Ritual Prayer

In the Scriptures, our Lord made it crystal clear that He is not favorably impressed by meaningless ritual and prayers uttered as mantras.

In Isaiah's time, Jewish religious practice had become little more than empty ritual. Oh! there were plenty of sacrifices and prayers and the smoke of incense filled the temple. Though these practices had the forms prescribed by God in the Mosaic Law, they were virtually devoid of meaning -- empty shells.

Compare the above with what goes on in Roman Catholic churches today. Millions of "eucharistic sacrifices" being celebrated on millions of altars around the world. Candles burning in mysterious offerings. The smoke of burning incense filling the air. Hundreds of millions of the Catholic faithful, rising and kneeling or sitting in unison at appointed times; making the sign of the cross on their breasts and foreheads in time with the officiating priests' lead; beating their breasts as they mutter "Mea culpa." On cue, they intone scripted words and prayers, oft-times innocent of all understanding of what those words imply. At the appointed moment, the priests distribute consecrated wafers and perhaps a sip of wine to those who would partake of communion, holding the wafer before their eyes and saying, "The body of Christ." To be Catholic is to believe that wafer and that wine are really and substantially the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Those who take the wafer and the wine do not consider thaat they are participating in a pagan act of ritual cannibalism, yet they are partaking of the sacrifice just as did the Jewish penitents and priests when they offered an atoning sacrifice in the Temple 2000 years ago.

What does Almighty God think of empty ritual and droned prayer? He gave Isaiah these words to express His displeasure:

11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
--Isaiah 1:11-14

Notice the many parallels between the practices of the ancient Hebrew nation and those of today's Roman Catholic Church. Do you think that God has changed? Do you believe He now favors "feast days," chaplets of mercy, the decades of the rosary, the literally billions of "Eucharistic sacrifices" offered on millions of Roman altars over the centuries and all the other trappings of the Roman Catholic practice?

What purpose the mantra-like prayers of the Rosary? Everyone I have ever seen, including myself when I was a member of the Roman Church, has prayed the decades of the Rosary in a high-speed monotone. One of my sisters-in-law can complete five decades of the Rosary in less time than it takes to boil an egg. Is this heartfelt prayer? or is it empty ritual? That's just her, you might argue. I have prayed the Rosary in church, led by a priest, and I have prayed the Rosary in school, led by nuns. It is always the same --- say it fast and get it over with. To what purpose? Pleasing man or pleasing God?

And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.--Isaiah 1:15

After reading these words of the prophet, don't you just have to wonder how many billions and billions of "Hail, Mary's" the Lord God has not heard? Doesn't it make you think that, perhaps, a simple prayer from the heart might not have more meaning in your conversation with the Lord?

"But," you might argue, "Those were Old Testament times. Christ had not yet established His church. Times are different now. Our pope is Christ's Vicar on earth, ruling over Christ's church."

We know from Scripture that God does not change. What displeased Him in Isaiah's day, displeases Him still.

For I am the LORD, I change not;--Malachi 3:6a

That this is so may be seen in Christ's words on the mountain:

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.--Matthew 6:1-8, "

Jesus, the Son of God, even gave us an example of how we should pray:

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
-- Matthew 6:9-13

A simple prayer, but every word is pregnant with meaning. The "Our Father" is part of the ritual prayers of the Rosary , the Chaplet of Mercy, etc., although to a lesser degree than the mantra to Mary. How often have YOU prayed this prayer, careless of the deep purpose in every line? In my email, I once received a little devotional concerning the praying of the Lord's Prayer. I offer it here for the edification of all who come to this board. As you read this little tale, do you see yourself?

------------------

Our Father who art in Heaven. . . .

Yes?

Don't interrupt me. I'm praying. . . .

But you called Me.

Called you? I didn't call you. I'm praying. Our Father who art in Heaven.

There, you did it again.

Did what?

Called Me. You said, "Our Father who art in Heaven. . . " Here I am. What's on your mind?

But I didn't mean anything by it. I was, you know, just saying my prayers for the day. I always say the Lord's Prayer. It makes me feel good, kind of like getting my duty done.

All right. Go on.

Hallowed be thy name.

Hold it. What do you mean by that?

By what?

By "Hallowed be thy name."

It means.... it means ....good grief, I don't know what it means. How should I know? It's just part of the prayer. By the way, what does it mean?

It means "honored," "Holy," "Wonderful."

Hey, that makes sense. I never thought about what "Hallowed" meant before. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Do you really mean that?

Sure, why not?

What are you going to do about it?

Doing? Nothing, I guess. I just think it would be neat if you got control of everything down here like you have up there.

Have I got control of you?

Well, I go to church.

That isn't what I asked you. What about that habit of lust you have? And your bad temper? You've really got a problem there, you know. And then there's the way you spend your money...all on yourself. And what about the kinds of books you read?

Stop picking on me! I'm just as good as some of the rest of those phonies at the church.

Excuse me....I thought you were praying for My will to be done. If that is to happen, it will have to start with the ones who are praying for it. Like you, for example.

Oh, all right! I guess I do have some hang-ups. Now that you mention it, I could probably name some others.

So could I.

I haven't thought about it until now, but I really would like to cut out some of those things. I'd like to, you know, be really free.

Good, now we're getting somewhere. We'll work together....you and I can have some victories that can truly be won. I'm proud of you.

Look, Lord, I need to finish up here. This is taking a lot longer than it usually does.... Give us this day our daily bread.

You need to cut down on the bread too... You're overweight as it is.

Hey, wait a minute! What is this, "Criticize Me Day?" Here I was doing my religious duty, and all of a sudden You break in and remind me of all my hang-ups.

Praying is a dangerous thing. You could wind up changed, you know. That's what I'm trying to get across to you. You called me, and here I am. It's too late to stop now. Keep on praying. I'm interested in the next part of your prayer...... Well, go on.

I'm scared to.

Scared? Of what?

I know what you'll say.

Try Me and see.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

What about Sally?

See I knew it! I knew you would bring her up! Why she's told lies about me, cheated me out of money. She never paid back that debt she owes me. I've sworn to get even.

But your prayer......What about your prayer?

I didn't mean it.

Well, at least you're honest. But it's not much fun carrying the load of bitterness around inside is it?

No, but I'll feel better as soon as I get even. Boy, have I made some plans for ol' Sally! She'll wish she never did me any harm.

You won't feel any better. You'll feel worse. Revenge isn't sweet. Think of how unhappy you are already. But I can change all that.

You can? How?

Forgive Sally. Then I'll forgive you. Then the hate and sin will be Sally's problem and not yours. You may lose the money, but you will settle your heart.

But Lord, I can't forgive Sally.

Then I can't forgive you.

Oh, you're right! You always are. And more than I want revenge on Sally, I want to be right with You. All right! I forgive her. Help her to find the right road in life, Lord. She's bound to be awfully miserable, now that I think about it. Some way, some how, show her the right way.

There now! How do you feel?

Hmmm....not bad. Not bad at all, In fact I feel pretty great. You know, I don't think I'll have to go to bed uptight tonight for the first time since I can't remember. Maybe I won't be so tired from now on because I'm not getting enough rest.

You're not through with your prayer.....Go on.

Oh, all right.....And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Good...good. I'll do that. Just don't put yourself in a place where you can be tempted.

What do you mean by that?

Quit hanging around the wrong places, watching inappropriate movies and television, listening to sinful conversations; getting into compromising situations. Change some of your friendships. Some of your so-called friends are beginning to get to you. They'll have you completely involved in wrong things before long. Don't be fooled. They advertise they're having fun, but for you it would be ruin. Don't use me for an escape hatch.

I don't understand.

Sure you do. You've done it lots of times. You get caught in a bad situation, you get into trouble and then you come running to me. "Lord, help me out of this mess, and I promise you I'll never do it again." You remember some of those bargains you tried to make with me?

Yes, and I'm ashamed, Lord. I really am.

Which bargains are you remembering?

Well, when the woman next door saw me backing away from the neighborhood bar. I'd told my wife I was going to the store. I remember telling you, "Lord, don't let her tell my wife where I've been. I promise I'll be in church every Sunday."

She didn't tell your wife, but you didn't keep your promise, did you?

I'm sorry Lord, I really am. Up until now I thought if I just prayed the Lord's prayer everyday, then I could do what I liked. I didn't expect anything to happen like it did.

Go ahead. Finish your prayer.

Oh yes....For Thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory forever and forever. Amen.

Do you know what would bring me glory? What would make me really happy?

No, but I'd like to know. I want to please You. I can see what a mess I've made out of my life, and I can see how great it would be to really be one of Your followers.

You just answered the question.

I did?

Yes, the one thing that would bring me glory is to have people like you truly love me. And I can see that happening between us. Now that some of these old sins are exposed and out of the way, well, there's no telling what we can do together.

Lord, let's see what we can make of me, OK?

Yes, let's see......

Author unknown

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