Prayer and Respectful Relationships

thumbnail19Most of the time, we are in active relationship with those for whom we pray regularly, so we are always faced with the question,  “Am I myself hindering in some way the working of God’s Spirit in this person’s life?  Am I coming across as anxious or unfaithful or judgmental or controlling or, worst of all, unloving and disrespectful in some way?”  On the one hand, many Christians with sensitive and good hearts can be afraid to talk about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit with their loved ones for fear of alienating them, or simply irritating them in some way.  However, there is a different approach to this problem, and two of the people whom I will quote in this blog post, Elisabeth Leseur (see Sources and Resources) and St. John Paul II, can be of help to us:

Elisabeth writes in her Journal and Daily Thoughts,  “The influence we can exercise is something subtle, penetrating;  its strength cannot be measured.  What powerful preaching there is in simple connection with another!  A single spiritual person can change the whole moral atmosphere by its solitary light….(But) let us not think that we can personally hasten the coming of God’s reign in others.  As soon as the divine hour comes, our efforts are useless, or rather they are only an active prayer, an appeal to Him who transforms and saves.  Nevertheless, let us appeal to Him with the simple conviction that He alone will do what must be done and will bring spiritual life to those for whom we act and pray.”

St. John Paul II, in his teaching messages in the Spring of 1989, spoke about the spiritual gift of Counsel (see Isaiah 11:2,3), in a way which relates to the reality of which Leseur wrote:  “Counsel…is given to the Christian to enlighten the conscience in moral choices which daily life presents…The gift of Counsel acts like a new breath in the conscience, suggesting to it what is licit, what is becoming, what is more fitting for the soul…Thus the conscience becomes like the ‘healthy eye,’….an eye which acquires, as it were, a new pupil, by means of which it is able to see better what to do in a given situation, no matter how intricate and difficult.” (Quoted in Sr. Ann Shields’ More of the Holy Spirit)  It follows that a person who loves and prays must ask frequently for this gift of Counsel to become active in his or her life so that God’s actual thoughts, God’s way, God’s will, might be done without a stumbling block inadvertently being placed in the path of the loved one for whom we pray.  But also–and just as important–we keep always in mind that only the gift of Counsel, a gift which comes from God Himself, in our loved ones’ lives can bring them to the point of conversion and transformation of mind and heart.  This deep conviction gives us simplicity and purity of intention in our relationships with them.

Elisabeth Leseur continues, “What joy to discover suddenly in others resources that we did not suspect, an instinctive need for the higher life, an unconscious seeking for the unknown God!  We then respectfully draw near to share with them some of our inner treasure and must offer for them some of our daily suffering and effort.  But with what delicacy must we approach them, so as not to impede divine action!  A single word that lacks the spirit of the eternal Word might destroy this interior work that God alone accomplishes.  We must let God speak, and we must show by our example and our lives alone the fulfillment of His deep, subtle, and fruitful action in us….

“Never must our (own) injured sensitivities make us indifferent and hardhearted….Christ’s church needs apostles….  We must become ‘another Christ’ among men and women (and among little children!–jc), bringing, like our divine model, a message of peace, a teaching, and freedom through truth.”

In taking seriously what St. John Paul II and Elisabeth Leseur have said, it becomes obvious that we ourselves are our own most important project.  Living and growing in Christ, allowing Him, more and more, to take up residence, to abide, in our own soul–this is the basis and foundation and witness of everything we do, say, and pray for those we love, for those whom He has given us (see John 15:9,10 and John 17:6) to love into heaven.

Veni Sancte Spiritus:  Come Holy Spirit.  JC