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Jesus' Teachings, Prayer, & Christian Life
"He (Jesus) Took the Bread. Giving Thanks Broke it. And gave it to his Disciples, saying, 'This is my Body, which is given to you.'" At Elevation time, during Catholic Mass, the priest establishes a mandate for Christian Living. Historically, at the Last Supper, Christ used bread and wine as a supreme metaphor for the rest of our lives. Jesus was in turmoil. He was aware of what was about to befall him -- namely, suffering and death. This was the last major lesson he would teach before his arrest following Judas' betrayal. Eschatologically speaking, the above set the stage for the Christian ministry of the apostles, evangelists and priests. Indeed, every Christian is called to give of him or herself for the Glory of God and the Glory of Mankind. The message at the Last Supper was powerful. People have put themselves through unimaginable horrors and even death to spread this message. Christian or Christ-Like living is a privilege. Having Christ as a beacon and an exemplar is demanding. Saints and other divine personage come closer to this light than ordinary humans. They also work as intercessors for the rest of us in our attempts to follow Christ. Though we can never hope to attain divine perfection, Christian life is a continuing endeavor. One example is: persistence in time of difficulties and making hard choices in favor of expeditious ones. This "breaking of self" can, and should, occur under the most mundane of circumstances.
Jesus' teachings mentioned at the beginning of this section are profound in their simplicity and simple in their profundity. They call Christians to be followers of Christ. Consequently, in a Trinitarian sense, Christians are also called to be followers of the Holy Spirit with the acknowledgement of God as the Almighty -- the Ultimate Entity. Faith is paramount; as is unadulterated Devotion. Absolute adherence demands continuing communication with God. Such communication is in the form of Prayer. Like any communication, prayer is governed by words or actions. One might venture to categorically state that every facet of our life from birth to eternity is one continuing prayer.
Every word in the Bible bespeaks of God's infinite love for man. The creation of the world, creation of Man and the deliverance of the Israelites are key examples of God's love for us. The best illustration of God's love is, of course, the gift of the life of Christ. There is no greater love of a Father than giving his beloved Son to die for our Salvation. The result of such love is our raison d' tre; it is what defines us; it is our Christianity. This dissertation is devoted to the celebration of our awareness of God's love for us by prayer. The Bible and prayer are synonymous because it is the primary source of inspiration to all Christians. Exhortations and calls to prayer will also be discussed.
In this labor of love, the place of prayer in our lives will be discussed. What is prayer? The simple answer is communication with God. This communication takes many modes and dynamics as in communication between humans or lower animals. Faith and devotion are prerequisites for communicating with God. Anything less renders the most heartfelt prayers into meaningless verbal ejaculations and gestures. Prayer takes different forms depending on what we wish to communicate to God -- supplication, thanksgiving, conversational, celebration, acclamation and contrition. One often hears the adage, "Faith can move mountains." Prayer becomes the channel for this faith and devotion fuels this faith. It will be necessary to understand the prevalent worldview on faith: those that believe and those that do not. The history of religion in America and the influence of prayer on the evolution of American Christianity will be discussed. For those of us who are blessed to believe the existence of God in our lives, prayer has played and continues to play an important role in our lives and of those around us. Such is the magnificence of the Power of Prayer. While natural prayer is best, there are methods that lend formality to prayer. The most powerful and complete-Lord's Prayer was, after all, Jesus' instruction when the disciples asked him how to pray. Formal prayer is especially important in community worship and in spreading the message of Christ to enforce Christian belief and bring Christ to the doorsteps of those that don't believe.
Prayer is important and necessary. Prayer heals. Prayer brings peace and happiness. Prayer has the potential to: unleash torrents of love, awaken dormant love and realize the love for God. Prayer paves the road to eternal happiness. This dissertation will relate prayer to love by highlighting its importance for spiritual well being.
WHAT IS PRAYER?
God is universal in His dealings with all His children. In the humdrum of our daily lives, humans everywhere are embroiled in the problems of petty disagreements, jealousy and spiritual pride. Each of these pushes us further away from true Christian living. We need to respond to these universal needs like Jesus did, and the Apostles and the Saints have done throughout the ages. Our focus simply needs to be to heed the call from God to be people of prayer.
Prayer should be developed as a discipline and practice. It should be woven into the very fabric of our lives -- in everything we do. This is the only way that we can move toward Christ's Kingdom. Georgia Harkness defines prayer as: "The attempt to become consciously aware of God's presence, to discover His will for our lives, to surrender our vagrant thoughts and self-centered desires to His controlling purpose, to find in Him power for living." (Harkness, 1968) Prayer is an act of devotion, as opposed to passive waiting. Prayer as an activity should engage the will and the mind.
Prayer requires faith and devotion. The importance of devotion will be discussed in the next section. Lack of discipline and flexibility in life is evident in undisciplined prayer. In prayer, man is rendered naked before God. It is this openness that lends honesty to prayer. Prayer can bring about a complete revolution of personality. Prayer is not just a one-way communication. Active prayer also means active listening to God. Prayer creates energy between God and Man that is suffused with Love. God's love surrounds us. It is abiding.
The Webster's Third International Dictionary defines prayer as "a solemn and humble approach to Divinity in word or thought, usually involving beseeching, petition, confession, praise, or thanksgiving." (Merriam-Webster, 1993)
One of the techniques of good communication uses the example of the "Johari Window." Consider a window that is divided into segments. One segment is open to the outside world. The other window opens the outside world to you. Communication with God should be exactly such a window. We are free to open our selves to talk with God and keep ourselves open to receive God's love. (Luft, 1970)
The mere spouting of words does not constitute prayer. It involves focusing every aspect of our beings towards God. We often make the mistake of concentrating too much of what we want and need -- for ourselves -- than where the focus should truly lie. On God! In prayer, the picture of life assumes perspective. God takes priority. Everything else takes its own place in the scheme of things. Asked to define prayer, the Japanese Christian Toyohiko Kagawa replied in one word: "Surrender." (Jones, 1943)
So, what is Prayer? Prayer is basically, talking with God. Expressing our hearts to God; and, spending time with God. Prayer can be exciting, powerful and fulfilling. In the opinion of one of the most articulate and eloquent Christians, St. Chrysostom -- "the anchor of those tossed on the sea, the treasure of the poor, the cure of diseases, the safeguard of health" -- is prayer. Prayer is an anchor to those whose ships are unsteady and caught in maelstroms. It is a treasury of immense wealth for him who is poor (and according to the Sermon on the Mount -- the sure path to the Kingdom of God); prayer is a balm for the wounded soul; and it is a certain preservative for one that wants spiritual sustenance. St. Laurence Justinian celebrates the fantastic effects of prayer: "It pleases God, it gets what it asks, it overcomes enemies, and it changes men."
The following affords a clue as to what the types of prayer (to be discussed later) are. Prayer appeases the anger of God. Prayer pardons those who pray with humility. Prayer obtains every grace -- despite differing opinions, many believe that God will not deny anyone anything he or she asks for. Prayer vanquishes temptations. Prayer conquers weaknesses and afflictions. Prayer gives strength. Prayer brings redemption. Solomon averred that as soon as he asked for Wisdom, it was bestowed upon him. David, similarly, was given fortitude through the Spirit of God (Psalms 118, 131). Every martyr obtained strength to resist tyrants, and overcame…[continue]
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