“Praying Like You Mean It!”
By Fr. Richard Heilman, Roman Catholic Man:
Whenever I am offering spiritual direction, and the directee laments about a situation, wondering why God has not answered their prayer … I always ask, “How are you praying?” Nine times out of ten the answer comes back with something that sounds like, “I don’t know … I guess I add a petition to my rosary or something.” It is then that I speak to them about “Praying like you mean it!”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote,
“Timid prayer does not pierce heaven, because immoderate fear binds the soul so that prayer, far from flying upward, can not even come out. Being lukewarm, it grows weak in its flight and falls because it has no strength. Prayer that is faithful, humble, and fervent will undoubtedly pierce heaven and it will certainly not return fruitless.”
I have witnessed countless miracles. In each case, we offered “intense prayer campaigns” … we were “begging God.” St. Bernard is correct, as we offered faithful, humble and *fervent* prayer that sought to pierce heaven. This was much more than *just* adding a petition here or there.
Here are some of the more notable miracles we’ve witnessed …
My uncle, a priest, was confirmed by two experts, that he was brain dead. After praying for him in the Holy Land, and bringing him a stone from the Pool of Bethesda, he completely recovered.
I prayed in the Holy Land for another woman who was filled with cancer, and brought her a stone too. She completely recovered.
My brother-in-law’s nephew was filled with cancer, and several of us prayed with the intercession of Padre Pio (we actually added oil blessed with intercession of Padre Pio), and he completely recovered.
My nephew was moments away from dying from pneumonia and excessive internal bleeding. We asked tens of thousands on social media to pray with the intercession of Pope Pius XII. He miraculously recovered.
A friend’s dad suffered a nine centimeter ruptured aneurysm (I’m told there is no record of anyone surviving one this size). We asked for prayer just as we did with my nephew. He miraculously recovered.
In Madison, WI, UW Clinics were threatening to implement late term abortions. We got over 200 people to pray the Stations of the Cross in front of the clinic, and ten days later they announced they are withdrawing there plans to go forward with this.
Religious freedom was suddenly under great attack, notably with the Hobby Lobby case. We got 100s of people to pray every Thursday evening in the Summer in front of the State Capitol for two years. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby.
Tens of thousands joined together with the Novena for Our Nation in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election. The freight train of secular hedonism was stopped in its tracks.
And, here is the story of what happened just on the Western edge of Madison, WI, in the tiny town of Pine Bluff …
PINE BLUFF VS. PORNOGRAPHY
“As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage” (Exodus 17:11).
In the summer of 2004, I was assigned as pastor of two parishes, one of which was St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, a Catholic parish in a small unincorporated town in southern Wisconsin, just west from Madison. The little town of Pine Bluff has one church, two bars, and a handful of homes. It is surrounded by fields and idyllic rolling hills and countryside. It’s the kind of town where people dream of raising their kids.
So it was that just months after I arrived in Pine Bluff, one of the bar owners decided to rent out his cozy establishment to a strip club owner. Neighbors were appalled, and the little town was stunned. But there was not much, it seemed, that anyone could do.
The folks in Pine Bluff, however, didn’t yet understand my resolve and my absolute trust in God’s miracle power. Lying in bed one night, I found myself in my prayer … “What in the world did you have in mind, God, by allowing this strip club across the street of my new parish?” Then one word came to me, “Mile.” It was then that I envisioned the trek from the front of our church to the end of the block, then back to the church and concluding in the cemetery behind our church. Then two words came to me, “Miracle Mile.”
These words and that image came so strong that I got out of bed at 3:00 AM in the morning and put on my sweat suit and went out in my car. I reset the odometer down to zero, and drove the path I envisioned in mind. When I reached the end of that path (up in the cemetery), the odometer rolled to exactly one mile. I knew then that God was speaking to me.
That following week, I gathered together some of the faith-filled people I had met since my arrival, and we began to make plans. Surprisingly, they did not think I had lost my rocker when I told them about my 3:00 AM drive through Pine Bluff. They, too, believed there was something to this.
We discerned that we were called to pray the Stations of the Cross along that one mile route. Some people designed little 3 foot high crosses, and we placed a roman numeral on each one, signifying each of the 14 Stations. All the neighbors allowed us to plant these crosses in their yards, near to the sidewalk. We then chose Palm Sunday to hold this Stations of the Cross. We asked people to come, and over 200 people joined us.
Participants carried their prayer sheets and a white ribbon (a symbol of purity and anti-pornography). The twelfth station found them at the entrance to the beautiful parish cemetery on a bluff with a life-size crucifix of our Lord and a one-hundred-year-old stone kneeler in front (pictured here). The participants tied their white ribbons to this kneeler as a prayer form, much like lighting a vigil candle in church.
After that first prayer walk, a container holding prayer sheets and ribbons was placed at the first station on the walk. All were invited to come, pick up a prayer sheet and white ribbon, and pray at anytime of the day or night, as they wished. Over the next seven months, prayer warriors walked the path and prayed the Stations. The white crosses on residents’ lawns served as a very tangible reminder to pray the Stations and to pray for God’s mercy.
Father Does the “Moses Thing”
While I walked and prayed that mile many times, my primary way of praying during those days of intense spiritual warfare was to wake up before dawn every morning and drive up to Blue Mounds State Park (When one looks west at my church, from a distance, they can see Blue Mounds in the background … it looks like a mighty mountain). On top of Blue Mounds (Blue? Mary’s color? 😉 ) is a lookout tower (Fire tower?). It was 64 steps to rise to the top. I brought my Bernese Mountain dog, Angel, and I would leash her to the bottom of the tower while I ascended to the top. On top, I would look east and see much of Madison from the high point. And, of course, I was looking out over my entire two parishes. I made sure I was there before the sun would rise, so I was praying as the sun rose. At some point, I found a straight branch that I used, much like Moses’ staff, to hold up and pray … recalling the scripture passage when Moses prayed this way … “As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage” (Exodus 17:11). After I had prayed on the tower, Angel and I would walk the paths on Blue Mounds as I prayed various prayers, such as the rosary. I only missed four days on top of Blue Mounds from April through October of that year.
Victory!! Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!!
The miracle mile was, indeed, miraculous. Even though many say that the porn industry is more protected (under First Amendment rights) than are the babies in our mothers’ wombs, within seven months the strip club was chased out of town. Little Pine Bluff was overjoyed, and a victory was won for Our Lord. We estimated that over 700 ribbons were tied to that 100 year old kneeler, represented 700 miles walked in prayer.