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Looking For A Miracle? Try The Saint Andrew Novena!

One of my favorite devotions, The Saint Andrew Novena, begins TODAY! It is piously believed that whoever recites this prayer fifteen times a day from the Feast of Saint Andrew (November 30) until Christmas will obtain what is asked. Does this mean that God will give you anything, even something that may be harmful to you spiritually? Fortunately, no! However, I have received miraculous favors since I started praying this novena a few years ago and I believe in its power.

Here’s EWTN’s Fr. Joseph Mary speaking about his personal experience with the St. Andrew Novena:

Here is the novena prayer:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

The Saint Andrew novena is also a GREAT way to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. If you pay attention to the words as you say them, it will draw you more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation and fill you with hope. Why not give it a try? I know I will!

How To Know God Is Working In Your Life (Part 2)

Last week, I began a series on recognizing God’s response to your prayers. Because of the fact that He frequently works gradually and in ordinary ways, we often miss the signs that He is responding to our prayers. I recommended that you imitate the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17 and look for the “little clouds” that signify that your prayers are being heard and the drought is ending.

Is Anything Changing?

A second way to recognize that God is responding to your prayers is to look for change. Last week we focused on the small, positive changes that are taking place in your life, but this week I urge you to look for any changes that have taken place since you began praying. Specifically (and here’s where you’ll probably think that Gary has lost his mind), look for the negative changes! Yes, you heard me correctly. When you pray for something and things get worse, it is a sign that the Lord is working in your life. Crazy, right? Nope. It’s the absolute truth.

What Does The Bible Say?

Let’s turn to the Bible for an example. In Exodus 3:7-8, we are told that God heard the cry of the Israelites who are enslaved in Egypt. The Lord goes on to say that He has “come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey”. Sounds like a done deal, right? The people cry out to the Lord and He fixes the problem. Well, yes and no.

Don’t Be Surprised When Things Get Worse

Even though God did indeed deliver the Israelites from slavery, things got worse before they got better. When Moses and Aaron first obeyed the Lord and went to Pharaoh to request some time off for worship, his initial response was to restrict the straw that was given to the people for brick building. Now, in addition to being forced to build the same number of bricks each day, the Israelites now had to first gather their own straw! Is this an example of the power of prayer? You bet! Although it took 40 years and lots of suffering, the Lord delivered on His promise and the slaves were set free. Moses stumbled and complained, but he never stopped praying and being obedient.

Don’t Stop Praying!

If things have gotten worse since you’ve started praying, don’t give up. God’s ways are not our ways. He really does know what He’s doing. By all means, ask Him what He’s trying to teach you and plead with Him to make things better, but never stop praying. He operates on His own schedule. Give Him a chance!

Give Up Worrying In The New Year – A Weekend Retreat With Gary Zimak

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How To Know God Is Working In Your Life (Part 1)

Have you ever prayed for something for a long time with no apparent results?

God, Are You Listening?

You pray and pray and hear nothing…not even crickets. During times like this it’s common to question if God is even listening. You may begin to wonder if prayer makes a difference. Ultimately, you may just give up and stop praying. I have to admit that I have done exactly that on more than one occasion. And, while I’m not proud of that admission, I have learned an important lesson over the years. Giving up praying because you don’t think God hears you is a BIG mistake. Rather than just leave it there, however, I’d like to offer some assistance. Over the next few days, I’ll share with you some ways that will help you to see that God not only hears your prayers, but is actually responding to them.

Dig A Little Deeper

The first thing I would urge you to do is look for signs. Although He sometimes intervenes with instantaneous and powerful miracles, the Lord typically responds to our prayers gradually. In fact, His response is often so subtle that it can easily be missed.

Elijah Prays For Rain

When we are first introduced to the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17) in the Bible, a great drought was taking place. Three years later, the Lord told the prophet that the drought would be coming to an end. Bowing down and putting his face between his knees, Elijah prayed for the Lord’s word to come to fruition. With confident expectation, he then told his servant to “look toward the sea” for the arrival of the rain. After the servant reported back that he didn’t see anything, Elijah sent him back seven more times. Finally, the servant observed “a little cloud like a man’s hand rising out of the sea”. Upon receiving that confirmation, Elijah dispatched his servant to inform King Ahab that the drought was over. In a little while, there was a great rain.

Look For Little “Clouds”

Even though the Lord doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, I recommend that you look for the “little clouds” in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discover the tiny ways that prove that your prayers are being heard. The signs are there…

You just have to recognize them.

The End Is Near!

As the liturgical year winds down, the Church wants to be sure that we don’t forget a critical fact – this life is temporary and will come to an end. Furthermore, at the end of our life, we will be judged and our eternal destiny will be determined. If that’s not enough, Jesus emphasizes in this Sunday’s gospel that we don’t know the day or the hour when this will occur. You don’t need to be a Scripture scholar or theologian to know that this is a serious message. How does it make you feel?

Some will hear this and brush it off, assuming that it won’t happen anytime soon and there are more pressing matters to contend with, such as lunch, football or any number of worldly issues. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those who will hear this and begin to worry or plunge into despair. Both of these positions are extreme and should be avoided.

I believe that the best way to view this message is to treat it as a wake up call. We often lose sight of what really matters in life and focus on what doesn’t matter. We spend a great deal of time of things that may feel good now, but don’t really matter in the long run. By choosing these readings, the Church wants to help us focus on the Lord and eternity. What can we do to help us remember? I think the answer can be found in a verse taken from Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm:

I set the LORD ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. (Psalm 16:8)

Each day, Jesus calls us to follow Him. Doing so will not only ensure that you’ll spend eternity in the right place, but will help you avoid being disturbed by all of the craziness in the world. Spend some time each day in prayer, reading the Bible and being kind to those around you. It will keep you focused and you’ll be in great shape.

Do You Trust God?

A man fell over a cliff and, as he tumbled down, managed to grab on to a bush growing from the side of the rock. Terrified, he hung in space, his life flashing before him. In desperation, he shouted toward heaven, “Is there anyone up there?” To his astonished delight, a voice floated down: “I am the Lord God, and I am here.” “What should I do?” called the man. The voice replied, “Let go of the branch and, with my protection, you will float harmlessly down to the beach below.” The man glanced under his feet to the jagged rocks at the foot of the cliff, hundreds of feet below. He gulped, and looked back toward heaven.

“Is there anyone else up there?”

It’s easy to trust God when there isn’t too much at stake. When putting your faith in Him involves parting with your money or trusting Him with your future, however, it becomes increasingly difficult. Why is that? Essentially, it happens because of a lack of trust. Even though Jesus promised that those who sacrifice for His sake in this life (Mark 10:29-30) will be rewarded in Heaven, we struggle to believe His words. Instant gratification, on the other hand, requires no trust and delivers a lesser (but immediate) reward. It seems like a safer option.

In today’s First Reading, we learn of a widow who used all of her flour and oil to bake bread for the prophet Elijah. Even though it could have caused the woman and her son to starve, she obeyed the command of the prophet. Why? Because she trusted that God would provide, as promised by Elijah. Her trust was rewarded and their supply of oil and flour did not run out. Similarly, in today’s Gospel, a poor widow gave all that she had because of her trust in God’s providence.

According to the dictionary, trust is defined as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something; one in which confidence is placed”. Every day we have the opportunity to trust God with our finances, relationships and future. Today we learned of two widows who trusted that the Lord was good for His word. There may have been fear involved, but they trusted anyway. Their faith was rewarded. God is asking you to trust Him in some way today.

Are you willing to imitate the widows or would you rather play it safe?

Finding Jesus In The Storm

Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. (Matthew 14:22)

You are probably familiar with the story of St. Peter getting out of the boat and walking (briefly) on the water. Responding to the call of Jesus, the fisherman turned Apostle did something that should have been impossible. It’s a dramatic and powerful saga that most of us have heard many times.

What often gets missed in this story, however, is the verse at the top of page. Take note that Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and sent them right into a storm. He literally “set them up” without warning them of what they would be facing. I know it sounds nasty, but it ended up being a great blessing. Although Peter’s faith certainly faltered (as evidenced by the panic that set in when he felt the wind and saw the waves), he learned that Jesus was present, even in the midst of the storm. He also discovered that ALL things (even walking on water or calming the sea) are possible for the Lord. Matthew ends this story by stating that everyone in the boat worshiped Jesus and acknowledged that He was the Son of God. Good stuff, right? Now, let me ask you a question. Despite the happy ending, do you think the disciples would have gotten into the boat if they knew that a life threatening storm was waiting for them?

Being a follower of Christ means more than just going to Mass on Sunday and saying some prayers. It involves waking up each day and letting Him lead you. Just like the disciples, He may lead you right into a storm. Sometimes the entire Church is asked to get into the boat and head into stormy seas. The Lord doesn’t necessarily cause the storms, but He does allow them to exist. That’s okay. There is a reason. The fact that we may not understand or approve doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Jesus loves us and is present in the midst of the storm. As long as we keep focused on Him, we’ll be fine. Rather than concentrating on the waves and the wind, keep your eyes on Jesus and borrow the words of St. Peter as he began to sink. It’s one of the most powerful prayers imaginable:

“Lord, save me!”

Give Up Worry For Lent – Let’s Do This!

Isn’t it time your church heard this message?

Click on the above image to bring Gary Zimak to your church in Lent of 2019. He will show you that it is possible to give up worry for Lent. Selected dates for Lent 2019 are still available. Let 2019 be the year that you finally give up worrying for good!

(Gary Zimak is the author of several books, a frequent speaker at churches and conferences across the country and is recognized as the leading Catholic speaker on the topic of overcoming anxiety. In addition, Gary is a regular guest on Catholic TV & Radio and the creator and host of Spirit In The Morning which aired on Holy Spirit Radio in Philadelphia from 2016-2018)

Jesus, Are You Listening?

One of the most challenging narratives in the Bible involves a Canaanite woman who approached Jesus and asked Him to heal her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). When reading about this encounter, our attention is typically drawn to the seemingly harsh words used by Christ when he states that it isn’t fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. While there are many things I could say about what the Lord said when approached by the desperate woman, let’s first focus on what He didn’t say.

But he did not say a word in answer to her. (Matthew 15:23)

Wow! This poor woman is begging for her daughter to be healed from demonic possession and Jesus didn’t even answer her. How would you react to that kind of response? I agree that it sounds brutal, but let’s dig a little deeper. Scripture tells us that Jesus did not answer the woman, but it says nothing about His non verbal response. Did He smile, nod His head, close His eyes thoughtfully, turn around and glance at her with compassion? It’s certainly possible.

Are you frustrated that Jesus isn’t responding to your cries for help? You pour out your heart and all you hear is silence. The fact that Jesus isn’t responding in the way you expect does not imply that He isn’t listening or doesn’t care. If you have any doubt, think about His death on the Cross. That was done out of love for you. Rather than accuse Him of ignoring you or not caring, try to imagine Him looking at you with compassion, gently holding your hand or giving you a big hug. Let your imagination help you to see how much He cares.

As for the Canaanite woman, the Lord was giving her a chance to put her faith into action. She knew Jesus could make her daughter well and her persistence was rewarded with a total healing. Jesus loves you and wants to help you with your problems. Whatever you do, don’t stop asking!

Is There A Wrong Way To Pray?

When you pray, how do you begin? Do you launch right in to your list of intentions or do you take a few minutes to recognize the fact that you’re speaking to the creator of the Universe who loves you unconditionally? Don’t feel bad. We often get so caught up in our needs that we lose sight of some basic concepts. While it’s true that there is no “wrong” way to pray, it’s also true that the prayer of Jesus should be looked at as the “gold standard” of prayer. With that in mind, let’s look at how the Lord prayed on the night before He died:

 “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” (Mk 14:36)

We can learn a great deal about prayer by analyzing His words…

1. We are not speaking to an impersonal force or distant being, but a Father who loves us unconditionally. When praying to His Father, Jesus uses the Aramaic word “Abba”. It implies a deep personal, relationship with a loving Father. St. Paul encourages us to use the same title when speaking to our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:15).

2. God can do all things. The word “impossible” doesn’t exist in His vocabulary. Remembering this allows us to pray with great confidence.

3. Jesus makes it clear that there is nothing wrong with asking for an end to suffering. Our Father wants us to ask for the desires of our heart. Go ahead and do it!

4. Ultimately, we should be willing to accept whatever our Father gives us. “Yes”, “No” and “Not Yet” are all valid answers to prayer. Because the Father loves us, we will always receive what we need.

Can prayer really be that simple? You bet! Learning to pray like Jesus will transform your life. Give it a try and see what happens. I know you won’t be disappointed!