I WAS grieved to read Mr De Is Bedoyere's misunderstanding treatment of charismatic renewal (June 12). I can see how he may find certain aspects of prayer groups difficult to sympathise with at first, however he should recognise that the ability and the desire to pray and to praise God in a more demonstrative and informal way, together with other Christians, is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is a search for the Lord, and for the joys of the Spirit. Is God's generosity to be outdone by the material blandishments of modern materialism'?
This very open and direct form of prayer, which embarrasses some people, is the result of a deep change in a person's spiritual life, wrought in them by the Spirit, not by their own efforts. "Are you willing to let God change you in this way, to His glory?" is the fundamental question. "Ask and you will receive. that your joy may. be full." (John 16:24).
Whit Mr de la Bcdoyere regards as "a bad starting point" is in fact the attitude of open and expectant Christian faith. When a prayer group gathers in Jesus' name. they can expect Him to be among them, true to His promise, and to touch and heal them at a level much deeper than the emotional.
And the fruits of the Spirit — love, joy, peace. patience. gentleness etc will flow tangibly from this encounter if it is genuine.
Personally I found that praying with two or three close friends has led to a deep spiritual closeness and a strong awareness of Jesus' presence. On many such occasions I have been strengthened and healed immensely for Christian living. Deep down within I know, and that is why felt I should write this letter, that it is not a case of inducing emotional feelings, nor a purely human phenomenon. It is similar to the deep stillness and joy which comes after Holy Communion.
It is pure gift of our loving Father. who yearns to pour out His love and gifts and power on His children, for the salvation of the world.
The Spirit of God has filled the whole world. But our hearts are blocked with sin and guilt and unbelief. These need to be melted, away before we can draw powerfully on the Spirit's strength.
The gift of prayer in tongues is used by God to gradually set us free. For many' it is like a narrow door to pass through, a crucifixion of our own rationalist and unbelieving attitudes. a venture out in faith and trust, which. sensitises us to the impulses of the' Spirit. We eland over our tight and narrow control of ourselves to God. The freedom we have in praising God in tongues becomes a model for the rest of our Christian lives, free, uninhibited, joyful. loving.
St Theresa remarked that many souls fail to grow because they cling to respectability. To be willing to accept the gift of prayer in tongues, being a fool for Christ's sake, is something we shall remain closed to if we care more for worldly opinion and the wisdom of this world, than we do for Jesus and His Gospel. If tongues was good enough for St Peter, St Paul, St Dominic, St Ignatius of Loyola and the Cure d'Ars, I reckon it's good enough for us. St Paul saw tongues as primarily a gift for private prayer, which has its place in the hierarchy of charismatic gifts, the greatest of which is love, of course.
Nowhere does he forbid it to women, and he encourages all to seek it: "Now I want you all to speak in tongues, and even more to prophesy." "I thank God that I pray in tongues more than you all," is hardly to be scathing about the gift. Holiness is the capacity to receive and to give love. We need to learn to seek the Lord together, to be more closely the Body of Christ, praying with one another for forgiveness and healing and strength and the outpouring of the Spirit, in our families and communities.
Our inhibitions and fears, shyness and reserve, so often are remnants of the Fall which cripple our work for the Kingdom. and which the Lord himself wishes to dissolve, "that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me." (John 17:23) Francis Marsden Rome