A Vision for Today’s Prayer Groups

by Sister Nancy Kellar, SC

The abbot of a monastery was concerned that the monastery was not attracting new members and seemed on the verge of death. He consulted with a wise person in the village who told him to tell the monks: “Jesus is going to come again as one of you; but I don’t know  which one.” The monks began to treat one another with great love because they didn’t know which brother might be Jesus. Their love began to attract new members and once again the monastery began to thrive.

I start with this story because it focuses on the most basic call we have as followers of Jesus and members of prayer groups, “This is my commandment, love one another as I have loved you” (Jn15:12). St John, writing after the other evangelists, had seen the fruit of the Spirit in the churches founded by the Apostles; but he also saw the loss of the fire of the Spirit. He wrote as an elder simply about love as the way to rekindle life in the Spirit in the Church.

I have written and taught in prayer groups for many years in the Charismatic Renewal about: the need to keep expecting more of the Spirit and the charismatic gifts; the importance of having clarity of identity and clarity of mission. In the Leadership Formation Videos, David Thorp and I taught about “The spiritual marks and structural components of Charismatic prayer groups.” As “Traveling Timothy’s” we saw three conditions that seem to keep prayer groups vibrant:  
1) Continuing to use the Charisms
2) Building committed relationships
3) Becoming more effectively evangelistic.
I still believe these are essential; but I go back now as an elder like St. John the evangelist to what is even more basic; that we love God, love one another and by our love attract others to know God.

We are called first to be holy, to live and speak out of a personal love relationship with God. “Live on in my love” (Jn 15:9). Our experience of being baptized in theSpirit is a prophetic call to us to proclaim that God is present here and now, that we can know him by personal experience. We are called to proclaim the possibility of knowing God as Father, surrendering to Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives, and experiencing that the Spirit given Pentecost is for everyone!
In the past many of us knew God by information believing that deeper knowledge was reserved for some special people. Baptism in the Holy Spirit brought us into a new way of knowing God through revelation, through the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It brought us to the conviction and to the experience that everyone can come to have the knowledge of God and the mysteries of God. We are called to proclaim that in this new age of the impersonalization of God.

The Renewal helped us understand that prayer is not just speaking to God; but also listening and letting God reveal himself to us. We recognized the longing in our hearts as a call to go more deeply into the spiritual. We are called to draw into the possibilities the Holy Spirit gives us, those turning to satisfy that longing in material things or in false spiritualities.

 Baptism in the Holy Spirit opened our eyes to recognize the world of evil, of demons, and to call them what they are, to recognize sin as sin and not excuse it. We are called to challenge the excuses given for sin, “just the way I am, my family is like this,” and to reveal by the new freedom in our lives the possibility of healing and deliverance.
We are called to be one and to call others into unity. “Father, may they be one even as we are one” (Jn. 7:11). Life in the Holy Spirit taught us that community is an essential part of Pentecost and that we can’t grow in relationship to God unless we are growing in relationship with one another. The Spirit teaches us that joy comes from putting the needs of others ahead of ourselves, that other centeredness makes us better individuals. We learn the paradox that in losing ourselves, we find new life.

In contrast, modern culture teaches that salvation comes from self-realization, self-help, that success equals individualism and independence. “I’ll do it my way.” Society calls sin in relationships “personality clashes” that are irreconcilable.

In the Spirit we learn the possibility of hearts changing, of reconciliation, of unity in diversity. We are called to prophetically proclaim that in the Spirit unity between races, genders, age groups, and religions is possible.

We are called to be missionaries and to call others to mission. “May they be one, so that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:21).The Holy Spirit calls us to an evangelization that is proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are to proclaim that God sent his Son Jesus into the world that we might know him, that knowing him is a gift offered to anyone who has the ears to hear and the heart to believe.

We are challenged to persevere, to become even more zealous in the face of people who consider our zeal for the gospel disrespectful of other people’s way to God. By our lives and words, we are sent to proclaim the Word of God’s infinite love for each and every human person. Please God then, like the failing monastery, our prayer groups will thrive again because of our love.

Sister Nancy Kellar, SC has served in various leadership positions in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. She has taught throughout the United States and in more than 50 countries.

Reprinted with permission from Pentecost Today Volume 33 Number 2 April/May/June 2008