This spirituality is grounded in personal prayer. Personal prayer, not just when things are not going our way, but when they are going our way, has to be a lifestyle if we ever hope to find out the purpose and the meaning of our lives in relationship to God. Without personal prayer, you cannot be an integrated Christian and without personal prayer, you cannot have an integrated family.
Many years ago I did a television show in Lourdes, France. There you see the value of personal prayer more than you will ever see in any other place. Over five million people go there each year. They are the blind, the lame, the paralyzed and the crippled in such a way that you cannot imagine. They would like to be healed and made whole. But since the first manifestation of Lourdes in 1863 only sixty eight miracles have actually taken place. What these pilgrims go there for is to ask God, through their prayers, to help them change their attitude about the problems they have. They ask God to give them acceptance of the problem; they ask God to help better their personal situations and their family situations at home.
We, as Christians, have grown up hearing the expression more things are brought about through prayer than this world dreams of. That is true. St. Paul constantly reminded us, as did Christ, the value of praying constantly so that we would receive the insights, through prayer, to cope with the problems of everyday living.
Knowing that five million people go to Lourdes every year with monumental problems and asking God to help them with their problems, I ask you to reflect on the problems that many families in our society have that can only be helped by your personal prayer offered for their needs. I am asking you to develop a prayer life, not just for your own families, but for the other families throughout the world. Because family life has a lot of problems, it is only through the power of prayer that we are going to get some solutions.
Listen to some of the problems that must be solved, not only for the sake of the family that has these problems, but so that these same problems are not passed on from one generation to the next. In the counseling of families, where you might have an alcoholic father, the impact on the family is often tragic. Whenever you have a father who is an alcoholic and in that same family there is a daughter, fifty percent of those daughters from that kind of environment marry an individual who has the same alcoholic problem. That problem, instead of being solved, is worsened and handed down from one generation to the next.
One of the fastest growing organizations in our society is what is called COA - children who have come from an alcoholic family background. They try to avoid it, but fall into the same trap of continuing the problem of alcoholism in their homes. We know statistically that each alcoholic on an average affects seven people in or near home and generally up to twenty people outside their home. When you recognize that we have fifteen to twenty million people with this problem and consider the impact on their family, you can see how this one problem of alcoholism in our family situation is quite serious.
Another problem that demands your prayer is the horrendous problem of disregard for life. It is hard to believe that some thirty four million women have been victims of sexual abuse just in the United States. It is hard to believe that the child abuse problem is growing in multiple figures in a society that has given so much. There is an incongruity in all this violence that is growing, and only through a personal and family spirituality can we ever hope to get some insights to help us solve the problems. If we really believe that more things are brought about through prayer, then we have to realize that the problems of our families must be addressed through prayers from people like yourself. I am often amazed, when you look at the increase in violence, the disregard for human life, child abuse, wife abuse, human life abuse that has increased in the last twenty years, I wonder if there is a correlation between the bill passed in the United States Congress on January 22, 1973 that caused the twenty million abortions in our country. I often wonder if there is any correlation between that law that legalized the murder of holy innocents and the violence that has grown in our society.
A family that lacks spirituality will crumble and a country that lacks spirituality will deteriorate. The high cost of living, fear of recession, the problems of every day life, these are all personal to us, but our society has greater problems and only through your forgetting your own and praying for others will some of them be solved. If you read the spiritual journey of Dag Hammerskjold, the writings of the Koran, the teachings of Jesus Christ, the theme of personal prayer is constantly emphasized, not just for salvation, but for survival. T.S. Elliot once said, "a country that lacks spirituality is a country filled with hollow men with heads of straw."
Your human personality, your family personality has to be spirituality linked with the personality of God. Without a prayer life there will never be a family life of great value. This will hurt us and our world and prevent all of us from giving honor and glory to God.
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