Friday, March 30, 2012

Acts Lesson Four

Acts Study
finish chapter 2 and start chapter 3

2:42-47 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, prayers and ‘breaking bread’ [e.g. fellowship] (This was either Eucharistic-like [Gk: giving thanks] or simply sharing meals together – but see 1 Cor 11:18-22, after which Paul goes into his discourse on the Lord’s Supper.

Whatever it was they were doing, clearly something was going on in this early church from which we in this century can learn. What might be an application for the 21st century church? Note also the result of their fellowship and unity (verse 47). Might the divisions in the Church today be a reason for fewer men and women coming to faith in Christ? If so, how might you work toward a solution, at least in your own sphere of influence?

 Chapter 3

 v. 1    Daily time set aside for prayer. Application?  See the Catechism of the Catholic Church on prayer, paragraphs 2725-2733 (and also my comments in bold within the paragraphs).

See my blog posts here, here, here and here for some prayer strategies. Log onto and search “prayer strategies” for all twelve strategies.

Catechism Paragraphs
(superscript numbers refer to references within the actual text of the Catechism. Click the paragraph link to find the superscript reference)

2725 Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray . . . The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer. (If we are in a battle, and prayer is effort, should we be surprised when it is difficult to pray? Some of my prayer strategies (noted above) might help in that battle).

2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.

2728 Finally, our battle has to confront what we experience as failure in prayer: discouragement during periods of dryness . . . The conclusion is always the same: what good does it do to pray? To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance. (What do you think of this paragraph?  Perseverance is, I think, the key to winning the battle of prayer. Pray even when you don’t feel like it. We must not let our emotions rob us of what is absolutely necessary for our spiritual growth).

2729 The habitual difficulty in prayer is distraction . . . . (what distracts you most often from or during prayer?  What steps might you take to overcome those distractions?)

 2732 The most common yet most hidden temptation is our lack of faith. It expresses itself less by declared incredulity than by our actual preferences. When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority; once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love? Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is? Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous. In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart: "Apart from me, you can do nothing."20 (Synthesize this paragraph into your own words. What does this paragraph mean to you? How can you use your explanation to grow in your devotion to prayer?)

2733 Another temptation, to which presumption opens the gate, is acedia*. The spiritual writers understand by this a form of depression due to lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."21 The greater the height, the harder the fall. Painful as discouragement is, it is the reverse of presumption. The humble are not surprised by their distress; it leads them to trust more, to hold fast in constancy. (Write on a sheet of paper strategies to overcome acedia in your own experience).

*Acedia (also accidie or accedie, from Latin acedĭa, and this from Greek ἀκηδία, negligence) describes a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one's position or condition in the world. It can lead to a state of being unable to perform one's duties in life. Its spiritual overtones make it related to but distinct from depression.

We will continue chapter three next time.

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