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Role of Prayer in Victorious Living


Tools for Victorious Living -

Scriptural Foundation for Healthy Living and Coping

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Introduction to a Victorious Prayer Life

If you have a close relationship with a person, you typically want to seek him or her out often to share your life’s stories and to learn about each other’s points of view as to how life is treating each of you and your loved ones. Such communications can occur by traditional methods of letters, telephone calls or home visits. Nowadays you can use emails, Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, Twitter or other social network outlets to stay in touch with your close friend. If you are working on a relationship with God-Your Higher Power, the beauty of communicating with God is that you do not need any of the above resources. All you need to do is to tune into God’s presence by your thoughts and feelings through a spiritual dialogue with Him. This means God is always there for you to communicate with. He is your 24/7 friend when you are:

  • grieving,
  • in need,
  • hurting,
  • worried,
  • thankful,
  • excited,
  • overjoyed,
  • exasperated,
  • concerned,
  • frightened,
  • angry,
  • disappointed,
  • lonely, isolated,
  • desperate,
  • ready to surrender to God’s will,
  • needing a ear to listen to you,
  • or any other emotion, condition, or situation you want to put into this space.

All you need to do is just stop and communicate with God on the spot! How easy is that?

 

Unfortunately, too many of us have been taught the appropriate and only way to pray to God is through some formulated methodology which can be cumbersome, time consuming and honestly can interfere in open and clear communication with God. They are no more than a ritualistic recitation of “formatted prayers” which do not result in open two-way dialogue with God. These prayers were often designed as a tool by their authors for their own personal interaction with God. But for you they might be too objective, technical, cold and disconnected with what you want to communicate with God about.  Formulated prayers often keep us from developing an authentic relationship with God since we simply recite the same words over and over and never talk from our minds, hearts or souls. So, we are going to present to you a few suggestions which hopefully will help your “prayer life” with God become more victorious and productive for your spiritual and emotional growth and draw you into a more authentic personal relationship with God.

Accepting One’s Powerlessness to be Successful for a Victorious Living Prayer Life

In the Tools for Coping Series, I continuously talk about the need to accept that we are powerless over all people, places, things and conditions in life and the only things that we have total control over are the way we personally think and feel and how we act based on this thinking and feeling. I challenged you in the Tools for Personal Growth to change your thinking and feelings to become more rational and to let go of the irrational thinking which too often clouds our ability to see Life as it is rather than being upset with Life because it is not the way we think it SHOULD be. I challenged you in the Tools for Handling Control Issues to let go of the need to control, fix and take care of things so that they can be the way you want them to be. Rather I encouraged you to accept that you need to Let Go of trying to change them and to hand them over to God. This handing over to God is best exemplified in the Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr.

The actual prayer reads: 

 

                THE SERENITY PRAYER

                   by Reinhold Niebuhr

  God, grant me serenity

  to accept the things I cannot change,

  courage to change the things I can

  and wisdom to know the difference.

  Living one day at a time,

  enjoying one moment at a time,

  accepting hardships as a pathway to peace

  taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,

  not as I would have it,

  trusting that You will make all things right

  if I surrender to Your will.

  So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

  and supremely happy with You forever

  in the next.

                                Amen

In Letting Go of the Uncontrollables and Unchangeables in life I then take each line to assess it further. Here is what I said:

 

What can you do to let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life?

In order to let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life, you need to follow the words of the Prayer for Serenity by Reinhold Niebuhr.

 

God grant me the serenity

This requires that you establish a healthy spirituality and relationship with your Higher Power (God) to whom you can let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life.

 

To accept the things I cannot change

You need to be realistic and rational and accept that you can change only your feelings and attitudes about things which you are powerless to change.

 

Courage to change the things I can

You need to accept personal responsibility for your own life, thinking, emotions, and actions. You need to take care of yourself better. You need to stop being a martyr, fixer, rescuer, advice giver, and enabler.

 

Wisdom to know the difference

You need to allow your Higher Power (God) a place in your life along with correcting your unhealthy, irrational and unrealistic thinking so that you can better discern what is uncontrollable and unchangeable in your life.

 

Living one day at a time

You need to be patient and not want total self-change or recovery overnight. You need to let go of the need for immediate gratification.

 

Enjoying one moment at a time

You need to relax and smell the roses. Have fun!  Tune into your inner child and enjoy life for what it is rather than for how you want it to be.

 

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace

You need to recognize that you are a human. It is only by fully accepting and admitting your humanness, imperfection, and inability to control and change every person, place, or thing in your life that will you be able to achieve peace and serenity for yourself.

 

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it

You need to accept that life cannot be as perfect as you would like it since every person, place, and thing is imperfect because the human condition is this way. You need to become realistic as to what is really possible in your lifetime if you are to be free of stress, anxiety, and tension.

 

Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will

In letting go of the uncontrollable and unchangeable people, places and things in your life, you need to hand them over to your Higher Power (God). You need to have a strong spiritual belief that your Higher Power (God) is strong enough to handle these problems. By handing them over no answers are guaranteed, but at least you have unburdened the crushing weight of these concerns off your shoulders.

 

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

By letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life you have allowed these people, places, and things to be responsible for themselves which takes a tremendous burden off you. By freeing yourself of this huge burden, you will appreciate life more for what it is. You will have the energy and strength to pursue your own interests. You will be able to relax and have fun. You will be free to pursue your spiritual life with your Higher Power (God) now and forever.

 

Amen

Mary:  Our Role Model of Victorious Living through Prayer

Mary, the mother of Jesus as described in the Gospel of Luke is an example of Prayer Life in the Spirit of God which is our role model of victorious living.


She listened to what God had to say when the angel came to her to announce that she would bear a child which she would conceive through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.


She took this message to heart after she clearly told Him that she could not believe what He was asking of her. She dialogued until she said that she was ready to do God’s will in her life even it would bring her possible shame and humiliation through the pregnancy.


She allowed it to have an effect on her activity even if she ended up hurting badly from being true to the direction of the Spirit of God in raising a son who eventually would suffer and die on the cross.


Mary was the most loyal of all of the disciples or followers of Jesus and she was with him every step of the way even to his crucifixion and death. She worked hard at maintaining open and direct communication with God in the process helping her to maintain a solid balance and not losing her hope and trust on this incredible 33 year journey. Mary is an example of persistence in the use of open and direct prayer with God to help one live victoriously in life even though such a life was filled with challenges, disappointments and ultimately deep sorrow due to the severest of losses that a parent can go through.

 

Mary then is an example of how prayer is calling on the Spirit of God to fill one’s life. It is to be an active listener and at the same time to an active lover who is open to doing whatever God calls one to do in life. How open are you to listening to God’s call? How open are you to loving God enough to trust his call for whatever venture he is asking you to pursue in your life? Are you too busy with living your day to day life to stop long enough to hear God’s call in your life? If you are then perhaps this next section will assist you to develop a daily plan of action to communicate more consciously with God.

Daily Consciousness Raising - A Contemporary Model of Prayer for one’s listening to the Spirit of God in one’s Life

 

I came across these concepts while working on the Gospel of Luke Bible Study from the Little Rock Bible Studies  (http://www.littlerockscripture.org/en/Studies.aspx?ID=91).  In the Gospel of Luke’s DVD in Lecture 2, the lecturer Susan McCarthy R.D.C.  presented the Consciousness Examen which was developed from the Examination of Conscience of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius. Examination was a process by which a person would search one’s conscience for sin, whereas the Examen model is a search for feelings which underlie the calling of God’s Spirit in one’s life. This new model is based on the Psalm 95: If today you hear God’s Voice, Harden not your heart.

The Five Steps of the Daily Consciousness Raising


 LTF3

 L = Light

 T = Thanksgiving

 F3 = Feeling, Focus, Future


Step 1: Pray for light – Invite the Spirit of God to lead you in what you are about to do


Step 2: Review the Day in Thanksgiving – Review your work, relationships, meals and challenges with a spirit of gratitude for all that God has provided for you


Step 3: Review the feelings that surface in the replay of the day – Look at all of your feelings, both positive and negative, painful and pleasing, be open to review all feelings experienced in that day. You are to pay attention to all that happened to you in the last 24 hours


Step 4: Choose one feeling and pray from it – Choose the feeling that has most caught your attention in this process be it negative or positive since it signifies something important is going on in your life at this time. Spontaneously pray the prayer that comes from the feeling. It could be thanksgiving; a plea for forgiveness and mercy; a request for release from pain, sorrow or anxiety etc.


Step 5: Look forward to tomorrow – What feelings emerge as you anticipate the events on your calendar? – fear, delight, anticipation, self-doubt, temptation, desire to procrastinate etc. – turn all of this into a prayer for whatever you need and then conclude with the Lord’s prayer.


Though Daily Prayer, becoming open to the Call of Discipleship from God

If you believe that the Spirit of God is alive in our world today then:

 

Where is the Spirit inviting you?

What are you being asked to do?

Through strengthening our relationship with God, through prayer and daily emotional, spiritual and intellectual communication with Him, we are opening ourselves to God’s call in our lives. God is asking us as he did Mary, Joseph her husband and step-father of Jesus, and all of the apostles, disciples and early followers of Jesus to live our lives to honor and respect the goodness which God has shown us and to take actions which respond to God’s call to care of his children on earth.

 

If we are truly listening to the Spirit of God, is He not asking us today to renounce the marginalizing of people through racism, consumerism and materialism etc and instead calling us to live a life of service to others by actively changing and rearranging the priorities of the world? If this is the case then God is calling us to Discipleship which in the Gospel of Luke Bible Study from the Little Rock Bible Studies  (http://www.littlerockscripture.org/en/Studies.aspx?ID=91).  In the Gospel of Luke’s DVD in Lecture 2, the lecturer Susan McCarthy R.D.C. relates that Discipleship is following through on the presence of God in our lives. She said:

 

“Discipleship is the disturbing presence of God in our lives. God is ever so gently trying to disturb us so that God can use us to disturb where disturbance is needed.”

 

Through daily communing with God we all are eventually called to be God’s disciples-all we need is to say “yes.” All we need to do is to put into action those, thoughts, words and concepts shared in our daily prayer into real action in our World. It can be as simple as changing the way we think, feel and act in our own families to doing volunteer work in our local communities to change how marginalized people are treated. It can go even further than that into working for world peace, a “green environment,” nuclear disarmament, ridding world hunger, poverty and oppression of minorities no matter their color, race, nationality or religious beliefs. Are you open to say “yes” to this call of discipleship? Are you ready to activate the prayer life you have with God into a Life of Action for God? Are you ready to be a disciple of God or are you content enough to just be a believer in God? Only through daily prayerful communication with God can you clearly discern God’s calling for you and to gain the strength enough to one day say “yes” to the calling.

Benefit of Prayerful Victorious Living

In the twelve-step program of recovery of Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous (The SEA's Program) I point out that it is based on the principle that self-esteem is the key to health for every person on earth. For this reason, a person actively pursuing personal recovery from low self-esteem would never intentionally bring down, harm, or discount the self-esteem of another person. Clearly if you are dutifully communicating with God on a daily basis you will grow in your self-esteem and feel not only better about yourself but will want to share the joy and Good News of God to others in your life.

 

I also point out the SEA’s Program that the person who has increased healthy self-esteem is an individual who has the:

  1. Skills to cope with the daily trials and challenges of life
  2. Ability to size up a problem and use problem solving and decision making skills to address it
  3. Desire to be altruistic and helpful to others.

These three characteristics are also true of people who communicate regularly with God and are open to the Call of God’s Spirit in their lives. So through healthy prayerful communication with God you will gain the ability to cope with life, solve problems, and be generous and helpful to others.

 

The essence of prayerful communication with God is contained in the Prayer for Peace of St. Francis of Assisi.

              PRAYER OF PEACE

              By Francis of Assisi

  Lord,

  Make me an instrument of your peace.

  Where there is hatred,

  Let me sow love;

  Where there is injury, pardon;

  Where there is doubt, faith;

  Where there is despair, hope;

  Where there is darkness, light;

  Where there is sadness, joy.

  O Divine Master,

  Grant that I may seek

  Not so much to be consoled,

  As to console;

  To be understood,

  As to understand;

  To be loved,

  As to love.

  For it is in giving

  That we receive;

  It is in pardoning

  That we are pardoned;

  It is in dying

  That we are born to eternal life.

I challenge you then to begin to work at having honest, open, and continuous communication with God to allow you be open to God’s Call in your life so that you can truly become an instrument of His Peace not only in your own thoughts, emotions and actions but also in the lives of your family, friendship network, church, community and the world! God is calling you to live victoriously, listen to His call and be ready to respond on a daily basis.