Midweek Fellowship – June 22, 2016
We would like to invite you to a Priest Discussion, like a typical Priests meeting that we have in the Church. Maybe, you have never attended a meeting where priests are gathered together with the Bishop; and you would think that we just talk about the finances of the Church and other things. Many of you don’t realize that we talk about the things of God, and what the things of God mean to you as the flock.
Tonight, we will cap our series on prayer as we go into one of our priests’ discussion. It may not be exactly identical in the way that we discuss it in the past, but it is very similar because it is going to unveil the heart of the Fathers of the Church, the Fathers which God has given you to be the Fathering spirit, the defense, the comfort, and to be the expression of the love of God upon your lives.
Listen to this meeting and be blessed by the things that you will allow God to teach you.
Bishop Ariel: I don’t know if you feel it, but the Holy Spirit is here tonight. I even think that He is overpowering the air-conditioning. The heat of His fire is very evident.
We have been talking about prayer for the past several months and if you know me, I always talk about the kingdom of God and end my homilies with the kingdom of God. I understand that when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He taught them the Lord’s Prayer whose center theme is the kingdom of God and His will being done. It is an exclusive central theme.
You could not detach the theme of the Kingdom from prayer. You cannot divorce them because once you do, the tendency is to personalize it.
I don’t have preferences as far as NBA Teams are concerned, and I don’t even know what team Stephen Curry belongs to. He is a publicly professed Christian. He said something about praying to win that goes, “God won’t answer prayers for any team. If you want to win, you do hard work. You don’t just pray for your team to win because God loves all teams. Hard work will give you a win.” If you pray for a team, you are detaching Kingdom from prayer, and you are owning a tool, an instrument or a gift, which is intended for the kingdom of God. This is what prayer is primarily about – the kingdom of God.
It is not that God is not concerned about our personal concerns, but in Matthew 6:33, He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” All these things are the things which the Gentiles pursue, but first, we seek the kingdom of God.
Fr. Roberto: Prayer is a language of the Kingdom. It is an expression of how we operate in the kingdom of God. It is very true that understanding the Kingdom comes hand in hand with prayer. Prayer enhances the understanding of the Kingdom. Both make each other strong. When you begin to pray, you understand the Kingdom more. When you understand the Kingdom more, you will pray more and more until it snowballs in your lives. This is how we grow as a Christian. We begin to grow because of our relationship with God, which is established by praying.
Discipleship is the activity that we should be involved in the kingdom of God. There are four areas of discipleship namely: the Word; prayer; witnessing; and fellowship. We must understand how important prayer is.
Fr. Gary: Prayer is so important because in its root, in its core, is communication. It is not a communication of facts or ideas, but a communication of heart. When we pray, God communicates His heart to us. As we receive His heart, we should also be able to communicate our heart of love to Him in prayer. It also enables us to communicate His heart to others. If we haven’t learned to pray, we will not be effective evangelists. We might be able to make a sale like what I’ve known of a people who approach evangelism as a salesman bringing some things and enticing the emotions of people they talk to. We could make a sale of somebody becoming a Christian, and it doesn’t last very long because prayer is not selling, but communicating who God is.
We can only know who God is when we spend time in prayer and communicating with Him, letting Him express Himself to us, and letting us know what His heart is for people and what His heart is for the society and for the world and for His kingdom.
God’s heart is for the Kingdom to be restored as it was in the beginning. It is to be restored as it was in the Garden. This is God’s heart for every individual. Romans tell us that the whole creation is longing and yearning for the manifestation of the sons of God because this is the kingdom of God.
If we have not learned to pray and communicate with God, we cannot evangelize effectively. If we are not intimate with God, even our relationships with others will be lacking. Relationship with others starts with our relationship with God.
Fr. Roberto: This is something very vital especially in our day and culture where we seem to be having a lot of social media and yet, it is only a façade. Many of the people involved in social media are really empty inside because they are trying to express something that they want to have, but they know deep within that they don’t have it. They try to get the attention and the applause, the “likes” that when they get a lot of “likes,” it is like it is their security.
It is not wrong to have these, but it is a cry of humanity for intimacy which God can only give. This why prayer is so vital today because we live in a society that is longing for that intimacy; and yet, they don’t know how to find it. Once the Church unlocks that prayer key, we now begin to show them, “This is how it is.” We don’t have to find sexual intimacy from a sexual partner. We don’t have to find intimacy from your friends. Real intimacy begins with God.
Bishop Ariel: Prayer helps us into understanding the Kingdom because our goal is the full stature of the King of this Kingdom. We do not conform to an alternate false façade being offered by the world, but we are transformed by the renewing of our minds into what the Kingdom is, as personified by its King.
Prayer is a process by which we grow into this transformation; and our attitudes and our hearts are shaped toward the fullness of this Kingdom and understanding God’s will. Romans 12 say, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is.” The will of God is not what people are wanting and looking for – the affirmation, the attention and the belongingness – but that which is perfect, acceptable, well-pleasing, and actually is best for us.
St. John Chrysostom’s prayer says, “Lord, You have our prayers. We may not fully understand what we need, but we have expressed our hearts to You. Answer our prayers, fulfil now the desires of Your servants as may be best for us.” God knows what is best for us. The prayer of St. John Chrysostom is a prayer of submission to God’s will that which is pleasing, perfect and acceptable and best for us.
We want what is best for us and it is not as shallow as 200 “likes” or acceptance. This is not bad, but the real us is what needs to be transformed into and only God can show us this. This transformation will bring us joy, fulfilment; and this is God’s perfect will for us.
Fr. Roberto: Didn’t Jesus say, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom.” God delights and dances over us with joy when we live out the kingdom of God in our lives. One of the very key things that Jesus said in Luke 18, “At all times, they ought to pray and not lose heart.” We mentioned about The Lord’s Prayer; and several times, the apostles would record in the Gospels that Jesus went out by Himself to pray. The intimacy that He had with the Father was so powerful and strong that it was basically the strength of His ministry. He spent time with His Father. He was ever conscious of the presence of God with Him. It was said that Jesus did not sin because He is the Son of God. It wasn’t so. He was a man like us, and I believe that the strength of His conquering temptations was because of His prayer life.
When the presence of God is so strong, we won’t even think of trying to do the things that men do. God is faithful that when we confess, He forgives. He wants us to live a life that is truly walking in His ways.
Fr. Gary: Jesus was able to say, “The Father and I are one.” This is powerful and it came from His prayer life. He could never be one with the Father unless He had the communion with Him. It is interesting to note that when we talk about the prayer of St. Chrysostom, “Lord, fulfil now the desires of Your servants as may be best for us,” it is according to God’s analysis not ours. We sometimes say, “According to me, what is best for me…” The prayer is a surrender saying, “Lord, what is best for us (not me)…according to us… as You evaluate it.”
Probably, none of us here would have thought, “Lord, what is best for the Cathedral of the King? Is it the path that we have been walking for the last three years?” Has anybody said, “Lord, You show us what You want to happen. I want us to leave Sheridan, spent a bunch of time and money and get into Pasig, and then year after that, we are out of there…” Who would have voted for any of these? And yet, the Lord knew what was best for us and all the things that went along with it.
I am sure that everybody here had in sometime somebody in their life praying, “Lord, bring me into a relationship with that person. I just want to be closer to that person. I want to grow near to that person.” After a period of time, you realize, “Lord, please, deliver me from this person.” You thought it was best for you, and you found out that it wasn’t really best for you. This happens a lot to many people.
In prayer, we come to this time when we say, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done. It is Your understanding and Your wisdom on what is best for me by Your analysis.” This is a key to a life in the Kingdom.
Bishop Ariel: We are commanded for our sake to pray without ceasing. Prayer is not simply revealing your wish list to God. Prayer is basically communion; and if we are in tune 24/7 with God and are in communion with Him, then, the transformation process doesn’t stop. The growth process does not stop. Proving the will of God or attempting to prove the will of God doesn’t stop. Our growth into stature of Jesus does not stop. Then, when we more and more understand and prove the will of God, then, that would lessen our anxieties, our fears, our uncertainties because we know God’s direction as we are in communion with Him.
It is not saying, “I’ve got it.” It is a growth process but unless you embark on that, then, you definitely stop the process. If you embark on it, slow or fast, at least you know you are moving and you’re growing.
Yesterday, I was happy when the Rector’s Council met for the whole day. We spent several hours in prayer. Did we just have our heads bowed for seven hours? No, the whole time, we were praying. We were meeting, expressing the desires of our hearts for the good of the Church. Each member had a desire for the good of the Church, and we have expressed our disappointments and expressed our cries to God. It was a form of prayer and God heard all of it.
Even after the meeting, going home, sleeping, I am sure that at the first waking hour, all of us had this expression, “God, make me an effective leader of this Church. Show us what is best for it and use me toward the fulfilment or the implementation of what is best for us.” Prayer is a continuous 24/7 process and it is an expression of our hearts to God.
Prayer is not just the folding of hands, the bowing of heads, but what is in your heart is always a prayer. Basically, the Rector’s Council do this every week. We pray by asking God to be with us as we discuss matters of the Church, and more effectively, shepherding that which He has entrusted to us.
I can assure us, not just the leadership, but all of us, that if we have that, God will honor it. It doesn’t matter how perfect or how imperfect His vessels are, as we are earthen vessels, but as long as we yield ourselves to God, He will use us. It is His power anyway, not our ability. Prayer is a key to this. It is an unceasing being on-line with God.
Fr. Gary: During our Rector’s Council, there were times of actual “classic intercession” where we prayed for individuals, prayed for needs, literally praying for people for deliverance and financial situations. It is all encompassing. It covers all and this is what you do when you pray for seven hours.
Fr. Roberto: I could sense that the flow we had in the leadership, in the things we see is also a result of the prayers of the people. I could feel that ever since we started the prayer series. More and more people are opening their eyes to understand the value of prayer. The enemy will always try to plant laziness for us, having no time for prayer; but more and more people are beginning to see how valuable prayer is and by the power of the Spirit, we are overcoming those weaknesses and excuses we make when we pray.
I know that we still have a long way to go, but we are starting. We are taking those steps and people are beginning to be more prayerful, more conscious of the life of the Kingdom of us. Every Wednesday, I could sense that there is an exuberance and excitement to be here whenever we gather and even in the things that have happened in our Church in TCU as a result of prayer. I pray that we could continue in this trend and in fact, grow even stronger and stronger.
One of the words that I used when we started our prayer series was “to level up” in our Christian walk. We are starting to increase our intensity in terms of our commitment to God and to see His love in our lives.
Prayer is so vital and important in our lives and we cannot exist and survive life without prayer.
Fr. Dino: One of my desires as Church that we are really to enter into, which is one of the things that we have learned about prayer, is that prayer is adoration. Worship and prayer go hand in hand. I pray the day that we would love to worship God. In a Bible Study, we could just sing a song. Today, we have the technology with regards to music, but nothing is better than worship coming from the heart. I believe that we begin to be a people of praise and worship again; a people of prayer knowing that we are warriors in this way. We destroy principalities and powers. We enter into realms where there is uncertainty and opposition, but every time we praise the Lord, as we take the key of prayer and praise, as a Church and even in our individual lives, we will see a breakthrough in the joyful times and even in the bad times.
The Psalms are prayer and worship, all put together. In the liturgy, we have the gospel reading, the Old and New Testament readings, but there is one book of the Bible that is always there – the Psalms. This is a call for us to be a people of prayer and praise and worship.
My desire is that we would love to worship God. Walking from home to work, we would love to worship God, even without the available devices. There would always be a song of praise and adoration of who God is and what He has done.
The key of praise is also our tool against the enemy. Somehow, when we enter the spiritual realm with the angels when we sing during the Sanctus, the Host of the heavenly Hosts join us; or it may also be the other way around wherein we join them in the perpetual praise that they offer, and we bring heaven into earth, as it is in heaven and so on earth.
Regardless of our situations and the challenges we have in school, in the office or at home, we go with a praise in our hearts. Wherever we are, the power of prayer and praise can go hand in hand. My prayer is that we, as a people, as living stones, enter that realm of praise and worship like never before, seeing that each parishioner would desire worship through their lips and they would see that breakthrough, as a Church, and in their lives.
Bishop Ariel: This was one of the cries that came out of our meeting yesterday. Sunday is our 24th Anniversary as CEC and the gospel has Jesus saying to His disciples, “You do not know what Spirit you are of.”
I would like to remind us of who we are as CEC also. We are the Charismatic Episcopal Church. As a little history, in one of the Patriarch’s Council Meeting from long ago, there was a proposal to change the name of the denomination. Patriarch Adler fought tooth and nail against changing it. He said, “The moment you remove the “Charistmatic” from the name is the moment we die as a Church.” But, it is not just a removal of term in the name, but also a departure from the essence of it. We are Charismatic Episcopal Church. We are charismatic in expression. We are liturgical in worship. We are Orthodox in doctrine and we are evangelical in thrust. Who we are, who God created us to be is a being in whom there is an intentional void that God has put in there that only He can fill. We are designed to be in communion with God, otherwise, we will be empty. This is where prayer comes in.
I have always told of this joke, which is true. I tell people that the reason I married my wife, who is a dentist, is because there was this “empty space” inside of me that only she could fill. It was the third molar and she filled it. God intended for us to have this empty space that only He could fill. We look elsewhere to fill this void, and nobody else can fill this. Every human being knows this and even non-Christians and even those who know God. They just know from the inside of them that a Supreme Being is what we need. Only He can address this need of ours in the inside.
We are designed to pray without ceasing because that empty space can be filled only with communion with God who can fill it.
Fr. Roberto: We should realize that more than just the thing that prayer could do in our lives, and the effect it does on people, unknowingly, because we are prayerful, sometimes, people see a change and they draw strength from you. We have the family vigil every Saturday, and it happens that everyone has a reason not to be there. There is always the feeling of tentativeness, but once we get into it, especially for fathers who are anchors of this, we begin to influence people.
Our prayer life not only changes us, but also changes others. As we become stronger, we also begin to influence other people.
We pray; we spend time with God. We praise and worship for adoration is very important. There are many experiences to show how praise just begins to change the whole scene.
Two years ago, I was in Zamora St. and I was alone in the school. Suddenly, there was this fear that came into me of ghosts. My office was at the farthest area of and I began to praise God, not even to pray to God, “Lord, help me.” Suddenly, the whole atmosphere changed as if there was a light beam from where I was. The fear was gone because praise and worship brings us to the presence of God. It is not a formula; it is neither a magical potion nor an amulet. It is the real deal when we begin to pray, to praise and worship and we begin to experience the power of God.
Let us be a prayerful people. There are many avenues to do this in the Church – the Morning Office of Prayer. In the school, they have individual and collective prayers. There are Bible Studies and prayer meetings. There is the overnight intercession every second Friday of the month. There is a prayer before the service on Sundays. There are many ways where we can encourage each other to pray. I believe that our lives will never be the same again when we really begin to take prayer as our tool and our weapon in our Christian life.
Bishop Ariel: The times of prayer shared by Fr. Obet are a good reminder for all of us. Saturday vigil prayer should never be stopped, too. We may say, “I pray 24/7 at all times wherever I am,” but remember, Jesus also kept a custom and He went to the synagogue. He went to liturgical forms of prayer. He also went to the mountain all by Himself to pray.
There are also times for corporate gathering. We observe this, and we are not to forsake these. This is part of our transformation to who God is in our lives – a God of discipline; a God of commitment; a God of belongingness to a Body.
Make prayer your lifestyle. Any time there is a need to pray for a person or a situation, immediately do it. Make it a habit of being dependent on God’s ability, of God’s intervention, because this void in us and the answer to all that we face will come from God. Encourage each other; establish formal prayer partners and prayer groups. We don’t have to have directives from leadership. All of us should make prayer a lifestyle because this helps us in our growth as children of God.