Let him be born in you
December 14, 2021
This article is the third in a five-part series on prayer, particularly for Advent, from Father Michael Voithofer, pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Parish in Omaha and leader of two prayer ministries: Ablaze Worship Ministry and a local Encounter School of Ministry group. Look for further teachings already posted and yet to come.
This Christmas Christ can be born in you – through careful, prayerful listening.
We imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary by following the Holy Spirit’s promptings and allowing God to have control of our lives, Father Voithofer said.
Whether in quiet prayer or during the activities of the day, cultivating an interior life of prayer involves creating an awareness of the movements of the heart, he said.
Active listening requires having “one eye on my heart” and “one eye on the world happening around me.”
“You get to a point of sensitivity that you recognize something’s happening in your heart,” Father Voithofer said.
When that happens, one should pay attention, he said, as God may be trying to speak through the ordinary encounters or events of the day.
Feeling the promptings of the Holy Spirit can be like the Visitation, Father Voithofer said. You feel a stirring in your heart like what Elizabeth felt when John the Baptist leaped in her womb.
“I need to be able to recognize that leaping in my womb – in my heart, if you will,” he said. “When you ask boldly, you will start to recognize God talking to you through a bumper sticker, a conversation, Scripture or even a random thought that comes to mind. It might help you see or understand something in a way you never would have understood before.
“God starts to talk to you. He starts answering your prayer. … And that’s where you begin a conversation with God.”
Just as there are different ways to hear God, there are different ways to respond.
“I like to talk out loud if I’m in a car,” Father Voithofer said. “I’m like, Lord, I just saw that bumper sticker. I believe that you’re inviting me right now to forgive someone, or you’re inviting me to call this person.”
“I might feel a strong call to stop and go to the chapel. Randomly, on my lunch break, God might say ‘I want you to come and see me here.’”
If unaccustomed to listening to God and praying in this way, just jump in, Father Voithofer urges.
“You don’t learn unless you try. God just loves the fact that we’re trying to listen. You learn to listen by recognizing his voice and taking a step toward his voice.”
It’s OK to make mistakes, he said. “The more you try, the better you get.”
Father Voithofer also encourages prayer journaling, “because when you journal, you start to see these things more clearly.”
If unable to hear God clearly, one can pray: “Jesus, can you speak louder? Is this you, Lord?”
And if unsure whether it is truly God’s voice, Father Voithofer recommends a prayer litmus test: Are you being led toward what is good, true and beautiful? As long as it doesn’t contradict Scripture or Church teaching and wouldn’t lead to sin, “then you can assume it’s the Lord,” he said.
“And if it’s the Lord, step into it, take a risk.”
Risk taking is the next topic in this series with Father Voithofer.
Stay tuned for more.