As we commence our 40-days of prayer and fasting next Wednesday on October 11th, I pose the question: why pray more? Let me count the ways.
First, we are continually knifed by the jagged world and jagged worldly people who we love so much we hate them. Instead of dulling ourselves by any number of drugs, prayer invites us into the presence of God who always asks: ‘Where is your heart?’ Frankly, I often don’t want to know. I want drugs! But more than drugs, I want peace, real peace that runs like a stream underneath my touchy self and wells up as I quiet my heart, feel the pain, and begin to allow living water to help me unload any number of conflicts I processed poorly in the hurried hours.
Second, prayer heals us. We pray more because the world isn’t getting any better for us and we are not getting any better in facing its demands. The cure? More prayer, which is the way we unite with the One who loves us more than we love Him and who through Jesus surrounds and confirms us as beloved sons and daughters who need help. I pray because I need help. Always. I cannot say ‘yes’ to His will today without Him. I am His and I want His will to be mine. In prayer I re-up by fixing the eyes of my heart straight on Him who gave all to gain me.
Third, prayer softens our hearts. Only Jesus makes me cry. It’s a good cry, born of gratitude for His self-giving, which frees me to release the everyday grief over the truth that I have little or no control over things in my life. My certainty is Him. I am being weaned off the world and secured in Him.
Fourth, prayer primes us to intercede for the hard-hearted. ‘I weep because you don’t’, said St. Jean Vianney but we can do our part. We cry out to the Father on behalf of loved ones, certain that as the good Shepherd left good sheep behind to rescue us He will do the same for them (LK 15:3-7). Remembering His generosity toward us inspires gratitude which fuels our eloquent petitions: ‘Get him (or her) God!’ We must persist like one who pounded on the judge’s door til the old crank got up and acted rightly (LK 18: 2-8). The logic is sure—if a divided man arose for her, how much more will Almighty God?
Fifth, prayer prepares us to answer our prayers or someone else’s. As we welcome His generous love afresh and pray for that generosity to lance our beloved’s heart, we are primed to make Jesus known however and to whomever He wills. I love being an answer to another’s prayer! How can we not spill onto another if we have been before His altar where living waters are ever-rising (Ez. 47)? Declare Him or burst (Jer. 20:9)!
Why pray more? Prayer changes everything. Starting next Wednesday the 11th, follow the DSM staff with this prayer guide. When possible, ask a prayer partner to join you. Let’s pray together and become good news for the broken.
Join us for the ‘Becoming Good News for the Gender Challenged’ fast from Oct. 11th-Nov. 19th.
Download the Prayer Guide Below:
Nothing conveys God’s love better than telling our stories of God’s unfailing love. Our surrender to His on the Cross has become for us the threshold for a new creation; He broke our low ceiling and opened for us an eternal horizon. Yes, we had other options: gay selves and relationships, even ‘gay marriages’ and becoming another gender. His love summoned our surrender.
As we enter into the last few days of our 40-days of prayer, we realize we can become an answer to our prayers. We can make Him known by making known how He is actually setting us free.
Rocky Delgado and I had the privilege of sharing our stories for a large gathering of Catholic priests. As you may recall, Rocky’s same-sex attraction devolved into him identifying as a woman, winning drag shows and nearly expiring in that culture of death. Christians stood in the gap for him; they prayed and fasted and included him in their community until he was ready to surrender to Jesus. At 20-years-old, he began the long road home that continues today. Rocky is not a Catholic. But as he shared, waves of mercy rolled out upon that sea of beloved black-robed men in a way that they perhaps had never experienced. A well-told testimony of mercy can be more effective than a scholarly catechism.
How do we best tell our stories? After 35 years of giving mine and training the ‘Rockys’ of this world, I offer you 10 points.
1. Use the Cross as your structure; ensure your story lines up with Jesus’. The irresistible love of the Father, surrender to the Cross (many variations here), then the new life that arose and is arising. If you are avoiding the Cross in your brokenness, please do not testify. We want to know Him more, not be confused by your artful dodging.
2. Tell your story only if the gains are time-tested. We are all vulnerable to relapse. Bear witness of self-control only if you have some. Otherwise, the enemy will successfully knock you off your public platform.
3. If you share about other persons, especially family members, make sure they know what you are saying about them. They may not agree on your take of history. But talking it out will soften any tendency to vilify others. You lose people when you speak in melodramatic ways of family members.
4. Balance the gory with the glory. Be clear about the brokenness in your life but do not amp it up. What is evil will speak for itself. Give the corollary of how Jesus is turning around foul things with His just, merciful love.
5. Be specific and share experiences that convey the essence of your pain and your healing. People remember well-told memories more than psychobabble and Christian lingo. This is an art. You will get better at it.
6. Describe a restoration that includes a variety of interventions. No one thing set you free. Consider the host of encounters and disciplines that helped you. Yes we know Jesus is healer. How did He heal you? Be specific.
7. Tell us the benefits of healing. What are you now free for? In other words, make a case for why I should go the way of the Cross with my brokenness.
8. Describe a process that continues to this day. You are never done becoming a good gift. You are saved and getting saved, chaste and becoming chaste.
9. Anchor your hope in Jesus with His body. Of course we all have experiences of the church’s failure. But you would not have hope today if not for some Christians. They are the healing church for you. Unite Head and Body.
10. Tailor your story to context. Trim it according to time constraints. Be led by the Spirit to share snippets to someone in need NOW. You are good news.
‘The time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.’ (LK 5:34)
In preparation for our 40 days of prayer, it is key that everyone determine what (s)he will ‘fast’ in order to make room to pray. We let go in order to take hold.
In specific, we are making room for God Himself. We skip a meal or a TV show or an hour of Internet browsing in order to spend that time in real communion with the Living God. Perhaps we pray regularly already. That is good. But ‘Pierced for the Bride’ requires extra time. Yes, we shall meditate together on the daily devotion and pray through the 3 or 4 requests. But more than that, I pray that we might linger in His Presence and listen to His whispers. Detached from some pleasing habit, with a few minutes to spare, might we direct our hungers to Him?
Jesus was right. He is no longer with us face-to-face; we know Him through a variety of icons, but we still face the divide between today’s emptiness and tomorrow’s divine embrace. Prayer is the best way of bridging that divide; it manifests dependence on the divine better than any other discipline.
A big part of the theme for this prayer cycle is spousal intimacy, how Jesus on the Cross betrothed Himself to us. But a gap exists between betrothal and full consummation. He pledged Himself to us and left. Many powerful graces do not change that fact but instead direct us to the hope of heavenly union. In the meantime, we ache, we seek, and we lay down good habits for Jesus, the ‘one thing needful’ (LK 10:42).
I am in the midst of determining what I shall fast. I do not mind going without food but must consider what works for all who need me. Like you, I must ask God and wise counselors: ‘What can I let go of in order to pray while still living responsibly before others? I must admit: I have come to love fasting. I embrace the emptiness and ache of going without in order to know Him more.
I am not a patient person. I can still lunge after false meals. Lust does not drive me but is not dead. How I need more of Him in order to be faithful to Him! Fasting helps me surrender the basic ache of my heart to the One who sustains me as I head Home. May you discern what to let go of in order to know Him more.