“My children, My children, come to me! Come to me and lay your burdens at the foot of My Cross!  Repent and believe the Good News for I suffered and died for you and your faults. Do not continue to be burdened by them!  You are Free – Free to follow Me – Free to be one with Me and share in my Glory!

You have been delivered from your past – if only you unite yourself with me and let me be your Present and your Future! Leave your past behind, yield yourself to me and let me work in you and through you to bring forth the destiny for which I created you! All you need you do is ask! Ask and you will receive! Do this my Children, do this, for I dearly love you and desire for you to be united with Me in eternity!”

For those of us in the Catholic tradition, that is exactly what the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist provide – a place to draw near to Him – place where we may ask and receive!

First – a Door of Grace and Reconciliation is opened where, in faith, we lay down our sins and our burdens before Him and appropriate the forgiveness and freedom He won for us 2000 Years ago on His Cross!

And Secondly – the Eucharist, a Door to Holy Come-Union with Him, beckons to us as we partake of His Body and His Blood and so renew and strengthen His presence in us to accomplish the Father’s will for our lives, now and forever! Praised Be His Holy Name!

In partaking of these mysteries we appropriate the Eternal Victory of the Cross and bring His Victory into overcoming manifestation into the present moment in our lives!  He is our Passover Lamb and in celebrating the Eucharist we are participating in the Spiritual Passover where we leave the Land of Egypt (the land of fleshly bondage) and are poised to enter into His Promised Land (the Land of His Kingdom and Spiritual Freedom)! Praised Be His Holy Name!

Yes, my friends the sacraments act, not only as our Passover, but also as our “Jacob’s ladder” into eternity to bring down the fruits of the Redemptive Graces of His Passover and their power to enforce His Victory over the kingdom of darkness. The Redeeming Graces and Divine Power that sets us free from our spiritual bondage and liberates us to obey and serve Our Blessed Savior with our yielded lives forever ! Baruch Ha Shem and Amen!

For, as He fervently told His skeptics when He told them that He was the “Bread of Life” and that only in eating of that Bread can we abide in Him …

Eat my flesh ... Drink my Blood

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.  “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me.  “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.” (Jn. 6:53 -58)

The “Life” that He offers us is a sharing in the Divine Life (our Promised Land), a life that Jesus terms “Eternal Life”. This is the Life of the Trinity in us – A Life that frees us to experience and be everything that the Lord has destined for us – not only in eternity but right NOW in our present situation. For has He not told us that He is the “I AM”, the God of the “Now” and the God of all our Future “Nows”.“But, …” some of you might ask, “how do we enter into this redeemed life, of which we are just coming into?”  My dear brothers and sisters, the Door into the Victory of the Cross in our lives is “Love”. But not the natural kind of Love, rather, it is the Divine kind of  “Love” – “Agape” Love – The love that has been poured into our hearts By the Spirit of God (Rom.5:5). The self-sacrificing kind of Love that places the blessing of others above our own well-being and sanctifies our empowerment (cf. 1Cor.13 ff)!

And, the key action of faith that releases this Divine Love is to forgive all those who have hurt or abused you in any way; emotionally, psychologically, verbally, or physically. This is the “Door” that is presented to us as being derived from the reception of our daily “holy communion” bread, in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples ….

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your Kingdom come  [in me and through me].
[so that] Your will [may]  be done, on earth as it is in heaven. [And to sustain us in our weakness,,]
Give us this day our daily bread [manna from heaven].
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial [beyond what we can handle, and so that we may not fail you in our walk with you …] rescue us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
but if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matt. 6:10-15)

Jesus expanded this teaching further when He exhorted His disciples on the character of this type of Love …

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven,  give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6: 32-38)

Our first Pope put it this way…

“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Ptr. 3:8-9)

It is up to us, then, brothers and sisters, to choose to follow Jesus’ directives in order to activate our faith to receive the Blessings of the Cross and Resurrection in Faith and not let the circumstances of our lives and past mistakes deprive of the spiritual Liberty and Freedom that is our heritage. With our faith thus activated, Let us go forth into life as Redeemed sons and daughters of the Father to live out our lives for His Glory and not to  intimidated by the “accuser of the brethren”!

In this way you put your “old man” on the cross, and put on the “new man” in Christ yielding yourself to Him in everything, yoking yourself to Him so that your life is no longer yours but His! Praised be His Glorious Name!

“Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom:6:6)

“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4: 23-24)

Yes, in following Jesus, we will meet criticism and opposition, and even rejection for our stand, but be encouraged, taking St. Paul’s exhortation to the Romans to heart, where he says

“What then are we to say about these things?

If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?

Who will bring any charge against God’s elect?

It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?

It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who [then] will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom.8: 31-35)

“[ shall we then, say? ] As it is written, 

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Rom.8:36)

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom.8:31-39)

As we take action, in faith, to open the doors (gates) of our heart to the King and thus, recover our legacy in Christ, let us sing the appropriate words of praise to Our Mighty Savior and Our God…

“Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors!

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is the King of glory?

….

The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.

….

Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors!

 that the King of glory may come in.

….

Who is this King of glory?

The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. (Ps.24:7-10)

As we join in His march of Victory, we must always keep in mind, brethren, that although the Ultimate Work of Grace on the Cross, is perfect and complete in Christ through eternity – it is only through a continuously active Faith that we can appropriate and bring the eternal graces of that Victory into manifestation in our lives – that is, into this natural space-time continuum in which we exist! That is why we must Let Love Reign in our hearts in all that we think or do or say.

That is also why the church, for our benefit, provides the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist continuously in our times, so that He can energize our faith in His Victory and thus manifest that Victory in our daily Lives. In this way, as we proceed along life’s treacherous path we may always have access to the Graces of Christ’s Eternal Cross and Resurrection and His Eternal Redemption, permitting us to proclaim and manifest Our Lord’s victory over death and sin through our redeemed lives and our empowered witness.

To Him be Honor and Glory forever and ever! Amen and Amen

Your fellow servant in Christ Jesus … Bartimeaus

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2012])

Recommended Links

Sweet Yoke of Love

The Kingdom of God: Our Spiritual Inheritance

Reclaiming Our Legacy In Christ

Hearing God’s Voice, and Obeying It

Pentecost and the Promise of the Father

The Empowerment Gifts (Part 1)

The Empowerment Gifts (Part 2)


Read Full Post »

What is Spirituality Anyway?           

(Excerpted from a booklet by Jorge  Madrid Sr.,  with the Author’s permission)                          

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

The Word is a Double Edged Sword

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”  (Hebrews 4:12 emphasis mine)

In our rationalistic culture we somehow believe or think that by assigning a definition or label to a concept that somehow we have captured the spirit of that which we so define. It is like thinking that we can capture the essence of a uniquely aromatic field of lavender by passing the butterfly net of our intellect over it and attempting to describe it with words.

No!  To really capture the essence of that field of lavender you have to be in that field, walking in it, breathing in the air, and smelling and absorbing the richness of its essence under the imbuement of the associated color and light. Then, if we have a poetic or musical strain, we may attempt to convey our experience to others through the inspiration of our art. But it is never the equal of the experience itself. Only a personal visit to the field of lavender will really suffice. And even then each person’s experience, while having some commonality, will differ because the experience will evoke different reactions from the visitor’s inner person, that is, the non-intellectual part of the person.

I bring this up to indicate our need to emphasize that the terms we use to define some of our concepts are but mere place-holders that we use to attempt to communicate a reality that cannot be intellectualized but can only be fully comprehended through our experiencing it! And, that if the person we are trying to communicate with has not experienced something similar, our words will be just that, words. Empty words. Words that will not transmit the essence of our experience but merely a statement that indicated we visited some place called  “a field of lavender” and that we had a “wonderful” experience.

“Spirit”, “spiritual” and “spirituality” are words that are commonly used to attempt to communicate such concepts. In fact, they are so commonly used that our first reaction is to assume that we understand want is meant because we have read so many books and materials on the subject. But if someone were to pin us down with the question: “ when was the last time you experienced something spiritual”, most of us would be hard pressed to answer. And if we did, we would usually respond with something that evoked our emotions, because that is the usual way we tend to misunderstand the meaning of the term, “spiritual”.

It is because of this misunderstanding that many Christians are somewhat afraid of “spiritual” experiences because it might make them appear as too emotional, especially in church. And of course, what Christian wants to be emotional, especially, in a church environment?  After all, anything that looks like emotionalism indicates a lack of self-control and would bring some unwanted attention from the congregants and the ministers[1].

First of all, true “spiritual’ experiences initiated by the Holy Spirit are not emotional outbursts or esoteric feelings. They are exceptional events that occur deep in our “inner selves’. Sometimes they involve visions, dreams, and prophecy, but mainly they are a non-cognitive awareness of something beyond that which can be perceived by our senses but which imparts an infused understanding, knowledge or wisdom beyond ourselves. They involve a perception into that which lies beyond our normal sense or cognitive experience.

These experiences may evoke emotions on our part but our responses are always entirely under our control. The Holy Spirit does not take over our personality but instead values our free will and a cooperative attitude.  What the Holy Spirit desires from us, in granting us these experiences, is “communion” with the divine and that communion takes place in the quiet center of our inner being. What we sometimes term as our “spirit” or our “heart”. It is our “Holy of Holies”, our sanctuary where our spirit can commune with the Holy One.

The human spirit was designed by God to have a desire or a “hunger” for communion with He who created us and those things in our lives which can, in some way, satisfy or satiate this “hunger” or “thirst” are, therefore, referred to as “spiritual”.   Spirituality is the term we use to describe this nature or characteristic of the spirit that yearns for communion with the Divine in the stillness of our inner sanctuary.

Every person on this planet, whether they realize it or not, are seeking to be in touch with their spirituality. This is only natural because it is an essential part of our being and its neglect brings us to a dysfunctional state which we humans, in our ignorance, attempt to repair by attempting to fill our spiritual hunger with ego-satisfying ambitions, and the empty lure of worldly lusts and emotions. Thus, amplifying our state of disarray and personal agony.

Another of the problems in our rationalistic western culture is our inability to comprehend the tripartite nature (body, soul, and spirit) with which we have been endowed.  Since our spiritual nature cannot be observed and studied as our body and our soul (mind, psyche, emotions, etc.) we tend to ignore its needs and demands. As a result when the Holy Spirit knocks at the doors of our hearts we do not know how to open the door or, if we do, we are afraid to because it may lead us to an area of our lives for which our culture has not prepared us, or in fact, has blocked the door because being “spiritual” is considered by some to be “anti-intellectual”.

Before continuing, let me say that because of this, simple, less intellectually sophisticated persons are usually better able to open the door to the Holy Spirit because they are not hampered by the intellectual or philosophical predispositions introduced by our culture.

In order to get past these barriers it is necessary for us to comprehend is that spiritual experiences in the Holy Spirit are our legitimate Christian legacy and, if properly practiced and understood, are perfectly compatible with our Faith. They are, in fact, at the core of our Faith.

That being said, it must also be affirmed that one must be aware that a person can be deceived, not only intellectually, but also spiritually. There are counterfeit spiritual experiences just as there are false teachers of deceptive philosophies. For that reason, the gifts of the Holy Spirit include, the gift of prophecy, teaching,, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment of spirits, so that those leaders of the community that are charismatically endowed can help keep the community from spiritual and intellectual deception.

In the early centuries of the church, both intellectual and spiritual deception was rampant. The Greek intellectual environment of those days scrutinized every religion (new and old) with respect to discovering some “new” wisdom.   Such wisdom was sought both intellectually through philosophy and logic as well as through the esoteric “hidden” wisdom sought out by the mystery cults and the Gnostics.  Because of these trends, the faith of the early Christians was very vulnerable to being hi-jacked by these movements.

In their defense of the true Faith, the early church fathers went to great extremes to establish a solid theological foundation that could counter the attacks of the cultural Greek intellectual elite and the mystery cults. They also attempted to define the clear bounds for discerning orthodox spiritual experiences from the occult and pagan demonic experiences. In doing so they had to define the terms “spirit”, “spiritual” and “spirituality” in a manner that was consistent with orthodox theology and concepts that would become the bulwark against the prevalent deceptions of the Greek intellectual and pseudo-spiritual culture of those days. These diversions from the truth had attempted to twist Paul’s theological concept of “body, soul, and spirit” to accommodate Gnostic and Manichean dualistic concepts of good and evil that usually ended up postulating that we had two natures, one evil and one divine.

In those early theological battles it also became essential to define what was meant by the term “soul” and what was meant by the term “spirit”.  In the Gnostic concept, our spiritual nature was the “good” part of us while our natural self and body were inherently evil. In their view, salvation could only be achieved through an esoteric knowledge (gnosis) through which our real “self” could escape our “evil” nature into the “pleroma”  (union with the highest divinity). This of course implied that our natural soul was part of the evil nature and that we had within us another spiritual entity which, although “good” was imprisoned within the natural. Replete with errors, the ultimate conclusion of this heretical line of reasoning was that our salvation depends on ourselves (through our achieving gnosis) and NOT on the saving sacrifice of God’s son.

In order to quell such heretical dualistic disparities, the church councils clearly established the true teaching that we only have one spiritual nature and that is our soul. What is sometimes lost because of the intricacies of the theological discourse is the fact that the councils did not refute scripture regarding the separate identity of the human spirit. Rather, the councils affirmed that the human spirit, though it has its own intrinsic functions, is embedded in the soul, and is of the same spiritual essence. This unique spiritual entity, together with the body, form one living being[2]. Their main intent was not to negate the existence of man’s spirit but rather to affirm that there are not two spiritual natures (or essences) in man but one.

Today, because we have forgotten the intent of the councils to differentiate essence from function, there is some confusion over the functional distinction between soul and spirit to the degree that, in general, they are generally considered to be synonymous

St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, and one of the Fathers of the Christian faith, clearly indicates in his writings that the human spirit exists as the deepest most intimate part of our soul and that it exhibits distinct functions from the rest of the soul. In his letters to a confused cleric, Augustine states: “It now remains for me to show how it is that while the designation spirit is rightly predicated of a part of the soul, not the whole of it,–even as the apostle says, “Your whole spirit, and soul, and body;” or, according to the much more expressive statement in the Book of Job,’ “Thou wilt separate my soul from my spirit,” –yet the whole soul is also called by this name” (cf., A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin, Book 4, Chapter 36)

Now, if we don’t really understand that the term “spirit” as used in scripture refers to a component of man’s being that, although an integral part of the soul, has its own distinct functions[3], how can we really understand what spirituality or spiritual growth entail?

In the past, theologians wrapped themselves around a proverbial axle trying to define the distinction between “spirit” and “soul” by deferring to classical philosophical definitions between essence and form. This usually led to abstruse discussions about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  All we need to know is that the Holy Spirit through His infallible Word has revealed to us that in the eyes of God there is a special part of us that He designates as our “spirit”. If we trust His word we should not need to go into any arcane classifications between form and essence in attempting to understand with our limited human intelligence something beyond what God has revealed to us. We merely trust Him to tell us what we need to know to adequately manage our spiritual lives. And knowing that we have a “spirit” is something we need to know in order to understand the dynamics of what happens in the spiritual domain.

First of all, we read in Genesis 2:7 that when God created man in his image, He breathed His Spirit [Hebrew, neshamah, Strong’s Hebrew #5397] on man so that He could become a living entity or soul [Hebrew, nephesh, Strong’s Hebrew #5315] [4]. This leads us to the following implications: 1) man’s higher spiritual nature [neshamah] is created directly from the creative power of God’s Spirit, 2) the spiritual entity which is created from God’s Spirit is co-natural with the Divine (that is, it is of a similar nature, though not the same essence), and 3) the union of body and a spirit-empowered soul forms one single living entity [nephesh].

The spiritual part of this single living entity created by God contains two separate functional units, much as a peach has two parts apart from the skin: a fruit part, and a seed part. However, when we think about what makes a peach a “peach” we usually have the fruit part in mind.  So also when we think about man’s spiritual essence or “soul” we usually only think about those identifiable intangible personal assets that we are conscious of, namely, our personality, our ego, our intellect, our emotions, our will, our psyche, and so on. The reason we forget to include our “spirit” in our associations is that we are not normally aware of the spiritual organ deep within us that the scripture calls “spirit”.  This part of us, our “seed” part, is just as much “soul” as our self-awareness part. But, just because it is beyond our normal self-awareness, we tend to ignore its existence.

What we normally consider the “soul” part is created as man’s control center, to manage the interface between man, his body, his senses, his mind and the natural space-time environment, while, at the same time, being connected through his “spirit” to the divine which transcends this space-time environment in which we exist. The “spirit” part is created to interface with the divine and contains the necessary faculties to do this. Jesus himself reiterated this fact when he spoke with the Samaritan “woman at the well”, telling her that God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth[5]. Paul, who was clearly aware of the functional distinction[6] between soul (mind) and spirit (heart), says, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind (soul) is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind[7].

From this and many other scriptural references which affirm the above we see that our spiritual faculties, though intertwined with those of our soul, are there for the purpose of receiving Life from God and for man to fellowship with His Creator. It is that component of our being that is designated to interface God and therefore the enabler our fellowship with Him. What we normally consider our “soul” part, contains the faculties needed to interact with each other and the material universe, including our bodies. Our “spirit” part contains the faculties needed to interact with the divine.

God, through the scripture, tells us that man’s being is functionally composed of spirit, soul and body[8]. The fact that there are three facets or levels of awareness to our human nature may be compared to the statement that the human body is composed of a central nervous system, a circulatory system, a muscular system, a respiratory system, and a skeletal system. Just as the central nervous system can impact our circulatory system, so our spirit has influence over our soul and over our body and vice-versa. Just as sometimes problems in our central nervous system may be misdiagnosed as circulatory problems so problems in our spirit are sometimes misunderstood as being psychological problems. This does not mean that our spiritual faculties are one and the same as those of our soul. It merely means that what is happening in our spirit is reflected in our soul (and vice versa). One of the functions of the spirit is to communicate what it senses in the supernatural realm to the soul whose main function is to permit us to function in the natural realm.

In God’s original design, the spirit (heart) of man was meant to be in submission to the divine and to exercise direct influence over our “soul” just as the “soul” was to have direct influence over the body. When mankind fell from Grace, the faculties in man’s “spirit” became disconnected from God (the spirit “died”) and our “souls” became the dominant part of our nature. Jesus came to take on our death and revive the “spirit” component of our nature so that our renewed spirit could aspire to regain its God-inspired dominance and we could again be truly called God’s children (in the spiritual sense).

With this understanding in mind, the term “spirituality” denotes any improvement in our condition that begins to move our renewed spirit back into the place of influence originally designed by God. The process of improvement cannot begin unless our spirits are revived. Man cannot revive his own spirit, only God, through His Holy Spirit, can revitalize our spirits[9]. When Paul, speaking to the Corinthians says, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly — mere infants in Christ[10], he is telling them, that although they are truly his brothers in Christ through baptism, he cannot speak to them in spiritual terms because they have not yet reached the place where their renewed spirits exert a direct influence on their minds (soul). Since the unspiritual man cannot understand the things of God[11], he must address them in terms of their reason, so that through their reason he can motivate them to come to spiritual maturity. That is why He exhorts them to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind[12].

The same is true today. I was just like those Corinthians. I was spiritually in Christ through baptism but my mind (soul) needed to be renewed so that I could begin to grow spiritually.  The first barrier I had to remove to receive God’s grace for renewal was to dethrone the “self” which had been ruling my mind (soul) and turn my life over to Jesus so that He and He alone would rule in me through my spirit. Then, as the Holy Spirit worked in me through meditation on the Word of God and prayer, my renewed soul was opened to receive more of God’s life by way of my spirit.

This symbiotic relationship between soul and spirit is what God intended for man. In this way man is led to integrate his spirit, soul, and body to bring about the wholeness for which God destined us. The final step in this integration is union with the Divine. Thus we understand, that true spirituality is achieved when we cooperate with God’s Grace by permitting the Holy Spirit to work through us in those activities which bring us to total integration with God’s will. This will in turn reflect itself in the wholeness (holiness) of our lives (spirit, soul, and body). This is true spirituality.  Anything that diverts us from this goal is unspiritual.

Realizing that we have a spiritual nature and learning to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit through that nature is only the first step in spiritual growth. We must also come to the realization that the primary reason the Lord created us with such a capacity is so that we can delight in His presence to the point of total worship and for communion And fellowship with Him. At the same time, He also designed us with this spiritual nature so that He could manifest His Kingdom in this world through us, His children. In the process of bringing us to conformity us to the image of His Son, we are to be His partners in all the works He plans for this world[13]. We, therefore, have a great responsibility before God to work with His Grace and Anointing to perform His Will on this earth[14]. The way we do this is through prayer and resulting action. In doing this we become participants in bringing His Kingdom into manifestation in this world. This is, in essence, what we are asking when we pray: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven[15]”, as we say the “Lord’s Prayer”.

Our response to this Grace that the Father has freely provided through the Blood of Jesus is to keep our vessels pure and to abide in Him so that His power and anointing will flow through us to our society to bring His Love, His peace, and His justice to this world. For this reason, when we come into this renewed spiritual awareness we should freely and willingly rededicate ourselves and all of our activities to Him so that all that we undertake and accomplish is truly in His Name and not out of our own zeal and energy.


[1] Just as David was despised by his wife, Saul’s daughter for dancing before the Ark of the Covenant as He was leading the procession bringing it to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6:14-16)

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church: 365, 366, 367

[3] Because of the inadequacy of our language the term “spirit” can be used in two different ways. One is to use the term as a description of the essence of the immaterial part of our being. The other way is to use the term to indicate the set of faculties attributable to a distinct spiritual “organ” within our immaterial being.

[4] The definitions found in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance imply that the primary distinction between Neshamah and Nephesh is that the former refers to  a  spiritual-level life energizing force while the latter refers to a the sentient-level soul life of a created being.

[5] John 4:24

[6]  Hereafter I will use the terms “soul” and “spirit” not  in reference to their essence (which are the same) but rather to their distinctiveness in faculties or functions, which is how scripture mainly uses these terms.

[7] 1 Corinthians 4:14-15

[8] 1 Thessalonians 5;23

[9] John 3:6, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit”

[10] 1 Corinthians 3:1

[11] 1 Corinthians 2:14

[12] Ephesians 4:23

[13]Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?”. (1 Corinthians 6:2)

[14] We must be careful to note that our performance of God’s will on Earth is not a condition for our salvation but rather the outcome of our acceptance of Gods free gift of salvation in Jesus, His Son.

[15] Matt. 6:10

[Excerpt from:  Thy Kingdom Come! Reflections on Personal Spirituality, Prayer and Worship. Copyright ©2006 – 2008 by Jorge Alfonso Madrid Sr.

Recommended Links
<>   §  The Prayer of the Inward Man
<>  § Releasing the Spirit
<>  §  Praying in the Spirit

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2011])

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“Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down;  Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water.

 

At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

 

Elijah Contends Against ThePriests Of Baal

Elijah Contends Against ThePriests Of Baal

Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD indeed is God; the LORD indeed is God.” (1 Kings 18: 30-39)

After his confrontation with the priests of Baal (1 kings 18: 17-40), Elijah, the prophet, fled into the wilderness to avoid the wrath of Queen Jezebel who was in the process of executing all the prophets of Israel she could find  (cf., Kings 19). It is interesting to note Elijah’s very human response to the queen’s threats after he had experienced the power and Glory of God overcome the priests of Baal and thus overwhelmingly show the people that there is only one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

His reaction shows that Elijah did not let the anointing the Lord had placed on him go to his head. He knew that he was only a channel and instrument through which the Lord was working and that all of the power manifested during his ministry originated with the Divine and he had nothing to do with it other than being His willing servant. He knew that he was a weak human being in need of God’s protection and blessing. So he cried to the Lord for help.

Elijah in despair

Elijah in despair

“Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” “(1 Kings 19: 1-5)

As the Lord led him to refuge at various locations Elijah kept complaining to the Lord saying, that he was the last of the prophets who was faithful to the God of Israel, until finally the lord rebuked him telling him that He had seven thousand more who “had not bowed the knee to Baal” (1Kings19:14-18), “Seven Thousand”, hidden ones, who, by implication were His reserve force against the forces of darkness. These, then, were the “hidden ones” of that epoch. They were hidden because they were under the protective cover of the Lord to be used by Him for His purposes in dealing with Israel.

Thy Hidden Ones

Thy Hidden Ones

These former “hidden ones” were “hidden” not only in the sense that they were under the covering of His wings (cf., Ps.91: 4) but also in the sense that they had no rank or status within Israel or the world of that day and thus were indistinguishable from the common people, the poor, the despised, the lay people of that time, sometimes referred to as the “Anawim”.

Yet, it is these simple ones that the Lord holds up to Elijah as his reserve force against the power of evil in the pagan culture into which Israel was being drawn; the term “Seven Thousand” being merely a cultural metaphor for a significant number.

The implication is that these “hidden ones” were the righteous praying ones whose prayers for the restoration of Israel was the reason the Lord was acting through Elijah to bring about the changes needed in the heart of the people so that Israel could once again be considered as “the people of God”.

Today's Golden Calf

Today's Golden Calf

Today, it appears, is no different from the times of Elijah. For we indeed live in a world that worships other “gods” – gods of their own making: money , sexual immorality, lust, power, ambition, greed, narcissism and so on – gods which pervade even our Christian communities and thus prevent the faithful from achieving the personal holiness and service to which they were called.

Today, we also have our “Elijahs”, God’s ministers and prophets who are being persecuted for their stand against the evil world culture through the proclamation of Word of God and His Kingdom! These Elijahs are also being sustained in prayer by God’s elect intercessors, today’s “Seven Thousand”.

These intercessors are also “hidden” in the sense that they attempt, as they ought, to keep in the background of our religious culture. Their relative anonymity provides them the degree of freedom needed to focus and practice the “charism of intercession” under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and apart from any influence that would quench the fire of the Holy Spirit that is working through them.

Because they operate “under the radar”, so to speak, these servants of the Lamb may not have come to your attention. You will find them in almost every Christian denomination eschewing any publicity, because their calling, their Charism, depends on their separation from the world and from the religious politics and worldly influences that surround them. Their great desire is to yield themselves totally to the Spirit of God so that He and He alone rules in their hearts, so that their prayers become the supplications of the Spirit of God for His people.

Each intercessor must be free to express what the Spirit places in his or her heart and thus the modes of prayer will vary form intercessor to intercessor. There will be some who pray and sing in tongues, some who fast and pray continually, some who praise and worship in Song, some who use the prayer of authority to bind the demonic spirits that they are challenging, some who specialize in silent contemplative prayer reaching deep into the Heart of the Divine. Most mainstream Christians would probably not understand the various and distinct modes of prayer and spiritual gifts which come into play when the Spirit of God is given full liberty to express Himself through these intercessors.

Such servants of God would not normally fit in to our over-structured and regimented religious culture where human tradition and formality rule the with regard to the accepted modes of prayer, where there is no liberty to express the true gifts of the Spirit, or to speak the oracles of the Lord as He gives them to us. So it is natural that they would want to congregate in their own small groups, while yet being dedicated to praying for the whole body of Christ.

Today, brothers and sisters, the Lord is calling out for us to pray and support these “hidden ones”, these intercessors of the Lamb. For because they are in fact our front-line prayer warriors against whom the Evil one is waging war against to “take them out”, so to speak, so that he and his evil spiritual companions may continue to disable the church from performing its commission. These “hidden ones” are sent to war against the Satanic powers and thus bring about the Victory of Kingdom of God into manifestation through the power of the charism of the deep prayer of intercession.

The reason the charism of intercession is such a threat to Satan is because it is not merely a human form of supplication but it is, in fact, Christ’s prayer of intercession through His elect servants who yield themselves to His Spirit. For you see, the charism of intercession is the Lord’s charism, for He and He alone, is the one mediator between God and Man (1Tim.2:5). Those who yield themselves to this charism are yielding themselves totally to the Intercessory Spirit of Christ in them so that through that spiritual union they may become His instruments of intercession for His people.

In the Catholic tradition, this type of prayer is not usually well understood because it does not usually follow the traditional forms of prayer but rather depends heavily on the unfettered work of the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifts and contemplative levels of prayer required to enter into spiritual union with the heart of Christ. It is for this reason that most of these type of intercessors usually do their praying inside of convent or monastery walls.

Recently, however, some intercessor communities are coming “out of the closet”, so to speak, but, in certain occasions, are not being welcomed into the mainstream Christian community as they ought. That is why I am asking you, my fellow pilgrims to enter into intercession for them.

In order to focus your prayers for the moment, I am asking that you lift up a specific group of brothers and sisters who have been “crucified with Christ”. Namely, the community of intercessors once called the “Intercessors of the Lamb”, but now, due to suppression by their Diocese [1], humbly call themselves the “Bellwether Lambs” or the “Companions of the Lamb”.  I have placed the links to this organization in my sidebar under the Label: “NEED PRAYER?”, so that you may frequent their prayer site when you also are I need.

Please ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you enter into prayer for them. Ask to be joined in the spirit with them in unity with the Divine so that you may fully comprehend in the Spirit, the Father’s Love and desire for this group and their leader and foundress, M. Nadine Brown.

May the Lord empower you prayers and may He bring them to the place where He wants them for His Glory! Amen and Amen!

Your Brother In Christ Jesus  … Bartimaeus.

(© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2011])

Recommended Links:

Thy Hidden Ones at Bellwether

The Prayer of Intercession

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[1] Note: keep in mind the suppression of Padre Pio as reported below:

The Suppression of Padre Pio

(Excerpted from the  National Catholic register

http://www.ncregister.com/info/email-a-friend/his_friends_remember_padre_pio )

…  

It was on Sept. 20, 1918, that Padre Pio received the stigmata — the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion — while praying in the choir loft of the 16th-century church attached to the friary. After this event, his fame grew, and by 1922 he had attracted the attention of many people — including the Vatican’s Holy Office, which began an investigation. As a result of this investigation, which concluded that Padre Pio was not experiencing anything supernatural, the Holy Office attempted to transfer him to another monastery in 1923. An uprising of the people in San Giovanni prevented the move. Nevertheless, the friar was not allowed to say Mass publicly, or even to correspond with those who wrote him. In Terlizzi, a small town near Bari, about two hours from San Giovanni, another Capuchin who knew Padre Pio said of him, “Knowing Padre Pio was like knowing Jesus Christ,” he said. The key examples from Padre Pio’s life he says, are “silence and obedience.” Referring to the years when Padre Pio was suppressed, Padre Pancracio noted: “With one word he could have changed things, but he kept silent.”

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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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