The current rallying cry for St. John Parish is prayer: “Discipleship Deeply Rooted in
Prayer.” Prayer is the essential conversation with God, and prayer is intimately tied to
the four powerful “themes” of the four weeks of Advent; the virtues of hope, peace, joy,
and love. We’ve started presenting a series called Praying the Parish Forward that
focuses in on some understanding, learning, and discussion of prayer as well as
practice and “activation.” We learn to pray by praying. Meeting most Tuesdays after the
5:30 Mass at St. Joseph Oratory, the sessions alternate between a “Teaching time” and
praying in the Church.

Deep, intimate, fruitful prayer begins with identity; the identity of God and our identity IN
God. Pope St. John Paul the Great often talked about how our identity flows from
relationship with God. Most Christians throughout the millennia know that all human
persons are made in image and likeness of God; but the great Saints of our Catholic
heritage have been clear that likeness is not enough! God has created us to take part
in his godliness. St. John writes that we are to abide in Jesus, which is to live in him and
remain in him. St. Peter writes that Jesus has made us partakers of God’s nature. St.
Paul says over and over that we are to be IN Christ Jesus. As a fish is IN water. Jesus
clearly says he is in us, and we are in him.

This beautiful mysterious purpose of our existence (read the very first paragraph of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church!) tells us that Jesus doesn’t just want to get to know
us and understand us. He wants to become us. So that your identity is to be a little
Christ… And his identity is to become a supernatural you. The best book on this
amazing topic is “Called to Be the Children of God: The Catholic Theology of
Human Deification” by Fr. David Vincent Meconi S.J. and Carl Olson
Dcn. James Keating teaches that Jesus joins himself to us so completely, there is no
place you can go inside yourself, even into the depths of horrific suffering, and not find
Christ there. Because that’s where Christ went. Into our pain and into our sin, to heal
and forgive us. He transforms us and if we invite him, he remains in us.
How do we partake, participate, abide in him? First and foremost, through prayer.
Prayer is not just movement of the lips, but a movement of the heart; a movement of
relationship, spoken and unspoken. Prayer is the oxygen of a Christian. Prayer is to
LIFT UP OUR HEARTS (we lift them up to the Lord); to dialogue with God; to have an
intimate connection with Him. Do we have any idea the awesome gift Jesus is offering us

to participate in his life? I heard it said that asking for God’s grace isn’t like making a

horse run faster. It’s like making a horse FLY!!

St. Paul and the Church have clearly taught that we are ADOPTED sons and daughters
of God the Father. We are brought into the family of God through our faith and desire,
most especially through the Sacraments. THAT is our identity: children of the King of
Kings, sibling of Jesus, sharers in the inheritance of God’s life.

The real focus of our prayer time with the Tuesday series is INTERCESSORY PRAYER.
To intercede is to go or to pass between, to act between parties with a view to reconcile.
Mediation. And here is the key that links our prayer to our identity: Intercession involves
authority and delegation. Jesus, as God, shares his very nature with us and delegates
his authority. He tells us, over and over in the Scriptures, to go into the world and
intercede on his behalf.

Like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes: God does the work—we don’t create
anything—we distribute what God has given us to distribute. An Evangelical author and
teacher named Dutch Sheets says “we don’t dare REPLACE God… what we do in
intercessory prayer is we RELEASE God’s power.” We cooperate, participate.
If this stirs up some desire in you toward hope, peace, joy, and love, we invite you to
walk along with us for Praying the Parish Forward. There is only one more “teaching
time” in December, but we will continue these terrific sessions into the new year. After
several parishioners asked if the content could be shared on Facebook or some other
way, I uploaded a few videos of the teaching time to our Parish YouTube page, just look
for “YouTube St. John the Evangelist Parish – Jackson, Michigan” in your search engine.
There you will see the Playlist of Praying the Parish Forward.

May your Advent and Christmas season be filled with hope, peace, joy, and love!