Touching Heaven, Changing Earth
Our lives can change as we learn to pray like the angels and saints.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! (REVELATION 5:12)
Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! (REVELATION 7:12)
Great and wonderful are your deeds, O Lord! (REVELATION 15:3)
Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns! (REVELATION 19:6)
The Book of Revelation seems to be filled with prayers of worship, adoration, and praise. Even in the parts that describe the violent upheavals of the end of the world, the angels and saints in heaven are still singing joyful songs of victory and love to Jesus. Somehow, in the midst of a battle of cosmic dimensions, the citizens of heaven never waver in their confidence in God. They never fear the final outcome, and they never seem to worry about their own fate. They know that they belong to the Lord, and that knowledge fills them all with an indescribable joy.
Wouldn’t it be great to have that same disposition? What a blessing never to be intimidated by difficult circumstances but to remain light-hearted and joyful in every situation! In one sense, it’s true that this won’t happen until we join the angels and saints in heaven. But in another sense, each of us can experience the joy and happiness of heaven more and more as we follow the example of those who have gone before us. We don’t have to wait for heaven to worship Jesus. We can begin right now! And as we do, the same joy, peace, and confidence will fill our hearts-even when we are not deep in prayer.
In this article, we want to offer some practical suggestions of how the prayer of heaven can play a vital part in our daily lives. We know that there are countless methods and that so many of them are immensely helpful. But here we want to focus on an approach that is based on the Book of Revelation, an approach that can help us experience all the glorious truths that this book contains.
In Mass. Nothing has greater potential to lift us up to heaven than the Mass. From the formality of the opening procession to the intimacy of Communion, God wants to fill our hearts and minds with his truth, his love, and his power. So how can we experience these blessings?
To begin with, when you first come into church, bless yourself with holy water. Let this small gesture recall your baptism, when you died to sin and were raised up to God. Let the water remind you that Jesus can wash away-right there and then-any distractions, doubts, or fears that might keep you from hearing his voice and worshipping him. Then, during the Penitential Rite, be sure to offer up to the Lord any sins that might still be clouding your spiritual vision. Tell him you are sorry for ways you may have hurt him or those around you. Again, let his mercy wash over you and rejoice In his deep love for you.
As you hear the readings, imagine what it must be like in heaven, where every mystery will be revealed and where every word from God moves the angels and saints to greater and greater praise. Imagine what it will be like when every veil is taken away and you finally see your heavenly Father face-to-face. Every question you ever had-especially questions about things that happened to you in this life-will be answered. And every answer you receive will fill you with wonder at the wisdom, compassion, and love your Father has for you.
As the Eucharistie Prayer begins, picture yourself right there in heaven, before the throne of God, crying out, “Holy, holy, holy,” with the elders and the four living creatures (Revelation 4:8). As you kneel, imagine yourself bowing down with all of them in adoration and humble surrender. Right there in your presence, bread and wine will be transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, and you will be invited to the altar to receive the Lord in your body as well as in your heart.
This is the rhythm of the Mass, a rhythm in which every movement recalls the worship in the Book of Revelation. In one sense, we can say that the Mass is the doorway linking heaven and earth, and that for those few brief minutes we can actually have a taste of what heaven must be like!
In Your Personal Prayer. But it’s not just at Mass that we can taste heaven. Every time we come to the Lord in personal prayer, we can place ourselves before the throne of God. St. Paul told the Colossians-just as he tells us today-that we have been “raised with Christ,” and that therefore we should all “seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1-2).
The words sound so poetic and inspiring, but they are also very practical. For Paul, prayer was always a combination of God’s overflowing grace and our own human effort. That’s why in this short passage from Colossians, Paul tells us to set our minds on things above; to put to death whatever is not pleasing to God; and to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Along with every other saint and believer who has faced the challenge of prayer, Paul knew that what we do is just as important as what God does. He knew we need to focus our attention on Jesus in our prayer and not just wait for something miraculous to happen. And so the more aggressively we take our thoughts captive and hand them over to Jesus, the more open to the Holy Spirit we will be as he inspires us and lifts us up (2 Corinthians 10:5).
The Fruit Of Worship. Try this experiment over the next couple of weeks. Every day, take one of the hymns of praise in Revelation and make it a central part of your prayer. Imagine yourself in the throne room of heaven, surrounded by countless angels. Picture Jesus seated next to his Father. See the wounds in his hands, feet, and side, now radiant in glory. Look into his eyes and see the joy, the love, and the authority of the Lord of all creation.
Let these images fill your mind as you say out loud one of the prayers from Revelation (4:8; 4:11; 5:9-10; 5:12-13; 7:12; 11:15; 15:3-4; 19:6-8; 21:3-4). Say this prayer over and over again with confidence. Let the words spark your imagination. Welcome the Holy Spirit and ask him to raise up your human efforts and fill them with heavenly insight, joy, and strength. Then, see where the Holy Spirit leads you in the rest of your prayer. You may sense a need to kneel before the Lord in worship. You may be moved to pray for a friend (or even an enemy!) with greater conviction. Perhaps you will want to write your own prayer of praise and thanksgiving based upon what the Lord has done in your life. The possibilities are endless !
As you experiment with this kind of prayer, look also for ways that your disposition changes in the rest of your day. Perhaps you will begin to feel more lighthearted. Maybe you will find it easier to remain peaceful in stressful situations. You may find yourself more willing to love or forgive someone who has hurt you, or to reach out to someone else who is hurting. It’s also possible that you will find yourself stopping a few times during the day to turn your heart back to God. Whatever changes you see, know that they are coming about because the Holy Spirit has been uniting with your spirit to produce a new disposition-a more heavenly disposition-in your heart.
Building a Heavenly Perspective. Brother Lawrence, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Francis of Assisi are just a few of the heroes of faith who have spoken of the great privilege of knowing God’s presence throughout our days. And along with all the other saints, they are clear that this experience is not limited just to the holiest of people. With a little practice and perseverance, everyone can learn to experience heaven in their earthly lives.
The joy and confidence of heaven aren’t limited to times of peace and prosperity. In fact, they are all the more important in times of suffering and difficulty. Just as the Book of Revelation depicts the angels and saints worshipping the Lord right throughout the battle with Satan, we too can learn how to maintain an attitude of worship and adoration when we feel embattled. And that attitude will open us up to the healing, encouraging, and strengthening touch of the Holy Spirit. That attitude will bring us into the arms of our Father, where we will receive the wisdom, strength, and consolation that will see us through any storm.
Whether at Mass or in our personal prayer, we can take steps that will help us build a heavenly perspective on our lives-a perspective that is full of hope and confidence. We are beloved children of God, redeemed by his Son! We belong to heaven! So with all the angels and saints, with the cherubim and seraphim, let’s all bow down in worship before the Lamb of God, who has ransomed us from death and brought us into his eternal kingdom!
Copyright Word Among Us Nov 2004
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