‘When Pentecost day came round, they has all me together… and were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues’ (Acts of the Apostles 2: v 1-4)
‘All who are guided by the Spirit of God are sons of and daughters of God, for you received the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out “Abba, Father!”… The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness, for when we do not know how to pray properly, the Spirit makes our petitions for us in groans that cannot be put into words.’ (Romans 8: v14-16 & 26)
In preparation for the Second Vatican Council, Pope St John XXXIII called upon us all to pray to the Holy Spirit, that Spirit might ‘renew the Church with signs and wonders as like a New Pentecost’. That great Council of the Church re-affirmed the charismatic character of the Church and the many charisms and ministries of lay people flowing from the Spirit’s gift in Baptism and Confirmation.
Shortly after the Council ended in 1965 a group of professors and students at a Catholic University in USA experienced a rich outpouring of the Holy Spirit accompanied by spontaneous joyful praise, the gifts of tongues, prophecy and healing, and a deep love for the Word of God and desire to witness to Jesus. For them it was a life-transforming experience, literally a ‘being born again’. Remarkably quickly, like fire spreading through the brush, other groups caught this ‘fire of the Holy Spirit’ and formed small communities of spontaneous prayer, open in a new way to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. An international movement was born in the Catholic Church that we know as the Charismatic Renewal.
So what is ‘Charismatic prayer’? All real prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Just as the Holy Spirit is the eternal dialogue of love and life flowing between the Father and Son in the Trinity, so our prayer is in reality a sharing in that same eternal dialogue: for we are reborn as sons and daughters of our Father, co-heirs with Christ and filled with the same Holy Spirit as filled Jesus at the Jordan river. Our prayer is the breathing of the Spirit deep within us. Whether our prayer is in words uttered, tears shed, or the silence of contemplation, it is by nature charismatic for it is the Spirit of God praying within us who are Temples of the Holy Spirit.
What we call Charismatic Prayer (as experienced by Prayer groups and individuals who have experienced the so-called ‘Release of the Holy Spirit’) is the re-emergence of ways of prayer familiar for many centuries in the life of Church, but seems to have got lost in the excessive formalism of prayer and worship in more recent centuries. Its re-emergence today is part of the renewal of the Church in our present age. Charismatic prayer is characterised by an ease and a joy in spontaneous prayer, coming together in groups to pray and sing with another, an emphasis on the prayer of praise (rather than solely intercession), an openness to charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing, inspired teaching, prophecy, discernment, the prayer of tongues etc.
For many people this ‘experience’ of the Holy Spirit with its new-found gifts of prayer, praise and ministries, comes after participating in ‘Life in the Spirit Seminars’ during
which individuals have an opportunity to be ‘prayed over’ (with the ‘laying-on-hands’) in small groups for a fresh out-pouring of the Holy Spirit in their lives. For some their lives are changed dramatically, for most there is a gradual change that leads to deeper intimacy with God, a thirst for prayer and the Word of God, a hunger for the Sacraments, a desire to pray with others, to witness to their faith (or give testimony) more publicly and a willingness to be more involved in the life and ministry of their parish communities. They experience ‘coming alive in Christ’.
This form of prayer also helps us to heal some of the divisions that have afflicted the Body of Christ over the centuries. We can enter more easily into prayerful fellowship with our Evangelical and Pentecostal brothers and sisters and find new ways of witnessing together to the Gospel of Christ before our world. The Charismatic Renewal has given new impetus and heart to the Ecumenical movement.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? There are a number of prayer groups meeting around the diocese and a few parishes who sponsor from time to time the 6 week course known as ‘Life in the Spirit Seminars’. In addition the Charismatic Renewal Movement both nationally and in our diocese holds ‘Days of Renewal’ and ‘Celebrate’ Conferences. If you wish to make contact with a prayer group or to know more about these events then please contact:
Clifton Committee for Charismatic Renewal (email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Celebrate Bristol (email: email@example.com )