Prayer Gorups - Book
It is a common word, used continuously throughout the Bible, and by Our Lord and the Apostles in particular. It is a word that has been with us down through the ages.
It comes to us again, daily, through the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, and other apparition sites now prevalent around the world. At Medjugorje, the message always ends with: "Thank you for having responded to my call."
What is the call? A common thread throughout the message is her call to all of her children to "PRAY."
There is that word again, "prayer!" She has called for daily prayer, for prayer from the heart, for the worldwide initiation of prayer groups.
The other key word in her closing salutation is the word "respond." Response is not something you join. It is something you begin to do. It is an answer to a request. To respond is to answer. We have been asked for our "fiat," our "yes." Our Lady has asked for daily prayer, and for community prayer – for prayer groups. She is asking us to respond.
As a result, prayer groups are flourishing around the world. With this renew interest, comes a need for information on the how, why, when and where of beginning and sustaining a praying community of believers.
We hope this book can become an aid for many to "respond to Our Lady’s call."
My life, and this book, is dedicated to our Blessed Lady. May she extend her special blessing to everyone who has contributed to the writing of this book, to all her followers attending her prayer groups and to all the "special people" who will be reading this book. Let us all come together in Mary’s little army and pray for the salvation of mankind.
"The man who prays is saved; the man who does not pray is lost. The saints are in Heaven because they made use of prayer; the dammed are in Hell because they refused to pray." (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
Strong words indeed. But they are rooted in the words of the Bible:
"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess. 5:17).
"Let nothing hinder thee from praying always." (sir. 18:22).
"Lord, teach us how to pray." (Luke 11:1).
"Keep watch, then, praying at all times." (luke 21:36).
"We have been praying for you unceasingly." (Col 1:9).
"The unceasing prayer of the just man is of great avail." (Jas. 5:16).
The chaotic state of the contemporary world has resulted in two positives. First, the apparent and obvious great spiritual hunger that exist, and secondly, a strong re-surgence to prayer. This renewed commitment to prayer is finding nourishment through hundreds of prayer groups that are springing up across the land.
This book is an attempt to assist in the formation and continuation of such groups; an attempt to provide some basic guidelines and resources for those in formation as well as those already in existence.
In compiling the material, one aspect became most obvious. "There is no set format, no iron-clad formula to pray, no right or wrong." It is apparent that you learn to "pray" by "praying!" The only wrong way might be based in the words of Our Lord, Himself: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Simply begin – and put your heart into it. The answer then is simply to begin.
Mr. Joe McNamara, from Illinois, is largely responsible for compiling the material contained herein. It is a monstrous labor of love. To Joe we send our heartfelt thanks. To all those who contributed material, formats, suggestions, experiences, guidelines, etc. who are not named herein, our heartfelt thanks as well, and our apologies for not being able to include, by identification, the source of the information contained in this book.
Fr. Bill McDonnell, of Algonquin, Illinois, expressed it all very well in his letter to Joe regarding the formation of this book. He stated:
"I have been privileged to read both the outline and the final draft of your booklet on starting Marian prayer groups. The helpful information and suggestions that you have compiled, coupled with the enthusiasm and sincerity with which it is written, can make this booklet a tremendous tool for the initiation and continuing support of prayer groups worldwide."
We echo Fr. McDonnell’s and extend them also to all others who aided in compiling this information.
We further extended to all prayer groups the invitation to forward information on their particular group that might be used in a follow-up or supplement to this book.
Thank you for responding to her call.
The Riehle Foundation
After my first trip to Medjugorje, I felt in my heart that Our Blessed Mother wanted me to start a prayer group at my church, St. Patrick’s in St. Charles, Illinois and after it was successful, to help start prayer groups outside of my parish. On August 24, 1988, we started our prayer group at St. Patrick. Our Blessed Mother seemed to bless our efforts from the start.
"On May 8, 1989 we visited with Bishop Arthur J. O’Neill, bishop of our Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, and we given permission to help start prayer groups in our diocese. On May 20, 1989 we assisted in helping to form the first prayer group outside of our parish.
We traveled to St. Margaret Mary Church, Algonquin, Illinois at the invitation of the pastor, Fr. Bill McDonell. (Fr. McDonnell was one of the several priest along with 30 other pilgrims who were part of the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in June 1985. Fr. McDonnell credited the intercession Our blessed Lady for helping to win his release from captivity ofter 3 days aboard the plane flying back and forth between Beirut and Algiers.) Soon after we were called upon to assist in the initiation of other prayer groups both in Illinois and other states."
Through the suggestion of Frances Reck and The Riehle Foundation, a commitment was made to formulate a booklet on the purposes and function of prayer groups. An outline of this booklet was written in English, translated into Croatian, and taken to Medjugorje durin Christmas of 1989. The Croatian copy was given to the visionary Vicka Ivankovic through her cousin Draga, and Vicka said it was good. The outline of the book was also read to Jelena Vasilj, the locutionist and she said it was fine (technically sound). She we were leaving Medjugorje the next day, Fr. Barbaric said he would the outline and write a letter regarding it. His letter to me blessed the booklet and recommended publication.
Cyril Abouyneau who belongs to Ivan’s prayer group and who stayed at my home while in the USA also read this booklet. Cyril said the reference to Our blessed Mother’s messages and the prayer groups were correct.
This outline was sent to many prayer groups throughout the USA, Australia, England and Europe. The book is a result of all of their efforts. We can truly say, that this book about prayer groups is a labor of love incorporating many points of view from various nations that are all joined by their love of Our Blessed Mother.
Why prayer and why Prayer Groups?
Our Blessed Mother’s Messages on Prayer
A number of books have been written concerning the events, miracles and messages of Medjugorje, and the astounding, steadfast flow of the hundreds and thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world, who have been flocking to Medjugorje annually.
It is not our intention to dwell on the above facts, but to focus on one important aspect of Our Lady’s exhortations at Medjugorje – prayer in general, and group prayer in particular.
Medjugorje is not the first instance of Our Lady’s appeal for prayer: Our Lady of Fatima said: "Say the rosary every day to obtain peace for the world." Our Lady at San Damiano, Italy said: "Use your prayers and the holy rosary which is such a powerful weapon, my children. Say the rosary and leave all the other works, which are so useless. The important thing is to save the world." (June 2, 1967) Our Lady at Medjugorje said: "Dear Children! Sympathize with me. Pray, pray, pray!" (April 19, 1984) "Pray that the Holy Spirit inspires you with the spirit of prayer, that you pray more." (June 9, 1984) Pray, pray, pray." (June 21, 1984) Always pray before your work and end your work with prayer." (July 5, 1984) "I need your prayers." (September 6, 1984) "Without prayer there is no peace." (September 6, 1984) "Today I want to call you to pray, pray, pray! In prayer you will come to know the greatest joy and the way out of every situation. Thank you for moving ahead in prayer." (March 29, 1985). "I beg you to start transforming yourselves through prayer and then you will know what you have to do." (April 24, 1986) "Again, I am calling you so that through prayer and your life you will help destroy everything evil in people and uncover the deception which Satan is using." (September 23, 1986) "Dedicate yourselves to prayer with special love." (October 2, 1986) "During the day find yourself a special time when you can pray in peace and humility and have this meeting with God the Creator." (November 25, 1988) Therefore, little children pray, pray, pray. Let prayer begin to rule in the whole world." (August 25, 1989)
We have chosen the above message at random to cover the span of a number of years, to demonstrate the persistence with which Our Lady continues to request our prayers.
Our Blessed Mother’s Messages on Prayer Groups
A number of Our Lady’s messages point to a specific desire for information of prayer groups, rather than just simply encouragement for individual prayer.
"I wish for a prayer group…..I will guide this group and later, when I say so, other groups can be formed in the world." She continued, "I want a prayer group here. I will lead the group and give rules of sanctification to it. Through these rules all others in the world can consecrate themselves." Words said to Jelena Vasilj, locutionist and prayer group leader in Medjugorje, by our Blessed Mother in March of 1983.
Mary founded this prayer group in Medjugorje and guides it to present as a model for the many prayer groups that she seeks worldwide and which have begun to take root.
Our Blessed Mother has also said: "All people should be part of a prayer group." "Every parish should have a prayer group." "I would like to recommend that all my priest (with emphasis) start a prayer group with the youth and teach them, giving them good advice." "Today I call you to renewal of family prayer in your homes. The fieldwork is over. Now let all of you be devoted to prayer. Let prayer take the first place in your families." (November 1, 1984) "These days I am calling you to family prayer." (December 6, 1984) "Today I invite you to renew prayer in your families. Dear children, encourage the very young to pray and to go to the Holy Mass." (March 7, 1985)
"Pray, especially before the cross from which great graces are coming. Now, in your homes make a special consecration to the cross of the Lord."
Visionary Ivan Dragicevic’s
Comments On Prayer Groups
The Medjugorje visionary Ivan stated: "Prayer groups are the hope of the Church and the world."
Ivan continued: "Prayer groups are a sign of hope for the contemporary church and the world. In the prayer group, we should not only see the voluntary gathering of faithful people, but rather, we should look upon each believer and each priest as a basic ingredient of the group. Therefore, prayer groups should seriously concern themselves with their own upbringing, learning, openness and a deeper experience of God’s grace and spiritual growth." (His quote continues.)
"Each prayer group should be as a soul for the renewal of the parish, families and communities. At the same time, with their strong prayers and calls to God, they should offer a divine healing power to today’s suffering world, a healing of reconciliation among mankind for the freedom from catastrophic threats, and for the renewal of the moral strength of humanity, reconciled with God within itself."
Our Blessed Mother’s Messages
On The State Of The World
Much of the world is far from God, so says our Blessed Mother: "You wonder what all these prayers are for. Turn around, dear children, and you will see how much ground sin has gained in this world. Therefore, pray that Jesus may conquer." (September 13, 1984) "Let all the prayers you in your homes in the evening be for the conversion sinners, because the world is in great sin." (October 8, 1984) "Especially, dear children, I desire you to be the reflections of Jesus who enlightens an unfaithful world which is walking in darkness." (June 5, 1986) "Today, I am blessing you in a special way with my motherly blessing, and I am interceding for you before God that He give you the gift of conversion of the heart. For years, I am calling you and exhorting you to a deep spiritual life in simplicity, but you are so cold. Therefore, little children, I ask you to accept and live the messages with seriousness, so that your soul will not be sad when I will no longer be with you, and when I will no longer lead you like insecure children in their first steps. Therefore, little children, each day read the messages which I have given you and transform them into life." (December 25, 1989)
Our Lady of Medjugorje has been giving us messages for nine years and we are still so cold. She is calling us to prayer, prayer from the heart.
Prayer for the heart is most important!!
Prayer Is A Dialog With God
The visionary Ivan Dragicevic says: "Our Lady asks all of us to pray with the heart, and to pray with the heart means that when I pray, I must think about what I am praying, what I am expressing in that prayer. Am I thinking about those words I am pronouncing, and what do they mean for me in my life?"
Our Lady of Medjugorje teaches us: "Be aware, my beloved, that I am your mother and that I have come to the earth to teach you how to listen out of love, how to pray out of love, and not out of compulsion of the cross you are carrying." (November 29, 1984) "I am calling you again to prayer of the heart." (May 30, 1985) "Pray and love, dear children. In the power of love you can do even those things that seem impossible to you." (November 7, 1985) "If you pray from your heart, dear children, the ice cold hearts of your brothers will be melted and every barrier will disappear." (January 23, 1986) "Today, I am calling you to give me your heart so I can change it to be like mine." (May 15, 1986) "I am calling you to sincere prayer with the heart so that every prayer of yours may be an encounter with God. In your work and in your everyday life do put God in the first place." (December 25, 1987) "I am with you and unceasingly, I keep watch over every heart which is given to me." (February 25, 1989) "Today I am calling you to renew your heart. Open yourself to God and surrender to Him all your difficulties and crosses, so God may turn everything into Joy. Little children, you cannot open yourselves to God if you do not pray." (July 25, 1989)
Our Lady is asking that our prayer be heartfelt, that we mean what we are saying. She does not want us just to recite prayers – we must think them –we must use our heart.
Jelena Vasilj, the locutionist, who has a prayer group in Medjugorje, learned how to pray from the heart from Mary. Jelena was saying the rosary with Our Lady "as she was taught it in Church." Our Lady said: "This is not the rosary. You prayed only with your lips. You must concentrate. You must sit down without moving and enter inside." Mary doesn’t want our lips, she doesn’t want us to just kneel in front of a statute, she wants our hearts.
In a message to Jelena on October 20, 1984, Our Lady said: "When you pray, you must pray more. Prayer is a dialogue with God. Prayer means understanding God. Prayer is necessary, because after it everything will become clear. Prayer is learning to blossom. Prayer is not a trifle. Prayer really is a dialogue with God."
Prayer From The Heart Is Really
Turning Our Thoughts To God
Praying with the heart is praying to God in our thoughts and desires, our concerns and wishes, whether through formal prayer or in the simple language that we ordinarily use in communicating with people in daily life. This prayer, ideally, is an outpouring of our hearts from the deepest level of our inner self. Such prayer, when centered on what we can express with the utmost sincerity and faith, and interspersed with periods of silence, renders us receptive to God’s response. He then comes to us gently – that still, small voice or uncommon thought. That is how He usually speaks to us in return.
How Do You Know if You Are Praying With The Heart?
You know if you are praying with the heart, when you are at peace with God, on friendly or speaking terms with God. And you cannot experience this peace if you are not living in peace with others. Your prayer must be in the clean environment of faith, hope and love.
In a true prayer, we do things that turn our attention to God. The Blessed Virgin wants us to turn to God by lifting our minds to God.
We should also have a hunger and thirst for holiness, remembering that "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness, remembering that "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for holiness for they shall have their fill." (Matt. 5:6)
This individual praying from the heart enhanced in-group prayer. In that setting, one takes part with others in hearing the word of God, in singing and in absorbing the sound of music born of faith, hope and love. "Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves." (James 1:21)
The mother of our Savior has recommended we begin with prayer in everything we do – in work, in play, in periods of solitude, in times of joy, in times of sadness.
It is simply making Jesus the first priority, the focal point of our lives. In doing so, by simply offering everything to the Lord, we achieve constant prayer – prayer from the heart.
How to Pray from the heart
Our Blessed Mother gave us a clue as to what to do if we feel we don’t know how to pray the heart. She said, "Pray, pray, pray." It is necessary to begin!
It’s not repetitious. We must pray and pray some more. In the course of prayer and acting out our life by living in peace with others, we will begin to experience prayer from the heart. We must ask for this gift!
If we meditate on the parable of the prodigal son, we will understand that Our Father is waiting for us with so much love and patience and that He is ready to forgive us and fill us with His immeasurable love and gifts of untold riches. Sometimes it is hard for us to believe that we aren’t in fact just a product of the world, but a product of God, who has eternal existence.
In His eyes, it does not matter that we are sinners, for in His immense love He is there and waiting – ready to wash away all of our sins.
Pray For The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit
It is especially in prayer to the Holy Spirit that we grow in God’s image. Desire and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
SPIRIT DO FEAR OF THE LORD. This gift teaches me to be reverent and helps me never to willfully offend God. I will put all my trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to give me strength to hear his inspirations, so that I can keep my soul in peace. "Holy Spirit, give me an increase of the gift of the fear of the Lord so that I may never willfully offend God."
SPIRIT OF PIETY. Who can measure the hidden piety of so many whom the world knew not or despised? To them applies the words: "The last shall be the first" NS "MANY ARE CALLED BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN." Piety will help me to think more of my neighbor’s good than my own, and will give me the power to continue to seek His good in the face of insult and ingratitude. I cannot say I love the Father whom I do not see, if I do not love my neighbor whom I see. Piety aids me in this quest of seeing the invisible All Holy God.
SPIRIT OF FORTITUDE. Fortitude gives me the power to persevere in doing good but it also gives me supernatural endurance. I can accept a headache with some comfort knowing it will be better tomorrow, but if it were a painful cancer, I would have to ask for the spirit of fortitude. I can accept a difficult personality for an hour or so but if it’s for a lifetime, I need the gift of fortitude.
SPIRIT OF COUNSEL. This is a very powerful gift because it lets me see others and myself in their true light. It takes a special quality to see my faults and not to pretend they are not there. I can go through life under an illusion and adhere to my own opinions to the extent that everyone is wrong except myself. He, the Holy Spirit, not only reveals my faults to me but He gives me the remedy for all my spiritual ills through recourse to Jesus.
SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE. The gift of knowledge, sometimes called "the science of the saints," enables us to judge all things from the perspective of our eternal goal. Knowledge makes me realize that my existence is part of a plan from God and that I should follow His will and that His love for me is unconditional. This gift prevents me from becoming bitter and resentful and from holding grudges. Within every cross in my life, there is a hidden treasure wrapped in pain waiting for me to reach out and take it to myself. Though I conquered the world, but never conquered myself, it would be nothing.
SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING. The gift of understanding lets me penetrate the invisible realities behind the things that knowledge has stripped away. This does not mean that I understand them fully for that is impossible for a finite mind. Understanding does not allow me to understand God’s mysteries or revelations but it gives me the ability to see within the mystery. Perhaps one of the most important effects of the gift of understanding is the increase of faith. Faith must be more than an intellectual acceptance of God’s revelations; it must touch my daily life and affect the life of my neighbors.
SPIRIT OF WISDOM. It is a gift that calls forth from the depths of my soul, a longing and thirsts for God that only He can satisfy. It reaches out from my being to the very heart of God and desires a kind of union with Him that no obstacle can deter. Wisdom encompasses every gift and every virtue. It knits them together with peace and wraps them all in love. For wisdom brings patience in suffering, wisdom brings peace in turmoil, wisdom brings joy in distress, wisdom brings love in angry situations, wisdom brings self-control in temptations, wisdom brings forgiveness in injuries, wisdom brings kindness in service, wisdom brings compassion in sickness and wisdom brings resignation in death.
Recall when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and said, "Blessed are you among women." She wondered what that meant. When Gabriel told her she was to conceive and bear a son and give Him the name of Jesus, she asked how that could be since she did not know man. And Angel Gabriel answered, "The Holy Spirit will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God." Mary answered with complete obedience and acquiescence, "I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say."
That is how we must mediate on the Holy Spirit. We must say yes to Him. We have a choice we could say no. We must say yes and ask Him to enter our hearts so we can draw on all the seven gifts.
We Must Exercise (Pray) like An Athlete
Like the athlete, we must exercise (pray) every day. The athlete, to be ready to complete, must be in shape (in grace) and must not give in to stress, discomfort and fatigue (temptations). The athlete, when he competes, will then perform at almost super effort (prayer life). The athlete never never gives up the fight (against Satan) and knows at the end of his competition, he will be happy and satisfied with his performance (God loves you).
True Story of the Process we can go through
The following is the witness of one person who was filled with depression. It shows how the
Heart may occur: "My life was one filled with despair, hopelessness, bitterness, helplessness and depression. I have felt unworthy since my earliest memories of being a child. Guilt and depression followed me from childhood to adulthood. Because of the circumstances in my life, I felt that I could not form genuine relationships or worse yet, know how to love instead of resent.
"I am married, have four children and had a career that consumed all of my time, energies and thoughts. I was caught up in what I now perceive as the stressful rat race of our time – never content with what I had but always striving for more, whether it is success, money or material things.
"I did not know how to enjoy anything. I reached my lowest point about a year ago when I was diagnosed as being in a severe clinical depression contemplating suicide. I refused hospitalization because I felt I could not afford to miss any work even with my health at stake.
"It was at that time that Medjugorje entered into my life. One of my co-workers mentioned to me that she was meeting with a friend who was going to Medjugorje and asked if I would
like to come along. Not having heard of Medjugorje, I was curious and agreed to meet with them. Her friend had been there numerous times and relayed to me all the happenings that were occurring there. I became very interested and she offered to take my rosaries with her to blessed. With my busy life, I did not give it much further thought, but every now and then I would find myself thinking or drawn to finding out more.
"I began to pray – not knowing how else to start. Not much happened for some time but I continued with prayer and increased the amount of time I spent praying without even being aware of it. I prayed for guidance, forgiveness and a renewal of faith. During one of my prayer moments, I felt an inner strength that seemed to pull me inward where I felt that I was in touch with my soul. I had never felt anything like this in my entire life. I found myself wondering why I couldn't find God, and my inner self answered that I already had. But how could I?
"I felt so unworthy, so sinful and undeserving of God’s love. How could He forgive me? And my soul seemed to answered that He already had and I should stop torturing myself.
"The healing would begin through love. But I don’t know how to love, I thought to myself.
I have spent my entire life building a wall of protection around me to keep myself. I have spent my entire life building a wall of protection around me to keep myself from getting burt, but in the process seemed very clear. Learn to love God with all your heart, ;love your family, friends, neighbors and I begin by learning to love – LOVE!
"For me, this was a major breakthrough. I began by reconciling with family members and coming to terms with my childhood. It seemed that I was being led and after each step was completed, a new step would come to mind. I somehow knew what I must do! I began to see goodness around me and hope. I reconciled myself with all the wrongs that I had plagued myself with all the wrongs that I had plagued myself with for so many years. With each step, I felt myself getting closer to Our Lord and Our Lady. I am reconciling myself with the Church as well, but most of all, I have an incredible amount of love. It seems to overflow.
"I would live my life over again with all the pain, suffering and depression to attain what I have now complete inner peace and joy!"
This remarkable story shows how much God loves us and how He wants to forgive us. His wisdom is best for our happiness.
So to summarize, we must pray from the heart. We must not just give lip service to God. Prayer is more than words. Prayer should be from the heart. God wants us to start praying with our heats and not just words. He wants us to kneel or sit quietly and start absorbing the awareness of His presence. He is not far away. He is really very near to us. It is better to sit quietly and absorb His presence, to say, "I love You," and mean it with your heart than to say, out of repetition or habit, a list of prayers. It is like sitting with one we love and not exchanging words, because of the love established between us. There is much comfort in this form of prayer.
Quiet time with The Father
Try sitting in a quiet and peaceful area, read the following prayer and imagine that your loving Father is speaking just to you.
You do not have to be clever to please Me; all you have to do is want to love Me.
Just speak to Me as you would to anyone of whom you are very fond.
Are there any people you want to pray for? Say their names to Me, and ask of Me as much as you like. I know all their needs, but I want you to show your love for them and Me by trusting Me to do what I know is best.
Tell Me about the poor, the sick, and the sinner, and if you have lost the friendship or affection of anyone, tell Me about that too.
Is there anything you want for your soul? If you like, you can write out a long list of all your needs, and come and read it to Me. Tell Me of the things you feel guilty about. I will forgive you, if you will accept My forgiveness.
Just tell me about your pride, your touchiness, your self-centeredness. I still love you in spite of these. Do not be ashamed; there are many saints in Heaven who had the same faults as you; they prayed to Me and little by little their faults were corrected. Do not hesitate to ask Me for blessing for the body and mind; for health, memory, success. I can give everything need to make souls holier for those who truly want it.
What is it you want today? Have you any tormenting, unreasonable fears? Trust yourself to Me. I am here. I see everything. I will not leave you.
Have you no joys to tell Me about? Why do you not share your happiness with Me? Tell Me what has happened since yesterday to cheer and comfort you. Whatever it was, however big or small, I prepared it. Show Me your gratitude and thank Me.
Are temptations bearing heavily upon you? Yielding to temptations always disturbs the peace of your soul. Ask Me, and I help you overcome them.
Well, go along now. Get on with your work or play or other interests. Try to be quieter, humbler, kinder; and come back soon and bring me a more loving heart. Tomorrow I shall have more blessings for you.
Thus Our Lord Jesus has an open heart for all who would enter into communion with Him. Christ Himself will teach us how to pray sincerely. Mary, whose role it is to bring all to her Son, will loving assist us in our quest to pray with the heart. She does not ask it of some of us, but of ALL of us.
Prayer Group Leader's role
Leaders Can Be Priest, Religious, Lay People and Parents
The visionary Ivan Dragicevic, who leads a prayer group in Medjugorje, said: "It would be best if the priest gather the people around but if there is a shortage of priest, a lay person can lead a prayer group. But if a lay person takes charge, he should really know his faith. He should read the bible and be advanced in spiritual knowledge." ("He" is non-gender).
Ideally, group praying should be started first in the families with parents leading their children. And this is what Ivan had in mind when he said:"In the world today, priest can also be of great help. Our Lady is asking priest themselves to form prayer groups for the young in their parishes; and in this way, the priest would be instructing and directing them in their lives, giving them true counseling. It must be emphasized here, however, that not even a priest can be of any help if the parent did not take the great right step in raising his young child. (quote continues).
"Many times, a parent does not even know what it means to raise children. Many of today’s parents have grown to prefer other kinds of enjoyment and satisfaction with other things (for example, from the material side) while they have neglected their children and put them at a second place in their lives. We must direct our attention to the parents regarding the present times in this modern world. The influence of drugs, alcohol and an unclean life, especially with the young, is increasing rapidly. I repeat that parents of today play a very important role in bringing up their children."
Ivan continues: "All of the parents of this world should take some time out, ask themselves the following, and just think: "As a parent, how much time did I set aside for my children? Will their children come to them for help during a crisis?" "As a parent, how much love did I offer my child and was that love a truly parental love? Children search for a motherly love."
"As a parent, how much did I pray with my children as a family, and what kind of prayer was it that I prayed? Prayer in the family must be something that is most important; it must be a spiritual food with which the parents and children are nourished and are in this way building themselves spiritually."
Prayer Groups Can Start in the Home
Our Blessed Mother, on October 24, 1988, said in an apparition to Maria and Ivan: "Your mother wants to call you to pray for the youth of the whole world, for the parents of the whole world, so that they may know how to educate their children, and how to lead them in life with good advice. Pray dear children! The situation of the young is difficult. Help them! Help parents, who don’t know, who give bad advice."
Regarding family prayer, Our Lady has said: "I request the families of the parish to pray the family rosary." (September 27, 1984) "Let prayer take first place in your families. I call you to the renewal of prayer in your homes." (November 1, 1984) "Every family must pray family prayer, and read the Bible." (February 14, 1985) "I invite you to renew prayer in your families. Dear children, encourage the very young to pray and go to Holy Mass." (March 7, 1985) "I ask you once more to pray with your family. A few times before I asked you to pray with your family! Let us pray now together for the young people of the whole world." (July 31, 1989)
So, to reiterate, prayer group leaders can be priest, men or women, religious, lay people, certainly parents. Most important, the primary reasons for having prayer groups is really two-fold;
1.- To help each other to grow in holiness, and,
2.- To lead people to Jesus, and that is Mary’s role.
Role of a Prayer Group Leader
It is the leader’s role to create the environment to help members grow in holiness.
Our Blessed Mother said: "I want to dress you from day to day in holiness, goodness, obedience, and love of God so that from day to day you can be better prepared for your Lord." "I call on every one of you to consciously decide yourselves for God and against Satan. I am your mother and therefore I want to lead all of you to perfect holiness. I want every one of you to be happy here on earth and every one of you to be with me in Heaven. This is, dear children, the reason of my coming here and is my desire." (May 25, 1987)
Prayer group leaders – priest, religious, lay people and parents should perform the following roles: The leader should be enthusiastic, filled with God’s love and the knowledge of God’s Word; gifted in teaching in order to lead the members of the prayer group in growing spiritually in their love of God. The group leader should assist group members in their spiritual growth and development and should contribute by creating an atmosphere of friendship among the members, that would lead them to close participation in activities inside and outside the parish. The leader should welcome new members. It may be that some people with severely troubled lives will join the group. This disorder may be noticeable and may cause others to stay away from them. The leader should show special compassion to these people and make them feel comfortable and welcome. Made to feel like family, they should find a trust with the other members. This trust will become a feeling of peace in their lives and will undoubtedly help them grow in their faith. The leader should offer encouragement to group members to set aside time in their lives to help others, with particular attention to the sick and the poor. The leader can encourage group members to practice sef-denial and concentrate on praying from the heart. Members of the prayer group should be encouraged by their leader to share their joy and love with each other. We can always learn from the faith experiences of others. We need to walk together on the path toward holiness. Finally, the leader should, according to his or her ability, help the members to grow in holiness and should urge the members to be eager to learn and to be open to a deeper experience of God’s grace.
An individual can fill the role of leader, but so also can team. Working in a collegial fashion, a few or several persons can serve the various needs. (Some of these needs might be: agenda planning, typing, copying, environment, hospitality, publicity, contact with other prayer groups and potential groups, and lining up speakers.)
As the prayer group leader has a big responsibility, he/she will need the support of each member of the group. It might be a good idea to pray a blessing on the leader on occasion or before beginning the weekly gathering. The blessing could be as follows:
May the Blessings of the Lord be upon you, we bless in the name of the Lord.(Twice)
Always, the prayer group leader must be mindful that it is Our Lord Jesus Christ Who is the true head of every group that meets in His name. In a spirit of humility, the leader must pray continually for divine guidance as he or she interacts with the members. The leader must not force his or her judgements or advice on the members; rather, the leader’s greatest influence will be felt in the life witness to Christian values, seen by others, in the daily unfolding of his or her character.
Prayer Group member responsibilities
Our Blessed Mother’s Instructions To a Prayer Group
Mary has provided the world with a living model and example of what a prayer group should be. She inspired Jelena Vasilj (locutionist) of Medjugorje to form a prayer group. Over a period of time, she provided her with the following instructions to be applied to the prayer group:
They were to put away all fear from their hearts forever. They should renounce all inordinate desires. They were to avoid television, particularly evil programs, excessive sports (where it would take away from their prayer life), the unreasonable enjoyment of food and drink, alcohol, tobacco, etc.
She urged them to eliminate all anguish and told them whoever abandons himself to God, without any restrictions, does not have room left in his heart for anguish.
She asked the Medjugorje group to fast twice a week on bread and water and reunite the group at least once a week. Fasting is food for the soul. Fasting one or two days a week is a form of oneness with the Lord. This may be difficult for some to follow, however.
María Pavlovic, visionary, has stated there are other forms of fasting. For those people with addictions, fast from your addiction one-day a week. Sacrificing television is another good form of fasting. Give up something you enjoy.
There is a blessing that comes from fasting. It allows you to grow in holiness, but is only effective when lifted up to the Lord as prayer. What does this mean? For instance, if you are fasting for the sake of fasting, to say you can do it, it is meaningless. If, however, through your fasting your eyes and heart are turned to the Lord throughout the day in prayer, petition, or thanksgiving, you will experience God’s nearness within you, and you will begin to understand what it means to pray from the heart.
Pray Throughout The Day
Mary told Jelena that the group should devote three hours in the morning and half an hour in the evening. Holy Mass and the prayer of the rosary are included in this time of prayer. Set aside moments of prayer in the course of the day. Pray with great recollection. Allow yourself to be led by the grace of God. Do not concern yourself with the things if this world but entrust all things in prayer to Our Heavenly Father.
Mary said that those who attend school or go to work must pray half an hour in the morning and in the evening and if possible, participate in the Eucharist. It is necessary to extend the spirit of prayer to daily work.
Mary cautioned the prayer group members to be especially prudent. The devil tempts all those who have made a resolution to consecrate themselves to God. In her August 8, 1985 message she stated: "Today, I invite you and especially now, to begin already the combat against Satan with prayer. Now that he is aware of my activity, Satan wishes to work harder. Arm yourselves against Satan and with rosary in your hand, you will triumph." "This is why, dear children, I invite you to prayer and to total surrender to God because Satan wishes to win you over in everyday affairs and take first place in your life." (October 16, 1986)
The devil will suggest to those who pray extensively that they may be praying too much, that they should be more like other people and go in search of pleasures. In contrast, Mary urged the youth not to listen to the voice of the devil but listen instead to her voice. When they are strength in their faith, the devil will no longer be able to seduce them.
Our Blessed Mother also directed the prayer group members to go to confession at least once a month. Later, she suggested that, at times, they should go more often, even once a week.
Confession is not only releasing our sins to God for forgiveness but also acts as a means of eliminating slight imperfections and reaching for holiness.
Call To Holiness
She encouraged them to strive for holiness within themselves allowing a free for the Spirit to guide them. Members should encourage each other to grow in holiness. "Today, I am calling you to holiness. You cannot live without holiness. Consequently, overcome all sin with love. Overcome every difficulty you meet with love. Dear children, I beg you to live love within yourselves." (July 10, 1986) "You know that I want to guide you to holiness. But I do not want to oblige you to become holy by force. I wish that every one of you, by his little sacrifice, help himself and help me so that I may guide you and you may increase in holiness from day to day. Consequently, dear children, I do not force you to live my messages, but this prolonged time visiting with you is a sign that I love you immeasurably and I wish each one of you to be holy." (October 9, 1986)
She urges the prayer group to pray throughout the day, love God, praise God, learn, understand and live all the messages. "Therefore, dear children, pray unceasingly and put all the messages, I give you into practice, for I am doing this with great love God and for you." (January 1, 1987)
Holy Objects In Home
She stressed the need of having blessed objects in the home and on one’s own person. The objects could include holy water fonts, crucifixes and medals. She said: "I invite you to place more blessed objects in your homes and that each one wear some blessed object on himself. Let all the objects are blessed. For then, Satan will not tempt you so much, because you will be armed against him." (July 18, 1985)
Our Blessed Mother recommended that the Holy Bible be placed in a prominent place at home and be read daily. "Today I ask you to read the bible in your homes everyday and let it be in a visible place there, so that it always encourages you to read and pray." (October 18, 1984)
Our Blessed Mother gave the above rules to Jelena’s prayer group. They may be difficult for others to follow, such as the elderly or the infirm. Fasting on bread and water may not be prudent for some. Substitute something else if you must.
The point is to humble yourself before the Lord and to increase your personal sanctity. Let prudence and your heart be your guides, but remember, the above outline was given to a specific "model" prayer group in Medjugorje. It is not intended to become a standard for all to follow. We all need to simply begin, and within our own capabilities.
Relationship With God
Growing spiritually in God’s love allows the group to unite, to become one, to support each other in their growth journey.
The prayer group members are those people seeking a renewed or deeper understanding of God’s love. They come in search of making God the center of their lives. They strive for holiness.
Getting to know God and developing a personal relationship with Him is much like meeting a person for the first time that you would like to get to know better. How do you get to know that person? You spend time with the person. The same holds true in getting to know God.
One can start to develop that relationship with God by praying throughout the day, praising God, allowing God’s light to reign in your heart so that you may be a beacon of light to the people around you and whom you meet throughout the day. One should learn to understand and live the messages of Our Lady: "I invite you all to prayer. You know, dear children, that God gives special graces in prayer. Therefore seek and pray to be able to understand all I am giving you in this place. I invite you to the prayer of the heart. I wish that God’s plan may be fulfilled in each one of you and that everything He has put in your hearts may grow. Therefore, pray that God’s blessing may protect you from all the evil that is threatening you." (April 25, 1987)
Prayer Group format possibilities
Many of the pilgrims to Medjugorje return with a sincere desire to do something special for Mary, like attending or starting a prayer group. Few have been fortunate enough to find such a group already in existence in their vicinity. The majority, however, have been faced with the reality of an urgent need to establish this type of prayer group in their own area.
Listed below are some ideas and suggestions to serve as a general guide or format for those seeking to establish a Marian-Medjugorje prayer group. It is not intended to be viewed as a rigid plan, but simply as a presentation of a number of ideas gleaned from the experiences of those who have successfully founded such groups.
Presented are some practical ideas and specific examples of "ingredients" used to format a prayer group from other’s experiences of starting and/or coordinating many such groups.
Undoubtedly, each individual prayer group that comes into being will be unique in the special talents, abilities, dedication and perseverance of its members, as they are inspired to answer Mary’s persistent calls to prayer.
Prayer Groups are like Flowers
Think of prayer groups as being like flowers. Each flower has its own individual beauty. Flowers can be arranged and presented many different ways in a bouquet. Each flower in a bouquet retains its beauty and together with other flowers, a bouquet has an added beauty. They make a pleasing harmony that is more than the sum of the parts. "Let your family be a harmonious flower which I can offer to Jesus. Let each family be active in prayer. I wish that one day one would be aware of the fruits of prayer in the family. It is thus that I will offer you all as petals to Jesus in fulfillment of God’s plan." (May 1, 1986) "Once again today I want to invite you to pray. When you pray, dear children, you become more beautiful. You become like flowers which after the snow show forth their beauty, and whose colors become indescribable. And so you, dear children, after prayer before God display everything that is beautiful so that you may become beloved by Him. Therefore, dear children, pray and open your inner self to the Lord so that He may make of you a harmonious and beautiful flower for Heaven." (December 18, 1986) "So as you live your life, you will be able to thank God for everything as well as discern His presence there. Even in the tiniest flower you will find joy, indeed you will find God Himself." "April 25, 1988)
Like flowers, prayer groups can be large can be small. They can pray together for 30 minutes of for three hours. Size and length depend upon the deeds of the group and its spiritual starting point. Trying to do too much too soon will most likely bring discouragement and frustration.
It is important, then, that you begin simply, and at your own level of prayer life. Being honest with yourself, you are more likely to increase your depth of prayer by sincerely following your own gradual pace.
The visionaries and the parish of St. James in Medjugorje started with the Apostle’s Creed, seven Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s. And this was thought to be difficult by some. Today, people in Medjugorje attend a two-three hour Mass and full rosary daily in addition to morning and evening prayers in their homes and at work. And they don’t worry or concern themselves about this as difficult.
Any visitor to Medjugorje can attest to the fact that time spent in prayer, as indicated above, does not seem to be much or difficult, at all.
Prayer groups can be held in any available, convenient location: it can be a church, another building, someone’s home, or even a suitable outdoor spot. The main requirement for a likely prayer group location is that it should be quiet and peaceful.
Prayer groups can and ought to start in the home by parents with small children praying one decade of the rosary. Such early prayers, in familiar home surrounding, would instill the habit of prayer as a very natural part of one’s daily existence.
The main focus of any prayer group is prayer from the heart to Jesus and Mary and to grow in holiness. This can be accomplished in may ways. As bouquets start with individual flowers, let us start with a rose or the rosary.
Rosary And How to Say It
The prayer group should always include the rosary. "I beg the families of the parish to pray the family rosary. You must pray in your families." (September 27, 1984) "I ask you to ask everyone to pray the rosary. Wit the rosary you will overcome all the troubles, which Satan is trying to inflict on the Catholic Church. You, priest, pray the rosary, devote some time to the rosary." (June 25, 1985) "Dear children, I am calling you to pray the rosary. The rosary should be your commitment, prayed by you with joy and so you will understand why I am visiting you for such a long time. I want to teach you to pray." (June 12, 1986) "Pray and let the rosary always be in your hands as a sign to Satan that you belong to me." (February 25, 1986)
At Lourdes and Fatima, Mary appeared with the rosary. At Fatima, she told the three children to recite the rosary everyday. The rosary is not anything new. Mary has been asking us to say it for many years. The rosary goes back centuries. A primitive version of it even existed before Christ as devout people "would move the beads" so to speak by grabbing a bunch of stones, saying a prayer and then throwing one the stones away.
Some people might complain that the rosary is monotonous, reciting Hail Mary after Hail Mary. Once again, Mary does not want our lips, she wants our hearts.
The Blessed Virgin wants us to turn to God.
The objects of our mind, of our thinking, our meditation, are to be the mysteries of Christ. In order to live the mysteries of the holy rosary, which focus on Jesus, you must think of them first. This is the Marian way of prayer. Meditate on the key events as you say the rosary.
In the prayer of the rosary, we recognize the saving action of the infinite God, how He operates here on earth, beginning with Mary, leading through Jesus' life, death and resurrection and concluding with the crowning and Queen ship of Mary. The rosary teaches us the following:
In other words, we must be aware of Jesus and of His mother. We must have or desire the experience of an actual relationship to Jesus, recognized by faith and entered into by love. First thing that a wise Christian does is to start thinking, followed by mediation and followed by resolution and action.
Imagine that the beads symbolize your neighbors whom you meet every day of the week. You should learn to see, with eyes of faith, Jesus Christ in every human person.
Remembering as a devote of the Blessed Virgin that Jesus said: "Whatever you do to the least of My brethren, you do it to Me." As you pray, learn from Mary how to journey on the road of faith, to live by faith and not yet by sight, since she can see God in Heaven.
The most important thing is that we live in these mysteries. The test and the crown of good praying of the rosary is our daily God-given-life. If we utter condemnations of our neighbor, ridiculing him, then we must know: we now crown Jesus, Who lives in this neighbor. And if we scourge him with this or that bad look or thought or with blows in the form of punishments, blame, contempt, we are scourging Jesus.
"Thought and action, action and thought, that is the sum of all wisdom, know from time immemorial, practiced from time immemorial, not realized by all. Both must always alternate in life, like breathing out and breathing in. Like question and answer, neither should occur without the other" – (from Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years by Johann Wolfang von Goethe.)
Even when we find it difficult to meditate on the mysteries, the recitation keeps us turned toward God and reminds us that, in the life of the spirit, faith is more important than feeling.
The Greatest Prayer
Confirming the Doctrine of the Catholic Church, Our Lady has specified several times at Medjugorje, that the Mass is the greatest prayer. A special plea is given here for all prayer groups to try to incorporate the Mass as a central part of your prayer activity. If not available or convenient for you on a weekly basis, certainly having a Mass on a monthly basis should be considered.
If a priest is available, who has been to Medjugorje so much the better, but it is certainly not required. Medjugorje need not be a theme or a focal point for having the Mass. The success of the prayer group, and praying for peace is.
Prayer Group Format
Jelena’s prayer group includes saying the rosary, praying other prayers, and reading from the Bible, singing, petitions and faith sharing.
So we offer the following suggestion as a possible format: Announcements – (an update on Medjugorje news; coming activities; theme for the service, etc.) Payer to the Holy Spirit. Rosary – Can be 5, 10 or 15 decades. Can be the conventional, scriptural, Jesus, peace, healing or vocational rosaries. Emphasize the mysteries of the life of Christ when saying the rosary. After each decade of the rosary singing the "Ave," or other brief song, adds an extra element of joy in saying the rosary. Special prayers –These can be decide by the members of the group. You could make up your own group prayer book or use an existing book. Readings from the Bible – Appropriate readings from the Bible could be included in your prayer format. Living the message – Reading, understanding and living Our Lady’s message are key. Faith sharing – This can occur through the members of having an outside witness address the group. Singing – This is handled in detail in Chapter 7. Petitions – Requests b the members of the aspect of the prayer group. Prayer group size – There is no ideal, but sometimes-small prayer groups are preferred over large groups. When a group greatly exceeds 25 members, some of its individuality may be lost. It may be advisable to break up into smaller groups if leadership is available. However, many large groups are very successful and spiritually active.
Other items can be added such as: Mass or benediction of the Holy Eucharist Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Prayer of healing Caplet of the Divine Mercy The Fatima prayers Litany of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Memorare Rosary Novena The Ángelus Psalms Prayers to various saints and angels, St. Michael in particular Personal prayers of the group
So put your "bouquet" together for Jesus and His mother Mary.
Example Of How The Format Of One Actually Works
The following is a format for the prayer group at St. Patrick’s Church in St. Charles, Illinois:
"We start out by having a Sister welcome the group, she reads us news including the latest message from Medjugorje and starts out with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. We then have our first song, say the rosary novena, and rosary. We have a different person lead the group for each decade of the rosary.
"Following, a member reads one of the psalms, picks out two or three prayers from our own prayer book, and decides a number of petitions that the group will pray for. He then opens it up to the group for other petitions, and picks out the people who will lead the group for each decade of our second rosary. We then sing our second song.
"Depending upon our theme, a bible reading is selected, followed up generally with part of a homily from the Blue, Grey or Read books, or similar meditation. We then sing our third song.
"We close by circling around a statue of Mary that we have placed on the altar in church. We hold hands reciting the original Medjugorje prayers – Apostles’Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be."
There is no right or wrong format to a prayer group.
There is not an "only way" to conduct a prayer group. Each group can be as varied as the members themselves and will develop according to the needs and level of spiritually among the members who put their trust in Our Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit.
History Of The Start Up Of One Prayer Group
Another prayer group shares their startup reflections:
"We were advised to be the willing servants of Our Lady and let her do the rest regarding our prayer group. All that remained was for us to choose a time and date and let people know about the prayer meetings. And of course, pray, pray, pray!
"At first we prayed just to have people attend, then we prayed that they would ‘enjoy’ the prayer group. In our anxiety we sometimes forgot that we are not planning a party or a business meeting. For most of us, it takes sometime to be able to turn the ‘controls’ back to Our Lady. But that is where the need for prayer comes it. It is not just sufficient for a prayer community to pray while they are together, but also for the members to pray for the prayer community itself individually.
"They are for me, a ‘spiritual family’ and very important for my spiritual growth. It is this prayer which helps the group to bond spiritually and also keeps the ‘leadership’ in Mary’s hands. I ask Mary to help our group always to grow spiritually and to be ready to do her will and to use our group as she sees best.
"I will not pretend that our prayer group has made us a perfect people. And yet, I can report that as we raise our voices in prayer and song, Mary works her miracle in us, and for a brief space in time, we are as a group, a holy people. Someday, God willing, we will all be holy individuals as well!"
"Dear children, today I am inviting all of you, without exception, to the way of holiness in your life. God gave you the grace, the gift ho holiness. Pray that you may comprehend it more, and in such a way you will be able to be a witness for God. Dear children, I am blessing you and I intercede for you to God, so that your way and your witness may be a complete one and a joy for God." (September 25, 1988)
Prayer Group Format
St. María Goretti Parish – Scottsdale, Arizona
Over the past two years, St. María Goretti Parish has emerged as a model of a praying community. Several different prayer groups are in operation at the parish, with strong emphasis on teenagers and young adults.
The prayer groups have seen special fruits and graces come from their efforts. Certain sign and wonders have manifested themselves and the parish becoming a "Center of Mercy."
These prayer groups are especially noted here, not because of any specific signs of fruits, but because of their simplicity, their intensity. They thrive on a simple format. The focal point is deep prayer, prayer of the heart, and like Medjugorje, there is little fanfare or extravagance. Emphasis is on participation and surrender to the Lord rather than program formality.
As Fr. Jack Spaulding, Pastor of St. María Goretti Parish has expressed: "Those who come to visit with us here should expect to witness nothing but prayer. We are praying community." The following is a brief description of how the three prayer groups at St. María Goretti Parish are conducted.
Adult Prayer Group
People of all ages are welcome to join the Thursday evening prayer group, which begins at 7:00 p.m. A priest leads this prayer group and begins with a prayer, placing ourselves in God’s presence and inviting Our Blessed Mother to be with us and to pray with us. We then sing a hymn in honor of Our Lady. The Joyful Mysteries are prayed, next followed by the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The celebration of Mass then takes place. After the liturgy we pray the Glorious Mysteries.
Following the Glorious Mysteries, the priest prays a blessing over religious articles and then a general prayer for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
The prayer service concludes with an invitation to those who wish personal prayer for healing to approach the altar area. The priest and some of the young adults pray with these people.
The specific reason the adult prayer group meets is to pray for peace, for the salvation of our world, and for Jesus’ mercy for all people.
Young Adult Prayer Group
All young adults (18-34, unmarried and married) are welcome to participate in the prayer group held on Friday evenings from 7:30 p.m. We gather in a circle around the Blessed Sacrament, and in prayer, led by one individual, we place ourselves in God’s presence. We remind ourselves of the basic reason we gather to pray: for the young adults of our community and of our country and for Jesus’ Mercy on us. At the end of this opening prayer we invite our Blessed Mother to pray with us.
We then pray the Chaplet o Divine Mercy, followed by a time of quiet during which we offer our intentions in the silence of our hearts, for which we will pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. After praying the rosary, we join hands with one another and pray aloud, spontaneously, for people and / or things we would like the rest of the group to pray for during the coming week. Asking God’s blessing on all of us closes the prayer time.
Teen Prayer Group
All teenagers are invited to the prayer group on Mondays from 7:00 p.m. The teens gather in a circle, hold hands, and voice their personal petitions for which they will offer the rosary. Then the group begins the Scriptural Rosary. For each bead a teen reads a Scripture verse that helps the others to meditate en the Mysteries. The Scripture readings help the teens concentrate on the Lord and prevent distractions. After the rosary, they hold hands and pray aloud their intentions and thanksgiving. The group is asked to pray for these intentions until the next time gathers.
The teens finish the prayer session with a powerful expression of love and prayer. They lay hands on and pray over each other for healing in a relationship, courage to live out their faith, or even simply to pass a test at school. The teens close by giving everyone present a hug and sign of Christ’s peace.
Medjugorje Prayer Group
(Rev. Robert Hughes)
Fr. Bob Hughes is well-known to various prayer communities in California. Based in the San José and Saratoga area, he has been involved in the formation and / or operation of two dozen prayer groups on the westcoast. He is a priest committed to Our Lady, and to prayer. His comments on prayer groups follow:
Prayer groups present a wonderful opportunity:
1.- to promote living the Medjugorje messages (faith, conversion, peace, prayer, fasting and penance).
2.- to nurture the grace of Medjugorje in individuals.
3.- to receive spiritual formation in a Marian context.
As such, prayer groups stand as an almost unlimited resource for continued growth in the vision and inspiration of all Our Lady is trying to do in and through Medjugorje. She has highlighted in so many ways their special importance and significance. "Satan has become aggressive, because he is losing power…. Therefore, protect yourselves by prayer, fasting, and above all, community prayer." (April 14, 1982)
Without going into the question, I think it is highly important to probe continually the ‘mystery’ of Medjugorje in order to appreciate more and more what is really taking place, to perceive its fuller meaning and its far-reaching implications. This kind of prayerful reflection will help indicate the central place that prayer groups enjoy.
In trying to establish a format for our prayer groups here, we decided from the start not to copy completely the prayer groups in Medjugorje, but rather to select what was suitable to our circumstances. On at least two occasions, individual priest asked Our Lady through the visionaries if they could start prayer groups like those in Medjugorje back in their own countries. Our Lady’s response was the same on both occasions: "prayer groups – yes, they should be established in every parish of the world, but as for the rest I would like to talk to the priest individually." This means she does different things with different people according to their special culture, circumstances, etc.
We have two kinds of prayer groups here: open and closed. The closed prayer groups limit their membership, usually because they are pursuing a more intense type of formation or are pursuing a special objective. The open prayer groups take on a variety of forms, but generally they fall into two groupings: those connected with the celebration of the Eucharistic, and those that take place in private homes.
The basic structure of these groups is:
1.- Renewal of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (using the prayer formulas dictated by Our Lady to Jelena);
2.- The Recitation of the Rosary; and,
3.- Praying a Message.
This basic structure is introduced by a prayer or song to Our Lady inviting her into the group, a prayer or hymns to the Holy Spirit, and sometimes a prayer or hymn in honor of Jesus. Groups are advised, at least at the beginning, to use the norm of one hour as a time frame, and to sustain the atmosphere of prayer all during the meeting. Announcements, etc., are made after the closing prayer or hymn.
The basic structure was adopted because Our Lady as being important emphasized these three elements in a special way as being important. Each element was requested bu Our Lady to be done on a daily basis, and each of the three elements lend themselves in a special way to formative experiences. The existence of these three elements as a basic structure in the prayer group, then, are a continual reminder to the participants of what they should be doing on a daily basis and how they can grow.
The Use Of Music in a Prayer Group
Music is an important part of all gatherings that worship and praise God. The prayer life of a prayer group can be enhanced with the use of music. Music cannot only stir our hearts with strong emotions of love, peace and joy but can also help us to calm our thoughts and bring our prayers into focus at a deeper level.
As far back as early Christian times, singing praise to God was a cultural expression of a given community. A prayer group singing together can help to create a sense of community within the group. To quote St. Augustine – "To sing to pray twice" – reminds us of the tremendous value of a sung prayer. Following are various types of sung music that may be used during a prayer service.
HYMNS. Several stanzas of a familiar hymn could be sung to open and close the prayer service. Well – known ones like "Immaculate Mary" and "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name" could be sung acappela (without accompaniment). Also hymns, reflecting the chosen readings, could be sung to help reinforce the theme of the prayer service. A song leader or cantor would be nice to have but not necessary.
THE KITANY FORM. This form, because of its repetitiveness is easy to gasp, remember and pray. Since the responses are short, musical accompaniment would not be needed but a leader of song, or cantor would.
Singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet would fall into this category. The litanies of the Blessed Mother could also be sung. There are several published. They likewise would call for a cantor.
PSALMS. Psalms re lyrics of song, the hymnal of the Bible, the "songbook" Jesus used. The psalms are a superb way of learning the language of prayer. Repeated singing of psalms can help us embed the words into our hearts and souls. As often as there is a reading from Scripture there is a need for the proclamation of the psalm as a reply to the reading. The psalm chosen should extend the ideas expressed in the readings. A song leader or cantor would be needed. Simple psalm responses could be obtained from the Sunday missalette. An example of a psalm invoking the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction of the prayer group is Psalm 104: "Lord, send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth."
SONGS. Many compositions from the community of Taize in France would be appropriate for prayer groups. Simple, strong melodies underscore repeated biblical phrases. Some familiar ones are "Jesus Remember Me" and "Stay With Me". They can be done from memory and do not necessarily need a song leader. Other songs appropriate for a prayer group are "Let There Be Peace on Earth," "Peace Prayer," "Peace is flowing like a River," "On This Day, O Beautiful Mother," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Salve Regina," "Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above," The Gospa Song" from Medjugorje and "As We Kneel Before You," words and music by Marla Parkinson, which is also sung in Medjugorje.
INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC. The use of a piano, organ, or guitar played softly during the meditation time could help to create the mood for quiet time with God. The music should be slow, not rhythmical and / or an improvisation style. This style of background music is less distracting than a melody that is too familiar, which could attract attention to it rather than to God.
TAPED RECORDED MUSIC. The recordings of recent compositions of composers that have been inspired from the messages of Medjugorje could be another source of music for prayer groups. The inspirational lyrics of these songs could help set the mood for a prayer service. Some examples are Jerry Morin’s, "Lady of Medjugorje," "Surrender to you" by Paul Hillebrand and "Answering Your Call" by Carol Ameche. Of course, an good recording of devotional music would be appropriate.
The music director of your parish or of a larger parish would be a valuable aid en helping the prayer group select the proper music for their prayer service. More over, the music director can provide a list of cantors, song leaders and instrumentalist in the parish. You might consider at least soliciting his or her advice.
Ways And Tips To Enhance The Prayer Group
The following items are some areas to ponder before you start your prayer group:
WHERE TO HAVE IT. It can be held anywhere. In church, in your home, at work. Anywhere quiet and peaceful.
If you decide to hold it in church, contact your pastor first and obtain his permission. If you hold it in church, remember that this is God’s house and your prayer group should act reverently in all respects. This is a house of devotion to Our Lord and should not be used for social events.
WHO SHOULD LEAD IT. Try to have a priest, sister, brother or deacon from your church head up the group plus two lay people. Have back-up people to assist or fill-in.
Encourage participation in leadership so people can take turns if they wish. Also encourage participation in saying the rosary so more than one person leads the rosary.
WHEN TO HAVE IT. Time should be consistent and ideally weekly.
PRAYER BOOK. Make up your own prayer book by having the members submit favorite prayers. Otherwise, any good prayer book can be used.
MEDALS. Obtain blessed medals for members of the group.
ROSARY. Try saying not only the traditional rosary but occasionally the scriptural, healing or Jesus Rosary. Members may have to purchase the special Jesus Rosaries if they don’t have them. Singing an "Ave" after each decade is beautiful and enhances prayer from the heart.
Also consider singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet at times. It is a very beautiful chant that promotes prayer from the heart in begging God’s mercy on the world.
STATUE. Statue or picture of Jesus and Mary. Have members donate funds to purchase if necessary. Decorate with flowers when possible.
Find a prominent place in your home to set up a small altar, which includes your bible, rosary, blessed objects such as a statue or a candle. This would be an ideal place for family or individual morning and evening prayer.
MUSICIANS. Piano, organ, guitar, players, singers. Get a list from your church Musical Director. Prepare schedule and plan needs three months in advance if possible. It’s good to get their names down to down to prevent communication errors.
EQUIPMENT. Use of computer or typewriter or copier for program handouts.
LIST. Prepare list of addresses and phone numbers of members and musicians, singers and potential guest speakers.
RESOURCES. Marian and Medjugorjian literature and other religious book that principally deal with prayers and meditation.
Pick one person to be responsible for the resources. That person could purchase, store and distribute literature, books and also video tapes. Establish a small lending library and HELP SPREAD THE WORD.
SIGN. Make a sign or poster with a picture of Mary and/or Jesus on it. Post at the entrance of church for promotion, reminders, and to announce time changes and/or guest speakers. Consider permanent frame mounting in the church. Ask you pastor for permission.
CHURCH BULLETIN. Place announcements in your church bulletin. Initially announce in your bulletin the start-up date of your prayer group. Use it to communicate changes as well as dates and schedules of faith witness speakers.
Ask your pastor for permission to put Mary’s monthly messages in the church bulletin.
SPEAKERS. Obtain speakers from your parish and other parishes to address your prayer group for faith sharing and also living Mary’s messages.
DIOCESAN PAPER. Use it to announce formation of your group with scheduled times so people from other areas will know and attend. Most diocesan papers have a "what’s doing" section in the paper. For this section, call the paper and have them insert your scheduled time, location and what format your prayer group includes.
MEMBERSHIP. Encourage participation and social interaction of local prayer groups, charismatic groups, Fatima societies, bible study groups, Blue Army groups and all groups devoted to prayer –UNITY. Put notices in your church bulletin, bulletin boards and other sources.
PRAYER GROUP THEME. It is important to attach a specific intention to each major prayer and to state it at the outset. This helps to focus on the theme –as a group – and to feel the sharing of a common task. Unity of intention builds up strength in the group. We can also learn some humility and obedience by putting aside our own little "pet projects" for a while as we join our neighbors united in spirit for a common goal.
The theme should be changed weekly.
CLOSING. Consider closing your service by gathering together, holding hands and saying some brief prayers such as the Apostles’ Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be.
SOCIAL GATHERING AFTERWARDS. Mary has said that it is a good idea to have the prayer group members interact in the parish and outside of the parish. To improve a bond between the members, a social gathering after the prayer group service is helpful. Liquids and bread products can be served. If your meeting time is on fasting day, then cookies, cake or sweets should not be served.
If your group meets in the church, respect the tabernacle and conduct any socializing outside of the church proper.
PRAY THROUGH MARY. THIS IS HER MISSION, TO BRING US CLOSER TO HER SON.
In conclusion, we would sincerely like to reiterate once more, the importance of prayer. In the light of Our Blessed Lady’s Medjugorje messages, everyone should desire to become instrumental in promptly carrying our Lady’s wish to spread the practice of prayer groups.
We hope this booklet has furnished the readers with some basic requirements and some true-and-tried ideas for starting prayer groups.
By being a member of a prayer group, the groups, and its prayers, complement Our Lady’s plan for saving the world.
Mary appeared in the morning at Lourdes, she appeared in the afternoon at Fátima and she is now appearing in the evening at Medjugorje. She has told us: "I have come to call the world to conversion for the last time. These are my last apparitions." (May 2, 1982)
The title of this book so states – Medjugorje, the Sunset. Please accept this great current of grace from Mary and join or help start a prayer group in your home, church or parish.
Thoughts On Prayer Groups And The Importance Of The Prayer Groups In Today’s World (Translated from writing of Ivan Dragicevic, Medjugorje Visionary)
We are realizing more and more that prayer groups are a sign from God for our time. It is so important for today’s living. The importance of prayer groups in today’s living. The importance of prayer groups in today’s Church and today’s world is enormous. The value of prayer groups is clear. It seems that prayer groups previously were questionable and not trusted. They are teaching us to be more responsible, and our participation is necessary. It is our responsibility to work with the prayer groups.
The prayer groups are teaching us what the Church has been telling us; the way to pray, to form, and be in community. We have to believe that this is the only purpose of every prayer group and gathering. In our country, and outside of our country, we must create unity, so that prayer groups would be relied upon to pray for the world and the Church.
Today we are following all different ideologies and because of this it is now happening that morality is falling apart. It is not a surprise at all that Our Blessed Mother is emphasizing with all her heart and with perseverance to, " pray, pray, pray, my dear children."
The presence of the Holy Spirit is tied in with our prayers. The gift of the Holy Spirit is entering into our hearts together with our prayers, but we have to, through our prayers, open ourselves to the Holy Spirit.
It has to be clear to us that prayer, no matter what kind, can save the world from catastrophe – negative consequences. Therefore, it is necessary in the Church to create a network of prayer groups and people who pray, to plant in every heart and in every church.
The prayer groups in the world are the only answer to the call of the Holy Spirit. It will be possible only through prayer to save modern mankind from crime and sin. Therefore, the priority of the prayer groups must be TO REACH OUT FOR HOLINESS so that their prayer will make possible a free passage for the Holy Spirit on the earth.
Prayer groups have to pray for the Church and for the world and, with prayer, fight back the evil that is in the structure of today's society. Prayer will save modern man.
Jesus says there is no other way for this generation. It cannot be saved with anything else but fasting and prayer: "And He said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29).
Naturally, Jesus is not referring to the evil force in individuals only, but also in society.
Prayer groups are not for a gathering of well-meaning religious believers, but it is the urgent responsibility of every priest and every believer. Members of the prayer groups must take very seriously the decision for spreading the Word of God and for spiritual growth and development. By the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, the freedom of choosing to belong to a prayer group must be taken very seriously. It is not forced upon you, but is by the grace of God. Once you are a member, you have a responsibility. You are receiving a deeper experience of God’s grace and you must take it very seriously.
Every member should be renewing the Spirit within themselves, the family, the community, etc. Also, with our strong prayers to God, we must bring into today’s suffering world, God’s medicine – God’s healing for peace between people; for the freeing from the danger of catastrophe; for the repairing of moral strength; for the peace of mankind with God and among ourselves.
How to Start a Prayer Groups
1. The prayer group members can gather together in Church, in private homes, outside, or in offices – anywhere where you have the feeling of peace and where noise does not prevail.
Either a priest or lay people with should lead the group strong spiritual development.
2. Anyone who is the leader of the prayer group should bring to the group the purpose of the gathering and what it desires to achieve.
3. The third possibility for starting a prayer group is where the lay people have had a prayerful experience and have the desire to pass it on to others and believe in the power of the prayer experience. He or she can privately invite maybe only one person, and with that one start to pray together for their growth in faith, and their prayers will draw other.
4. The fourth element in starting a prayer group is when everyone has the desire to share, talk about faith, read the Holy Bible, pray and support each other on the journey, and learn to pray.
A very convenient way to start a prayer group is to begin to pray in the family; to sit and pray one-half to one hour each evening. I cannot accept, any matter who says, that this is not possible. It is not having the desire for prayer that, makes it not possible.
An aid for a prayer group to be successful is to have a priest as leader. Today people have great need for somebody who is spiritually strong and knowledgeable, in order to lead the group. Therefore, the best way is to have a priest as a leader. In this way him leading, it gives him a chance to meet all the people and helps him to be a better leader of the Church and the community. And, it is not necessary for the priest to be tied down with just one group.
To continue the prayer group, it is very important not to stop after you begin. Be persistent – Persevere!
Prayer is the road that leads us to experience God. Why is prayer alpha and omega – the beginning and the end of Christian life?
Prayer is for the soul, what air is for the body. Without air the human body dies. Without prayer, man’s soul shrives, weakens and dies. Today the Blessed Mother is emphasizing the need for prayer. In her numerous message, the Blessed Mother puts prayer in the first and most important place, and we see the signs in today’s time that we live. Prayer is therefore something that you cannot live without. If we lose prayer, we lose everything – the world, the Church, ourselves.
Nothing can remain without prayer.
Prayer is breathing for the Church, and we are the Church; part of the Church, the body of the Church.
The bottom line of every prayer is the desire to pray, or to decide to pray. The doorway to enter into prayer is to see God on the other side, confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, pray to turn away from sin, and say thank you.
Prayer is like a phone conversation. To make the connection you have to pick up the receiver, dial the numbers and start talking.
Picking up the receiver means, you make a decision to pray, and then you dial in the numbers. The first number always is composing you, looking for God.
The second number is to confess your sins. The third number is forgiveness to others, you and God. The fourth number is to give up everything in order to receive everything… FOLLOW ME. The fifth number is to give thanks to God for His Mercy, His love for the world, His love for me and for my life.
And now you can communicate with God. You made the connection.