I have been leading/teaching Bible Study classes for my parish since 2011. My most recent class was St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.  It was an eight-week study and the last three of my talks were recorded.  The main purpose of this talk is to teach people how to pray by looking at how St. Paul prays.  

My talk notes are here:

And the youtube video is here. It is 30 minutes.

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You are my God; have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day. (Psalm 86:2-3)

1. No greater gift could God have given to men than in making His Word, by which He created all things, their Head, and joining them to Him as His members: that the Son of God might become also the Son of man, one God with the Father, one Man with men; so that when we speak to God in prayer for mercy, we do not separate the Son from Him; and when the Body of the Son prays, it separates not its Head from itself: and it is one Saviour of His Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who both prays for us, and prays in us, and is prayed to by us.

St. Augustine of Hippo, “Expositions on the Book of Psalms,” in Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 8, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), pages 409–410.

My Notes: Our prayer to the Father for mercy is the one same prayer of Jesus to the Father for the same mercy. Jesus prays with us, we have the same prayer: mercy.

… as we forgive those who trespass against us

Now—and this is daunting—this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see (See 1 John 4:20). In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.

Catechism of the Catholic Church #2840

My Notes:
Our prayer to receive mercy from Our Father in Heaven is bound together with our prayer in which we give mercy to our brothers and sisters here on earth.

I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
From whence shall come my help? (Psalm 121:1 NABRE)

In the Old Testament God makes Himself known on a mountain, Mt. Horab in Exodus chapter 3. The people of Israel were slaves for 430 years in Egypt, and their help came from God and Moses, from the encounter the two of them had on Mt. Horab “the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1). The writer of the Psalm is thinking back to that encounter, some 500 years earlier. Psalm 121 has a confidence to it. There is a strong assurance that God will help all those who ask. In my ministry to patients in Hospice Care, Psalm 121 is one of the prayers I pray with almost every patient. I especially pray this Psalm with patients in transition and those who are actively dying.

Looking to the mountains for God is different from looking to heaven for God. Heaven can seam so far away, and even incompressible. How do we, how can we, think of God in heaven? Thinking of God on a mountain makes our encounter with Him more real, more possible. Climbing to the top of a mountain seams possible, if we prepare and train. God wants an encounter with us, so He comes down from heaven and meets us on His mountain. We have to cooperate in this encounter, we need to give the effort to climb the mountain just as Moses did, and that climb starts by looking up at the mountain and seeing that God awaits us at the top.

Note: The analogy used here is that the effort we spend to climb a mountain is the effort we need to spend on prayer.

A Priest who is a weekend associate at our parish and who was a professor of mine at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, has his 20th anniversary as a Priest.  So I edited a prayer for him based upon Sirach chapter 45.  Please share this with your Priest on his anniversary.

From his descendants the Lord brought forth a man of mercy,
who found favor in the sight of all flesh
and was beloved by God and man.

2 He made him equal in glory to the holy ones,
and made him great in the fears of his enemies.

3 By his words he caused signs to cease;
the Lord glorified him in the presence of kings.
He gave him commands for his people,
and showed him part of his glory.

4 He sanctified him through faithfulness and meekness;
he chose him out of all mankind.

5 He made him hear his voice,
and led him into the thick darkness,
and gave him the commandments face to face,
the law of life and knowledge,
to teach Jacob the covenant,
and Israel his judgments.

7 He made an everlasting covenant with him,
and gave him the priesthood of the people.
He blessed him with splendid vestments,
and put a glorious robe upon him.

8 He clothed him with superb perfection,
and strengthened him with the symbols of authority,
the linen breeches, the long robe, and the ephod.

10 with a holy garment, of gold and blue
and purple, the work of an embroiderer;

15 Moses ordained him,
and anointed him with holy oil;
it was an everlasting covenant for him
and for his descendants all the days of heaven,
to minister to the Lord and serve as priest
and bless his people in his name.

16 He chose him out of all the living
to offer sacrifice to the Lord,
incense and a pleasing odor as a memorial portion,
to make atonement for the people.

17 In his commandments he gave him
authority in statutes and judgments,
to teach Jacob the testimonies,
and to enlighten Israel with his law.

21 for they eat the sacrifices to the Lord,
which he gave to him and his descendants.

22 But in the land of the people he has no inheritance,
and he has no portion among the people;
for the Lord himself is his portion and inheritance.

24 Therefore a covenant of peace was established with him,
that he should be leader of the sanctuary and of his people,
that he and his descendants should have
the dignity of the priesthood for ever.

26 May the Lord grant you wisdom in your heart
to judge his people in righteousness,
so that their prosperity may not vanish,
and that their glory may endure throughout their generations.

I am currently leading a Bible Study class for my Parish, an 11 week course on the Psalms. (This is the 5th Bible Study I am leading.) Note: The class materials are purchased from a company and are excellent, more information here.

I provide for the students additional material, to help them learn. Since we are in Lent I wrote a short, two page commentary on Psalm 51. This commentary is available on the right side of the blog in the section labeled “My Documents”.

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

My spiritual director asked at our last meeting what special “thing” will I be doing for Lent (just as he does for Advent).  After praying about this for a few days I decided to start praying the “Jesus Prayer”.

Why this prayer?  It is grounded in Sacred Scripture, it is the combination of the confession of St. Peter “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) with “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13).

This is a prayer of repetition, and there are a few versions of this prayer. The prayer above is the typical one, however the Gospel of Matthew is my specialty, and so I like the version that matches Matthew 16:16.  “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  Note: The title “Son of God” is found 42 times in the New Testament, for a few examples see John 1:49 and 11:27. Another version: “Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.”

The prayer can be done by itself, or with beads called “Chotki” or “Jesus beads”. The beads typically are in a count of 25, 50 or 100, with perhaps a Jerusalem cross, or a tassel at the start/end.  The Jesus prayer is also prayed using a standard Rosary.  The beads help to focus the mind on the prayer.  The Jesus Prayer can also be done using a breathing technique: inhale for “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” and exhale for “have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Combining three things for focus: a quiet location, the beads, and breathing technique with the simple prayer derived from Sacred Scripture, can move prayer from being just memorized words to a prayer of love from the heart.