Prayer & Spiritual Life

Is God Like a GPS System?

by Steve Ray on August 4, 2018

There are a million reasons why God is NOT like a GPS system but I am in Australia and I made a wrong turn and my GPS started reprimanding me and saying “Recalculating!”

GPS.jpgFor those who don’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a nifty little device that links up with positional satellites above the earth. The satellites pinpoint exactly where you are and the micro computer inside the GPS calculates the shortest or fastest route to get to your destination.

The GPS sits on the dashboard of your car and verbally and visually directs you to your location. Mine is a Garmin and it covers the whole of the USA, Canada and Mexico. I will soon be buying one that covers the Middle East and Europe.

I thought of three ways, at least, that the GPS is like God–relatively and figuratively speaking. First, it knows everything: every address, street, city and business in the USA. It knows every gas station, hotel, church, post office, restaurant, airport, school, grocery store, intersection, hospital, freeway, etc. God knows everything.

Second, you can turn it on or shut it off. Now of course you can’t shut God off, but you can practically say NO to him and shut him out of your life. If I shut off my GPS I am the loser since it knows “everything” and knows exactly where I am at any time and how to get to where I want to go. God knows exactly where I am eternally and how to get me to my location. I can turn him on if I want to get his advice and enjoy his knowledge.

Third, every time I screw up he can get me back on track. For example, the other day I made a wrong turn and the GPS politely said, “Recalculating! Make a u-turn.” After I failed to make a u-turn, making a left turn instead, the GPS said, “Recalculating, turn right at Main Street.”

USA.bmpIn other words, even though I ignore or disobey the GPS it does not condemn me. It just says, “OK, I had this planned the very best way for you get to your final destination, but you didn’t listen, so I will start over. From where you are now I can STILL get you there — but I have to recalculate first.”

God does the same. He forgives. We screw up and go on the wrong path (sin, disobedience, pride, etc.) and once we repent and confess our sins and decide to listen to God again, he starts over in our life and says “Recalculating! Now that you’ve made a wrong turn and are willing to correct it — don’t worry, I can still get you to heaven from here.” And then he gives us the new directions from our wrong location.

Oh, one other thing, the GPS is ready for me to listen any time day or night. It can get me places in daylight or in pitch darkness, when I know where I’m going and when I don’t — and can’t God do all of that too?

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

by Steve Ray on June 18, 2018

I posted an article I wrote about St. Paul praying for the dead HERE. But I thought you would appreciate Dave Armstrong’s recent article about the same passage with confirmation and a new set of eyes on the text and the reasons for many Protestants to reject the claim…

St. Paul Prayed for Onesiphorus, Who Was Dead

7_sept_onesiphorus_apostle“May the Lord grant Onesiphorus to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.” 2 Timothy 1:16-18 (RSV): “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, [17] but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me – [18] may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day – and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (cf. 4:19)

Catholics pray for the souls in purgatory, in order to aid them in their journey through purgatory to heaven. In praying for the dead, it’s very reasonable to contend that an intermediate state is presupposed, because it would be futile to pray for those in hell (prayer can no longer help them) and unnecessary to pray for those in heaven (they have everything they need). This verse offers biblical support for this belief.

Protestant commentators have been hopelessly confused about the passage and cannot offer a coherent, unified testimony as to its meaning. Consulting their conflicting opinions makes for fascinating reading indeed.

The well-known evangelical Protestant work, The New Bible Commentary (3rd edition, 1970) takes the astounding position that Onesiphorus is probably dead (citing 2 Tim. 4:19), yet holds that Paul was praying for his conduct during life. The prominent  Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary (1864) also holds that Paul was praying, but obviously not for a dead man because, after all, “nowhere has Paul prayers for the dead, which is fatal to the theory, . . . that he was dead.” This is circular reasoning: merely assuming what it claims is proven.

BMJonahSarc1Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the New Testament, 1930, Vol. IV, 615) concedes that Onesiphorus was dead, but desperately describes Paul’s prayer for him as a “wish” (a distinction without a difference). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1939) makes the same (what can only be described as) rationalization, using the description, “pious wish” (Vol. IV, 2195). Famous Presbyterian commentators Matthew Henry (1662-1714) and Albert Barnes (1798-1870) casually assume that Onesiphorus was not dead, since Paul prayed for him – again making prior assumptions about what is possible in the first place, which amounts to eisegesis, or reading into Scripture notions that are not there. But John Calvin denied that he was dead.

The “game” and conundrum for all these commentaries is to refuse to accept both things together: a dead man, and someone praying for them. Thus, if they think he was dead, they deny that he was prayed for. And if they acknowledge prayer, they deny that he was dead.

But all is not lost. I have located several Anglican commentaries and a few others (thanks largely to Google Books!), that accept both factors together and state that Paul prayed for a dead man. The Anglican commentaries include Alfred Plummer (1841-1926), in The Expositor’s Bible, James Maurice Wilson (1836-1931), Sydney Charles Gayford (in 1905), John Henry Bernard (1860-1927), Charles John Ellicott (1816-1905), and J. N. D. Kelly (1909-1997), in A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (London: A&C Black, 1963, p. 171). The latter states:

On the assumption, which must be correct, that Onesiphorus was dead when the words were written, we have here an example, unique in the N.T., of Christian prayer for the departed. . . . the commendation of the dead man to the divine mercy. There is nothing surprising in Paul’s use of such a prayer, for intercession for the dead had been sanctioned in Pharisaic circles at any rate since the date of 2 Macc 12:43-45 (middle of first century B.C.?). Inscriptions in the Roman catacombs and elsewhere prove that the practice established itself among Christians from very early times.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 7.45.45 AMWilliam Barclay (liberal Presbyterian: 1907-1978) concurs in his Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. So does the well-known Reformed Protestant Church historian Philip Schaff (1819-1893) in The International Illustrated Commentary on the New Testament (1889, Vol. IV,  587). Other commentators who agree include W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament (1951) and the renowned Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (1958).

What are we to conclude from all this jumble of various Protestant opinions? I’m always happy to present the information and let readers make up their own minds, but I conclude (for whatever it’s worth) that the passage is pretty straightforward. Therefore, when a commentator decides that Onesiphorus is not dead or that he was and wasn’t prayed for, it’s an example of eisegesis and letting denominational bias interfere with objective Bible commentary.

It’s always ironic to note such an occurrence among Protestants, since our separated brethren are very fond of frequently pointing out that they go by the Bible alone, as their only infallible source of authority and rule of faith. They will habitually claim that they merely let it speak for itself.

Yet when it comes to an issue like this, where the biblical text seems to run contrary to a tenet of Protestant denominational dogma (i.e., that prayer for the dead is impermissible), all of a sudden there is plenty of “explaining away” and denial of what seems to plainly be present in the passage.

Bias should never surprise us. It’s natural to the human mind, and we all (including Catholics) have it. We all bring prior traditions to our Bible commentary, too, no matter how much we may try to deny it. It’s not a matter of “whether,” but which tradition is present.

I maintain that Catholics are as free as anyone else (if not more so) to simply let the Bible speak for itself. If it indeed teaches prayer for the dead in this passage, we accept that, as part of God’s inspired revelation. It corresponds to Catholic doctrinal/dogmatic teaching, tying into purgatory. In my experience of over 26 years of Catholic apologetics, the Bible always does that. This may be little-known and frequently denied by Protestants, but it’s true, and I’ve shown it with many examples in my own work, such as this present one.

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Did St. Paul Pray for the Dead? Yes!

by Steve Ray on June 17, 2018

rembrandt_apostle_paul217x275St. Paul wrote 2 Timothy shortly before his martyrdom. He spent the last days of his life in the Mammertine Prison in Rome, north of the Roman Forum. While in that prison he wrote to Timothy and says a prayer for a man dead man.

“It seems apparent that St. Paul DOES pray for the dead. Here is my short article that gives a pretty clear example of St. Paul praying for a dead man, a man named Onesiphorus.

This will be interesting for those who deny prayer for the dead and must find supposedly find everything explicitly in the Bible before they are willing to believe it.

Does the Bible record St. Paul praying for a dead man? Does the New Testament relate an incident of prayer for the dead? It seems quite certain that it does.

Let’s begin with Onesiphorus—a faithful Christian who cared for St. Paul while he was in prison and who took great personal risk to serve the apostle. He was such a good man that Paul writes, “[Onesiphorus] often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains” and “he searched for me eagerly and found me” and “you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus” (2 Tim 1:16-18).

But from all indications—certainly from the words Paul uses—Onesiphorus has died or been killed before Paul wrote Second Timothy. Almost all commentators concede that Onesiphorus had probably died—maybe even martyred during Nero’s persecution.

Paul speaks of him in the past tense and strangely asks for God’s mercy on his “household” without mentioning him, as though he was no longer here. Because Onesiphorus had served so well and was no longer alive, Paul prays for God’s blessing on his surviving family.

All implications are that Onesiphorus has died. But Paul prays for him!

In 2 Timothy 1:18, while in prison awaiting his death, Paul prays for the dead man and it is recorded in the Bible. Here is what St. Paul writes, “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day.” This is not just an expression of sentimental emotion—this is a prayer for a man who has died, it is prayer for the dead.

Paul, who was earlier known as Saul the Pharisee, was well immersed in the teaching and tradition of the Pharisaical Jews. The Jews prayed for the dead and Paul would not have seen the practice as egregious or unbiblical; rather, he would have viewed prayer for the dead as a proper practice for a Jew, and also now for a Christian who believes in the afterlife.

Here is what the widely respected six-volume Anchor Bible Dictionary writes……”

To read the article, click Prayer for the Dead: Did St. Paul Do This?

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Hey Steve: Jesus Taught us to Pray to the Father Alone, not Dead Saints

June 16, 2018

 Barry wrote in my combox today – in response to my post entitled “Where Does the Bible Say We Should Pray to Dead Saints?” – Resources about Communion of the Saints I thought I would respond briefly. Barrry wrote: Would you please read the Lord’s prayer. Jesus prayed it. He was giving an example of how to […]

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Meaning of Sacred and Immaculate Hearts – Feast Days are Upon Us!

June 8, 2018

A non-Christian friend found two paintings at an art show and asked me, “What in the world are these? They seem to have pagan elements. What do they have to do with Jesus and Mary?” Here is my explanation. If you readers have anything to add, please post it in the Comments below. Thanks. Thanks. […]

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Major Catholic Prayer Traditions – Very Extensive and Easy-to-Use

May 13, 2018

Catechists should be aware that the prayer of the Catholic Church is far more than the memorized vocal prayers, devotional prayers (such as the Rosary) or the prayers we say together at Mass. For over a thousand years, the Church has developed rich prayer forms such as contemplative prayer (Christian meditation), liturgy of the hours, […]

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Evangelism Antennas: A Fun Story of One Woman’s Day and the New Evangelism :-)

April 11, 2018

A while ago I gave a talk in Ann Arbor Michigan. It was about the New Evangelization. As part of my talk I explained how Janet and I have our “evangelism antennas” up first thing in the morning – alertly watching for open doors and ways to share our Catholic Faith throughout the day. And […]

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“He Descended into Hell” – a very lyrically and beautifully stated ancient homily

March 31, 2018

The Lord’s Descent into Hell By an anonymous ancient homilist SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 2018  Posted on The Catholic Thing (which you should definitely subscribe to :-) What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and […]

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How Do We Know the Holy Sites are Authentic (Protestant Skeptic)?

February 7, 2018

Since today we are at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, I thought I share an e-mail I received from a man whose Protestant friend just returned from the Holy Land a bit disillusioned and skeptical. Here is the e-mail I received: Hi Steve, Here’s the question in brief (read more if you have time). How […]

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Two Favorite Quotes this Week

January 25, 2018

“My prayer is that when I die, all of hell rejoices that I am out of the fight.” – C.S. Lewis. “Our faith is not on the pope, it is on Christ who is the foundation of the church.” Cardinal Francis Arinze

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Etiquette at Mass: Reasonable Do’s and Don’ts for Polite and Proper Worship

January 25, 2018

20 Things TO DO And NOT DO at Mass. These are not rules that will get you banished from the Church, but things that are mostly common sense — polite conduct to enhance our worship and that of those around us. 1. Fast before Mass. It is required that one fasts for at least 1 […]

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Mary and the Other Body of Christ; How Many People were in the Upper Room and Why?

January 5, 2018

Since we are IN this room today, I thought I would share this again… The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous […]

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“The Sinner’s Prayer” – All You Need to Get to Heaven?

January 3, 2018

When I was a kid, the “Sinner’s Prayer” was a big deal. It was at the heart of everything we knew about Jesus and getting saved. It was almost used as an incantation. My mom coached me to pray the Sinner’s Prayer when I was 4 years old. We knelt together in front of the […]

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My Defiant and Proud Declaration for My Few Remaining Years

January 1, 2018

I just turned 63 years old. At 60 it is a time to examine what I’ve done and what I will do if God grants me a few more decades. It is sobering to hit a milestone and realize that – at best – I will have about twenty strong years left, maybe thirty. What […]

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New Year Choice – the Narrow Gate

December 31, 2017

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13–14)

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Does God Tempt Us to Sin? Should we Change the Words of the “Our Father” Prayer?

December 11, 2017

There are a lot of discussions this week about the Pope’s comments on the wording of the “Our Father” prayer, especially the line “Lead us not into temptation.” He said it gives the wrong impression — that God Himself leads us into sinful temptations. Of course, taken at face value without understanding the nuances of […]

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