Prayer & Spiritual Life

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 thing to associates of an executed criminal.

They were also anxious about the promise. The only thing they knew about God descending in fire was the experience of their ancestors at Mount Sinai. When that happened they all ran and hid and said to Moses, Never let God speak to us again; you go talk with Him and come back and tell us what the said.

Pentecost was approaching. Pentecost means “the 50th day.” Fiftieth day from what? From the Passover. Almost fifty days ago the Passover lambs had been slain, and so had THE Passover Lamb. Then there was the forty mystery days when Jesus was gone but not gone—with them but not with them, at least not like before. And he kept just appearing and then disappearing.

He taught them a lot in those forty days, He had breathed on them, gave them power to forgive and retain sins, fed them loaves and fish, appointed Peter as his shepherd, commanded them to go out from Jerusalem to the world. He explained to them much about the Kingdom of God and their tasks as His emissaries.

The last meeting was the most unusual of all. He answered a few questions, gave a few instructions and without even a formal Good-bye He started going up—and continued going up until all they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud. Daniel 7:13-14 says he went back to the glory of heaven.

They looked at each other with obvious concern on their faces—they were fearful. They locked themselves in the Upper Room to pray as He had commanded. They were praying for what they feared—fire upon a mountain, Mount Zion. They prayed for nine days, the first Novena, before the promise of the Holy Spirit fell.

We are specifically told that there were about 120 people in the room. Actually the word is “names” not people. How strange. Can you imagine me saying, “About 120 names came on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land”? This made me curious so I looked up 120 in early Jewish literature and law. Sure enough, my research paid off.

In Israel is a group of Jews desiring to leave the big city and start their own new community they needed a minimum of 120 names on a list. What was happening here in the Upper Room? A new community was being started. The word “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means “a group of people called out.” Even today the Knessett (lawmaking body in Israel) is made up of 120 representatives.

This certainly implies the Church is not just a loose association of like-minded followers of Jesus. It is a social structure with legal boundaries. It has it’s own legislature, courts and hierarchy. It is a “new city” with a constitution and authority. You are in or out. This is exactly what the Church is – with leaders having the authority to bind and loose, make laws and adjudicate them, include or exclude people from the organization, to forgive or retain sins. Only the worldwide Catholic Church could even begin to claim this status.

Mary is listed among the believers in that Upper Room. It was important that she is listed among the names with others. She is the mother of Jesus. She gave birth to him in Bethlehem as was, in a sense, giving birth to him again on Pentecost. What is our affectionate term for Pentecost? Can you sing “Happy Birthday, to you…”? Yes, it is the Birthday of the Church. What is being born? The Mystical Body of Christ. Who is there for the birth? The mother of course. Mothers have to be present when their child is born. Mary is the mother of Jesus the God-Man and Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Body of Christ. She was necessarily present at both births.

Mary was also there because the others were afraid of the descent of God in fire on this new mountain. I am convinced they trembled in fear not only of the Jews and Romans outside, but of the prophesied “baptism of fire” within—as they wondered and feared that might be. The gentle breeze was about to become a rushing wind.

But Mary was there to calm their anxieties. I bet she said something like, “Don’t be afraid my friends, the Holy Spirit has already overshadowed me and He was pure love. Just wait until you are bathed in His love!” The gentle breeze became a rushing wind but it was warm and

After nine days of praying the Holy Spirit fell in fire on the tenth day—which was the 50th day from the death of the Passover Lamb Jesus on the cross. The Jewish festival of Pentecost also celebrated the first fruits of the harvest.

Remember, Jesus said he was like a grain of wheat that would be buried in the ground. The grain must be buried and die to bear its fruit. Jesus died, was buried in the ground and rose from the dead as the first fruit. Now on the “Feast of First Fruits” the first of the harvest is brought to God. We learn that 3,000 people were added to the Church that day—all in keeping with the tremendous symbolism and deeper meaning to all these events.

And with these deep mysteries and truths we are just scratching the surface. Come to the Holy Land with us, get out your Bibles and study books (or Verbum Catholic Bible Study software) and dig deeper. “There is gold in them there hills” for those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts and minds to learn. Enter promo code STEVERAY for a 10% discount.

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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 green vinyl couch, and she helped me pray,

“Dear Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and the wages of sin is death. You sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I ask Jesus to come into my heart. I know my sins are now all forgiven past, present and future. Thank you Jesus for saving me and assuring my entrance into heaven. Amen.”

Saul of Tarsus reciting the “Sinner’s Prayer”? I don’t think so :-)

It never dawned on me as a young man that such a prayer is never found in the Bible. Nor do we ever see anyone coach sinners to pray such a prayer. The Bible never encourages us to “ask Jesus into our heart.” And the whole idea of sins forgiven into the future with no guilt for future sins is – so unbiblical that I can’t even believe now I ever believed it.

I am grateful to my good mother for loving Jesus and wanting me to be saved. She believed what she was taught and never questioned the Baptist tradition she learned after hearing Billy Graham.

But now that I have read widely and studied these matters from Scripture and the early Church I realize there is much amiss with this Sinner’s Prayer. The Catholic Church is the fullness of the faith and explains salvation as faith in Christ, repentance and water baptism.

You never find St. Paul espousing such a prayer nor St. Peter on the day of Pentecost. My, it is good to be Catholic and cling to the rich and full teaching of the faith.

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One of my old favorite Protestant writers, A. W. Tozer wrote, “I believe that a true ‘sinner’s prayer’ will gush out of anyone who is truly seeking God and is tired of being enslaved to sin. (Matthew 5:6) The very act of ‘leading someone in a prayer’ is utterly ridiculous. You will find nothing even remotely like it in the Bible, or among the writings and biographies of those in Church history. It completely savors of crowd and peer pressure tactics, and (please forgive me) brainwashing techniques. I do not believe that Jesus wants to have his disciples ‘repeat after Me,’ I believe He wants them to follow after Him!

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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 will I do with that time and how will I live my life.

I found the proclamation below written by Dr. Bob Moorehead and I edited it quite a bit to fit my own life and situation. Yes, I posted it a couple years ago, but thought on January 1 it is good to reaffirm and recommit. I hope you like it; I hope you join me.

MY PLEDGE AND DECLARATION
I am a part of a group of redeemed and committed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. The questions were posed and the answers given; the doubts have long vanished. Feelings are fleeting and fads are fading. Faith and reason direct me.

I’ve discovered the power of God, fallen in love with the Savior of the world. I’ve cast my lots with the King and his Kingdom – with Christ and his Church. I will live out my days in the heart of the Catholic Church. I am not the first to cross the Tiber; I won’t be the last. I am in good company.

I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.  I am finished a
nd done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith in the present, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. 

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, whimper at persecution, faint at martyrdom, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I’ve preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes.

And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. I will have my San Damiano Cross around my neck. My sins are forgiven, my soul is redeemed, my voice sings loudly. My colors will be clear for my flag waves high. I am Steve Ray and I am a Catholic Christian until the end.

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

December 12, 2017

 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 on how to pray. […]

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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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Mary a Mediatrix? Isn’t there just One Mediator?

November 6, 2017

The Bible says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). Yet Catholics refer to Mary as a Mediatrix (feminine form of the word mediator). So, isn’t that prima facie evidence that Catholics make up doctrines, worship Mary and disregard the Bible? […]

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Sherlock Holmes an Idolater – Praying to People?

October 31, 2017

Last night my wife and I were watching an episode of Sherlock Holmes on TV. He has always been one of my favorite characters and I can remember reading all the stories to our kids as they grew up. On TV I think Jeremy Brett does the best portrayal and it is always a delightful […]

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Tears Singing Good Ole Baptist Hymns

October 25, 2017

The old Baptist hymns still stir me and bring tears to my eyes. They take me back to my childhood when the family would dress up, us kids in our little suits with cheesy ties and short-legged pants (I’m the one in the plaid jacket). Dad would always give us candy during the service and […]

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2017

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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Choirs of the Angels in Three Hierarchies

October 9, 2017

Clever little diagram to show the choirs of angels. We have a pack of dogs, a flock of birds, a forest of trees – the word used for groups of angels is “choir.” According to many theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas, there are 9 choirs of angels in 3 hierarchies. Visit https://churchpop.com for more things like this.

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Kissing Statues

September 30, 2017

We are in Jerusalem today ready to pick up our group of 50 people at the airport in a few hours. When I woke up this morning to the Muslim “call to prayer”, church bells ringing and horns honking I read this email that came from the United Kingdom… It read, “Hi Steve! I know […]

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Should This Baby Be Aborted? You Decide

September 13, 2017

In the United States, there are many situations in which abortions are recommended, even encouraged by family, counselors, medical personnel and even religious advisors. Sometimes an abortion is recommended because of difficult circumstances and other times simply for convenience. Here are four cases for you to consider. Should these babies be aborted? You decide! Four […]

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Eight Ways to Pray During Adoration

July 12, 2017

For a lot of us prayer is difficult – mind goes blank, mind wanders, not sure quite what to do. When we sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament — OK, now what? This is an excellent little diagram to give us direction and options. Next thing you know, time flies and you look forward […]

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I’m a Skeptic, but I DID See the Dancing Sun

May 13, 2017

We DID see the dancing sun! It was several years ago at a Marian Shrine on a May 13 on the Island of Cebu in the Philippines I’m a skeptic and I don’t always trust even what my own eyes see… …so I asked my wife Janet and my daughters what they saw… I’ll try […]

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Fatima and the Modern World – St. JP II

May 13, 2017

Fatima and the Whole Modern World In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima to commemorate the first anniversary of the attempt on his life and the sixty-fifth anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition there. He delivered the following homily. St. John Paul II on Our Lady’s message at […]

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