Should We Pray for Our Desires or God’s Will?

How should we pray? Should we just ask God to do His will, or should we ask Him for what we need?

This subject has always been confusing to me. As a Catholic, I understand that the best way to live my life is to constantly seek the will of God in all things. However, the Bible also mentions that it is right for us–children of God–to ask Him for what we want and need. As a matter of fact, in Philippians 4:6, the apostle Paul counsels us to “..not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Today, God has used Father Dwight Longenecker to bring me enlightenment on this very matter. In his post, The Importance and Power of Prayer, he explained just how important it is for us to pray for both our specific needs and for God’s will. He also beautifully expounded the great power that can be unleashed by joining our will with that of our heavenly Father’s.

How Should We Pray?

I remember when I wondered for the first time whether it was best to pray with eyes shut or open. I was only a child then, but I have often revisited the same thought. My memories on the matter were revived after stumbling onto this post: Eyes Wide Shut Prayer?

Like the rest of my family, I have always been an “apophatic prayer”–someone who closes their eyes, bows their head, and folds their hands when praying. At an early age, I realized that not all people pray the way my family and I do. Since then, I have always wondered which way of praying was actually right. However, over the years, I was brought to the realization that it isn’t really important whether people chose to pray with their eyes shut or wide open.

How one prays is a personal thing.  Prayer is our way of talking to God, and it should not be in any way stiff and stringent. Instead, we should pray in a way that we feel would best draw us near to Him. I feel comfortable and more connected to God praying with my eyes closed, but in no way will I insist that you must follow my way of praying. I believe that it is important that each of us pray as we see fit.

Certainly, God does not concern Himself with the manner with which we pray–kneeling, standing, lying down, eyes open, or eyes shut–but looks at what is inside our thoughts and hearts.

Learning Obedience: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

One of the many lessons we can learn from Mary, Mother of Jesus is obedience. She has taught us that Catholics need to follow the laws of the church. These laws keep us pure. They help us stay true to our faith and to God’s Word.

How Mary Shows Obedience with the Presentation of Jesus

Forty days after Mary gave birth, she took Jesus to the temple. This was for two purposes: ritual purification and redemption of the first born son.
Ritual purification was written in the Laws of Moses. After a woman gives birth, she is viewed as unclean due to the connection she had with bodily fluids. Going to the church within forty days of giving birth would purify a woman.
Redemption of the first born son was also written in the Laws of Moses. Back then, when a male was born naturally (meaning not through cesarean section), she would have to sacrifice a lamb to the church. However, since Mary and Joseph were poor people, they were able to sacrifice the alternative, which were two turtledoves or young pigeons.

How Mary Teaches Us Obedience
Mary and Joseph knew that it was right to obey the Laws of Moses. They believed that it was important to follow through with these codes of conduct.
When we see Mary do exactly as stated in the Laws of Moses, it teaches us that we need to follow the same type of rules. We shouldn’t dismiss what we have been told is important by the church. We need to abide by them just as Mary did.

How Catholics Can Be Obedient According to the Teachings of the Church

Catholics continue to follow the teachings of the church as closely as possible. The unfortunate thing is that many Catholics don’t know all of the laws and thus don’t follow them due to this ignorance.

Attending Mass to listen to the gospel and homily given by the priest is a great way to remind yourself of what you as a Catholic should do daily to follow the teachings of the church. It’s also important to read the Bible. As the bible gives us a lot of the rules that Christians should follow in their life.

Finally, if you are ever unsure of what to do in life, you can always seek guidance from your priest. A priest is a counselor and coach. He can help you come to understand what is expected of you as a Christian. He can help you understand why life has turned one way instead of another way. He can also answer your questions about what you should do in difficult situations and still be in accordance with God’s Word.

So, follow Mary’s example. Understand the rules of the church by going to Mass and read the Bible. Whenever you have questions seek counsel from your priest and always turn to prayer when you just need comfort from God. This all God wants of you, to acknowledge Him and to follow Him – just as Mary did.

The Nativity Scene: The History and Origins of a Tradition

Have you ever wondered where the tradition of the nativity scene originated? I have often thought about how this began and looked into it recently. I found a post on US Catholic that explains it all quite well. The post is actually titled, “Who Invented the Nativity Scene?”, and it answered all of my questions on the topic. The first nativity scene was created by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223. The post goes through the entire history of the nativity scene starting in 1223 and moving towards modern day.

Why Do the Blind and Paralyzed Pray to Saint Alice?

Saint Alice was born in the year 1204 in a small village called Shaerbeck, which was near Brussels. She was sometimes called Aleydis, a common form of the name Alice in that time period. She had a very religious upbringing and at the very young age of seven, on her own volition decided to join a convent. The Camera Sanctae Mariae convent would be the home of Saint Alice from that day on, through her entire life, until her death in the year 1250.

The Camera Sanctae Mariae was a Cistercian convent. Cistercian monks and nuns were sometimes referred to as the Bernardines or the White Monks. They believed in living a life of manual labour and self-sufficiency. Saint Alice fit in well because even at her extremely young age, she was known for being extremely humble and kind. She was influential to, and highly admired by the other nuns that she lived with. She led by example, performing her many selfless acts. Sadly, when Alice reached her teenaged years her life took a dramatic change.

Saint Alice became stricken with leprosy. This meant that she would now be forced to lead a life of seclusion, as lepers were forced to do due to the highly contagious nature of the disease. This was a terrible fate for a young Alice to face. She loved nothing more than to be around people. She loved to help them, and talk with them. She was a leader by example. Now, leading a lonely life as an outcast from society, Saint Alice would have to figure out how to continue to be that light.

Alice remained strong through prayer which brought her even closer to God. She was comforted by being able to receive the Holy Eucharist, though she could not drink from the cup. The Lord appeared to her and assured her that He was both in the bread and the wine. It was okay that she could not drink from the cup.

Alice’s suffering did not stop at just leprosy. Saint Alice was also stricken blind only a year into battling her disease. She later became completely paralyzed as well. At this point most human beings would be so depressed and struggle with their faith. Anger would be reasonable, but not for Saint Alice. She remained positive and faithful. She continued to be comforted by receiving the Holy Eucharist and her visions of God. He came to her, telling her to remain strong in her faith. He assured her that she she would be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven with, into warm, loving and open arms when the time came. Until then, while on earth, she must remain strong.

Alice remained strong and faithful until her dying day in the year 1250. Though she spent her time isolated from others, she remained at the convent and enjoyed a close and special relationship with God. Her strength and faith is an example to us all. She is a special example to the blind and paralyzed. When praying to Saint Alice, their patron saint, they remember that Heaven is waiting for them. They must be strong and faithful. Saint Alice was Canonized in the year 1907. Her feast day is June 15th.

Sacrament of Reconciliation

He said “I don’t remember.”

I heard some great content — right from the pew “at the 7” this morning.

In Sunday’s first reading, Isaiah wrote about remembering your sins no more. Let it go, I am doing something new (things of long ago, consider not!). “It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.”

This lead to the topic of today’s homily.

This is a story I heard years ago, but did not recall it until I heard it again today. In the Philippines, there was a Catholic priest who carried a sin from his past. Apparently, the priest committed a sin way back, while in the seminary.

Yes, this priest had since repented a long time ago.

But the priest continued to carry the sin with him to the present day.

Carrying a sin beyond the confessional walls is such a needless burden.
Along the way, this priest met a woman who claimed to have visions of Christ, and said she would speak with God.

The priest asked the woman, “The next time you speak with God, ask Him what sin I had committed while in the seminary.” A few days later, the priest ran into the woman. And the priest asked, “Well, did you asked God what sin I committed in seminary?”

“Yes, I asked Him.”
“Well, what did He say?”

“He said, ‘I don’t remember.'”

Look, if God can forgive us and leave it all in the past — and cannot remember sins we seem to dwell on —

why do humans have such problems with forgiveness?

As we begin the season of Lent this week, the topic of forgiving others — as well forgiving ourselves — needs to be a topic to focus on. Why do you feel we have so many issues centering around “forgiveness?”

Book of Samuel: Dare To Be Different

This past week, we have been reading from the book of Samuel. If you are not familiar with the stories found in Samuel, please take some time to read Samuel. If you went to Catholic School, you heard these great stories — perhaps a long time ago. But they are so vivid, the minute you begin to read them, you can likely finish telling the story to everyone around you.
OK, well, that’s the impression these stories had on me.

In Friday’s reading, the people approached Samuel and said, “Now that you are old, and your sons do not wish to take your place, please choose a king for us.”

Samuel asked why. They replied, “we wish to be like other nations. We want to have a king to lead us, and to guide us in battle.”

Samuel was very unhappy to hear this. But God told Samuel, “Do what they ask. It is not you the people are rejecting, Samuel — it is Me they are rejecting.”

Samuel gave them “the low down” on what the future would look like with a king. Ehhh, not very nice.
Essentially, they would lose all of their possessions and become slaves of the new king.

Even still, the people approached Samuel and demanded. “Please choose a new king for us.”
later, in speaking with God, Samuel said. “I tried to tell them what would happen, but they would not listen.”

God said, “then give them what they desire.”

Even as far back as 2000 years ago, people had the overwhelming raging desire to “fit in.” They wanted to be like everyone else — they wanted to be like other nations. They wanted to be essentially, led by a slave driver and suffer mightily and have all their possessions taken from them. This included their children taken from them and turned into slaves as well. Butt-heads!

It must be something in our human nature to want to “fit in.” To wear the same clothes, the same designer glasses, the same cars, the same houses… the same life! What Samuel was trying to get across to his people is they did not need to be like other nations. They did not need an “earthly ruler” to overpower them. Samuel was trying to get across the idea his people were unique — they were special. They did not need to look like the others, or fit in.

Yet, vanity ruled their decision-making process. And they paid the price. But we do not have to pay the same price and make the same mistakes.

We ought to “dare to be different.” It is completely okay to take risks, and to follow a different path. What stops us from taking a different path?

Silence Doesn’t Always Mean Somethings Wrong

Why, when my husband tells me that when he’s quiet doesn’t mean somethings wrong, don’t I believe him?

So what if my nickname is “Chatty Cathy” and so what if I love to chat? Well what’s wrong, as I’ve come to believe, is that you CAN’T listen and talk at the same time. I am a Master of Multitasking (in my humble opinion) but this one has me beat. To truly be present in silence is the best way to listen for God to speak to you.

Unfortunately I have always been someone who starts a sentence before the person I’m speaking with finishes theirs. Honestly I have only recently realized how often I do this. In my heart I’m not trying to be rude and I don’t think what I have to say is more important than their words, it’s just that I worry that I’ll lose what I want to say. I know that does sound rude, doesn’t it? I’m working on this. I figure if I lose my train of thought, it couldn’t have been worth much anyway. It’s kind of like the saying “If you love something set it free, if it comes back it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was!. So my ideas, thoughts, comments or whatever… if important, will come back. More importantly if I listen more intently I might not have to think of something else to say, just listen.

I have come to appreciate the words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi more when he says “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary use words”. Whether or not St. Francis actually spoke these words doesn’t matter now, it’s the point. We do not always have to speak to preach the Gospel. It’s in our deeds, it’s in our prayers and most importantly it should be in our hearts. I need to get out of my head more as that what gets my mouth in trouble.

Do you have trouble with silence? Are you able to fully meditate and await what God might be trying to put on your heart by putting it into your head first? I’m trying, please pray for me to accept silence as the blessing is truly is.

Silence After Mass or Social Hour?

Here was a question asked over on Catholic Answers Forum earlier today.

“As soon as Mass is concluded in my local church, people begin talking, some in a soft voice and some out loud, about wordly affairs as if they were in a coffee shop. This is disconcerting, because I understood this was a time to maintain prayerful silence in thanksgiving for the great gift of having received Jesus in the Eucharist.”

This post was listed under the name, “Shouldn’t we observe silence after Mass?” To answer this is my own opinion I would have to say YES. Is that question even serious? I know where this poster is coming from though, it does seem like once Mass ends the Church just turns into a social ground for everybody. The thing that I don’t get is that right outside the doors of the Church would be perfectly acceptable to see how the Smiths are doing, or to see if Mr. Brown will be coming over for dinner next week. People just seem to have less and less respect for the Church every day and it has really become an issue. A Church is not a social playground people, come on!

Praying the Rosary Before Bed

“Is it wrong to lie in bed praying the rosary until you fall asleep, when you have trouble sleeping? I’ve done it. My husband is scrupulous and feels this is wrong and disrespectful. He is the insomniac – gets very little sleep at night, has tried everything, etc. Yet – during our daily rosary he invariably gets drowsy and falls asleep. It’s been like this for years. I tell him, “why don’t you pray the rosary, that always puts you to sleep?” But for him this is out of the question, because the intent is wrong. Me, I think it’s fine, it’s better than thinking dumb thoughts or worrying while waiting to fall sleep…” – “Rosary as a Sleep Aid”, Catholic Answers Forum

This question was a featured post over on The Catholic Answers Forum, and I thought it was a good one. I think that falling asleep in prayer is probably the best way you can fall asleep! I cannot believe that this woman’s husband thinks it is wrong to fall asleep praying. The wife raises a valid point, all anybody does when falling asleep is concentrate on random thoughts. So why not use that time as time for prayer? In my opinion there is no wrong time to pray!