Designing a Christ Centered Biblical Prayer © 2005
If nothing else, please consider reading the section
The purpose of this article is to show how Christ centered and Biblical the Hail Mary is. Anyone presenting the Power Point program above is welcome to use these notes. I suggest that these notes not be read out loud to others, but rather studied so that the presenter can give a more lively presentation from the heart.
This Power Point presentation contains my thoughts on designing a Christ centered Biblical prayer. Of course there are many such prayers and the following one is just one example, but it is one of my favorite prayers and I hope you will like it too.
It is good to reflect on how in the beginning there was only God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There never was time or even a moment when there was not the Son, or the Holy Spirit. With the Father they are all Co-Eternal. Since there are three Persons in the Trinity it is most appropriate that this prayer will also have three parts.
Acts 4:12 says the following about the Name of Jesus Christ: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” And so the Holy Name of Jesus will be the center part of this prayer.
Savior Promised in Genesis 3:15
So, one section of the prayer will focus on the promise that God made to send a Savior to redeem the world. This promise is found in Genesis 3:15.
Battle of all Battles
Here the presenter is invited to allude to a battle in a contemporary book or movie to elicit the interest and enthusiasm of the students so that they might make a connection with the interests in their own life. Theology for some may seem to other worldly and uninteresting. The Lord of the Rings discourse below is offered as a suggestion.
For example, Israel’s battles against the Moabites, Ammonites, Canaanites, and Edomites represented the spiritual battles that we must fight interiorly. These Kingdoms represented the sins of their forefathers whom they are named after, namely incest, homosexual activity, and ingratitude and disregard for spiritual blessings. Cf. Genesis chapters 9, 10, 19, 25, and 36,
In Genesis chapter 3 we see the allusion to an even greater
battle, truly the Battle of All Battles, the battle
between Satan and God, the consummate battle between good and evil. We will go more
into that later on in the presentation.
God humbled Himself and took on the nature of man to come save us. Our Savior Jesus is the God-Man. And humility is the key to our path to God. Satan, on the other hand, sinned in his pride because he would not serve God. Because of his false pride in how great he was made by God he would not humble himself to worship the Incarnate Son. Jesus took on a form of life lower than the angles, of which Satan was mightily made. Satan fell because of his pride. So, this section of my prayer will emphasize the virtue of humility, the key to other virtues.
Augustine once said that humility is the mother of all virtues. That’s true because all other virtues flow from a heart of humility.
First, humility is the essence of the life of Christ. Jesus was, is, and always will be God. Yet, He “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8
Hope of Heaven
Our Savior came not only to restore what Adam and Eve lost in the Garden of Eden, but to bring us into His family as adopted sons and daughters of God so that we might attain the beatific vision of being united with God in heaven. So, this section of the prayer will also contain an emphasis on the hope of going to heaven, our everlasting home. In summary this section will contain reminders of the following:
The Savior Comes
Now, the first section will focus on the coming of our Savior who came to save us from sin. This is recorded in Luke’s Gospel chapter one. It will include passages from the Bible that will call to mind the turning point in all of history … that date from which all the years are numbered [BC and AD] … that day that Christ came into the world 2000 years ago at the Annunciation.
Also, please consider reading my article where I attempt to explain why this is so important.
Why Do We Call Spring ‘Spring’ ?
The Father’s Message
Here we are told about an Angel named Gabriel. The
word angel actually means messenger, but Gabriel is not just any angel or
messenger. He is a heavenly angel. Therefore, the message he brings is not
his own words. Gabriel would certainly not be worthy of the title Angel if
he corrupted, or changed, or in any way added to or subtracted from the
message. Since Gabriel is from heaven we can trust that the message he
gives is not his own words, but rather only the words of our heavenly
Father. In Luke 1:28 we hear this message sent from heaven. So the word’s
of our Father in heaven in Luke 1:28 which announces the Good News, the
coming of our Savior, will be the beginning of our prayer.
Elizabeth Encounters Jesus
And this Good News was meant to be brought to the whole world. In fact, we all need Jesus to come into our hearts. This chapter of Luke’s Gospel also tells us of a very holy woman named Elizabeth. Cf. Luke 1:6. We are also given her response when Jesus is brought into her presence when she was filled with the Holy Spirit. So, I think it will be most appropriate to follow our Father’s message given by the Angel Gabriel with Elizabeth’s joyful exclamation.
So, the first half
of our prayer is two quotations from the Bible.
After this first section we will say the Holy Name of Jesus around which the other two parts of the prayer will pivot.
The God-Man and the Anti-Christ
Now we focus more deeply on the original section when the Savior was promised. There are many beautiful truths that will be included in this section. Our Savior was promised in Genesis 3:15, but this verse also foretells of a certain battle mentioned earlier between Satan and our Savior.
Jesus is the Christ which means the Anointed One. He came as the God-Man to redeem all mankind and to establish the New Covenant by which we can be saved. The Second Person of the Trinity shed His most precious blood for the redemption of our sins.
It is precisely because He is both God and Man that His sacrifice won for us both forgiveness for our sins and the grace to be adopted into God’s family so that we might attain the beatific vision of being with God in heaven. Because He is the God-Man his Sacrifice has infinite value. However, we also read about the Anti-Christ. Satan works through the antichrist in an attempt to confuse many about who Jesus Christ really is.
2 John 7
So, we see this great battle taking shape between Satan and Jesus. Satan knows that he cannot destroy God. Besides that would be self defeating for Satan, because Satan is entirely dependant on God for his existence. Satan continues to exist because God wills it to be so. If God stopped doing that Satan would return to that which he was before God created him, that is nothing. So Satan cannot attack God directly, but he can attack God’s plan for our salvation.
Heresies and Heretics in the early Church
Scripture tells us that the antichrist will attempt to confuse people about who Jesus is. He is truly God who came in the flesh and took on a human nature when He became Man. - He is One Person, One Divine Being, who has two natures, human and Divine, that are united together in the Hypostatic Union.
In confronting the errors of the antichrist the early Church had to contend with and refute several early heresies. Some denied that Jesus was truly God. They claimed that He was created, or that He was a man who “became a God,” etc. For example, see Gnosticism, Arianism, Adoptionism, and Ebionism.
Other heresies denied that Jesus truly became Man. Some of these heresies denied that He was really tempted. Other heresies denied that He truly suffered and died. For example, see Apollinarianism, and Docetism. And there was one especially dangerous heresy called Nestorianism.
The Nestorian heresy denied that Jesus was one Person, who was both God and Man. Nestorius claimed that the man Jesus Christ was not God. Nestorians believed that Jesus was only the vessel in whom God dwelt. Nestorius taught that the human and divine natures in Jesus were totally separate persons occupying the same body and not united in the same one person of Jesus. For example, Nestorius taught that it was Jesus, the man, who suffered and died on the cross and not Jesus, God.
This heresy was an attack against the very person of
who Jesus is. And it is precisely because Jesus is both God and Man that
His sacrifice has bridged the gap between God and man and won for us the
grace to be forgiven and to be enabled to go to heaven. So, this heresy is
really frontal attack on the mystery by which we are saved.
Although there were numerous attempts to stop this heresy it continued to spread and the Church had to deal with it in a forceful and convincing manner. The Church of course never embraced these errors, but she did have to find ways of clearly stating the truth and sort out heresy from the true orthodox beliefs that were passed down by the Apostles.
So, an Ecumenical Council was convened in 431 AD at Ephesus. To clarify that the one Person Jesus Christ is both truly God and Man the Church declared Mary as “Theotokos” which means the “one who bears or gives birth to God” or to put it simply, Mary is the “Mother of God.” Simply stated this title, Theotokos, means two things; that Mary is Jesus Mother and that Jesus is God. Declaring Mary’s Son as God demonstrated that Jesus is truly Divine, and by pointing out that He took on a Mother when He became incarnate in her womb showed that He, at that point became truly Man, taking on a human nature.
This teaching was not new. It can be found in the writings of St. Ignatius. Ignatius of Antioch was the third bishop of that city. Peter was the first Bishop. Ignatius had heard the preaching of St. John the Apostle. And it was John who at Christ’s command had taken Mary into his care, John 19:26-27. Ignatius was martyred for his faith around 110 AD. Ignatius wrote, “For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God's plan …”
In fact this teaching of Mary being the mother of God can be traced back to Sacred Scripture. Consider Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary when Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and said in Luke 1:43 that Mary is “the mother of my Lord.” And combine that with the Apostle Thomas’s acclamation that Jesus is “My Lord and my God!” in John 20:28. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God.
Of course that does not mean that Mary preceded Jesus in existence. She is not the maternal origin of God. She did not give Him His divinity. Such thoughts would not honor Mary as only the truth does. Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, has always existed from all eternity. He is begotten, not made. Whereas, Mary did not come into existence until about the year 15 or 16 or so BC. At Ephesus the Church was declaring that the Person she conceived, carried in her womb, and gave birth to is clearly one Person who is both Man and God.
So my prayer will show how God defeated the deceptions of the antichrist. God accomplished this through the Church by declaring Mary as Theotokos, the Mother of God, and thereby, defeating those early heresies that denied who Jesus really is. If those heresies had been true they would have undermined the whole theology of our salvation.
The evil of a particular sin is not only measured by the degree of the offense but also by the degree of holiness of the one who has been offended. For example, if a person insults the name of his boss that would be wrong, but if he insults the Holy Name of God that would be an infinitely worse sin because the One who is offended is infinitely more holy. And there is a special name for that type of sin. It is called Blaspheme.
Because God is infinitely holy no mere man could redeem the price of sins committed against God. A mere man cannot give to God anything that God has not already given to him. There is one exception being that he can offer up his sufferings. And even those sufferings only have value to the extent that God unites them to the suffering of His Son and applies to the human being’s sufferings those graces that were won by Jesus Christ.
[ Note that Jesus is a Divine Person. Person is defined as a being, therefore Jesus is a Divine Being. He has both a Divine Nature and a Human Nature. He is One Person who has Two Natures. He is not a Human Being.]
Even if a human being lived a perfect life without sinning and offered that up to God, even that would not be capable of redeeming a single sin against God. Because God is infinite sins against Him are of infinite proportions and they require a redemption that is of infinite value.
It is only because the Person Jesus, who is both God and Man, sacrificed His most precious blood that the gap between God and Man has been bridged. That is why those heresies that denied that the One Person Jesus was (and IS) both truly God and truly Man were so dangerous. They were a denial of this central mystery by which we are saved. Therefore, the declaration that Mary is Theotokos, the Mother of God, which clearly points to Jesus being both God and Man, is a decisive blow against the errors of the Anti-Christ.
As we look at the focal point of this section of the prayer, Genesis 3:15, we see that there is a reference to a woman who is made by God to be at enmity with Satan.
What God does, He does perfectly. So, we know that there will be perfect enmity between these two, Satan and the woman. Enmity – means the complete opposition or hostility that exists between enemies. This reference to the woman cannot apply to Eve since she has just sinned and now is in the domain of Satan. This woman in Genesis 3:15 will never be in the domain of Satan as denoted by the enmity that God places between them. This is a holy woman.
For more on this see
Further, we see in this Biblical reference that she will give birth to the Messiah who will defeat Satan. That Messiah is Jesus. Therefore the woman is a reference to His mother Mary.
Next, I want to remind myself of the humility of Jesus since we must follow Him. The first part of our prayer emphasized the fact that He became Man. His humility is also expressed in the passage in Luke 22:43. This passage reveals, “And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him.”
Here is Jesus, fully God, and capable of all things. And we know all good things come from God. So, we see God enabling and working through an angel, and God (Jesus) humbling himself to accept that help. We see God working through an angel to help God. Of course His whole human life was a witness to this action of humility on His part. At six months old, He did not change His own diaper. (His first miracle was not to happen until Cana.)
Among other things, Jesus was giving us an example to
follow. And so, we are to accept the help that God wants to give to us
through others, just as Jesus accepted the help from the angel. And so, we
accept the help that God wants to give to us through the prayers of others.
God works through them and their prayers. So, we ask Mary, who is closer to
God than anyone else, to pray for us and with us. We humbly admit that we are sinners,
in need of as much of God’s help as we can get.
Directly to God ?
Now, there are some that object and declare that they pray directly to God, meaning that they focus on God alone to the exclusion of everyone else and do not ask for the prayers of those in heaven.
It should go without saying that those in heaven are not dead, but alive in Christ.
These objectors will state that even if a Biblical case can be made to allow a person to ask for the prayers of the Saints in Heaven, why bother when, as they contend, that energy would be better spent on ignoring the Saints and focusing on God Alone. Even if one accepts the biblical principle of asking another to intercede on one’s behalf and even if we accept the analogy of asking our own mother to help us win the favor of our earthly father, why bother when we can go “directly to God” who is more loving and merciful than any human being ? Even if it is acceptable why “waste” the energy on doing what is at most “second best,” they will say.
To be honest is to be humble (especially if you are not God.)
We must ask ourselves, “What can I do in an
absolutely perfect way without the help of God’s grace?”
On my own I cannot perfectly direct my prayer to God. I need God’s help. He gives me some help personally or else I would not even want to pray. And He also desires to help me through others.
We need God’s help in all things. God does not need others, but He freely chooses to work through others to help us. He offers us help through good Bible preachers. He helps us through Bible publishers across town. He helps us through our brothers and sisters and through our friends. The real question is, “How much of God’s help do I really want?” The more of His help that I avail myself of the better I will be able to do that which I do.
God offers me help through the Saints in heaven if only I will humble myself to ask for it. It is a proud and arrogant heart that says “It is just me and God and that is all.” God will hear us to the degree that truth, humility, sincerity and love rule our hearts.
And, if we humble our hearts and seek out the help He wants to give to us through others than He can do more with us because our hearts are more open to His grace. God offers us powerful help through others. If we arrogantly ignore that help then our hearts are already partially closed off to God. If we do not avail ourselves of that help and utilize it, and rather rely solely on our own strength, then our prayers go lest directly, and less perfectly toward God. To ignore what God does through others is in part to ignore God and His glory made manifest through them. Therefore, we go more directly to God when we seek out the help that He offers to us through the Saints in heaven.
We look at how Jesus came to us. He came through Mary. It pleases God when we imitate Him and go to Him through her.
Some people see it as Jesus or Mary, but that is not correct. Mary and all the other Saints in heaven are united to Jesus. Matthew 18:20 states: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
When we go to Mary, Jesus is more present not less present.
It is also worth noting that the only disciple that remained faithful in following Jesus all the way to the cross was the one who was strengthened by walking with Mary. Cf. John 19:26 and 21:20-24
“Mary gave her consent in faith at the Annunciation and maintained it without hesitation at the foot of the Cross. Ever since, her motherhood has extended to the brothers and sisters of her Son ‘who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties.’ Jesus, the only mediator, is the way of our prayer; Mary, his mother and ours, is wholly transparent to him: she ‘shows the way’ …” CCC 2674
Therefore, the most direct pray to Jesus is the way that is most pleasing to Him whereby we humbly seek out all the help that He wishes to give to us through Mary and the other saints. Cf. Matthew 18:20
Hope For Heaven
The most important question for me personally is, where will I spend all eternity come judgment day ? So, next I want to emphasize the hope for heaven so that I will keep my focus during my earthly trials.
I will be made stronger by focusing on heavenly things rather than earthly pleasures. I want to be sure that I remain in the state of sanctifying grace so that on my judgment day I will go to heaven. That is the purpose and goal that God has given to each of our lives whether we realize that or not.
In conclusion, the Hail Mary is truly a Christ centered, Biblical prayer. It begins with the turning point in all of human history when Jesus became Man inside of Mary’s womb. And it brings to mind how the Messiah prophesized in Genesis 3:15 would deal a striking blow to the plans of Satan and the Anti-Christ.
Of course the prayer called the Hail Mary was designed long before I was ever conceived. My attempt here, using the clearer vision of hindsight, is to show how the wisdom of God has been made manifest through His Church. He promised to guide her into the Light. By God’s design the Church has implemented important Scriptural principles into this prayer. The Hail Mary is a beautiful gift from God for our spiritual benefit.
John Paul II explains how the Rosary is truly Christ centered.
As we focus on Jesus and try to imitate Him, He helps us to honor His mother as He did. As we look upon Mary, she draws us closer to our Savior, the One and only Savior, Jesus Christ. Everyone in heaven is perfectly united and conformed to God’s will. Cf. Revelation 21:27. So, Mary’s desire is to help us get closer to Jesus who became her Son 2000 years ago. She has no desire or wish that is contrary to that. And God desires that we love Mary because He is Love. And so He gave her to us as our own heavenly mother.
Revelation 12:1, 2, 5, 17
The Holy Bible contains the following prophesy about
Thanks to Mike Carlock for his invaluable expertise
in helping to design this beautiful Power Point presentation. Mike is also
the designer of the webpage for the Florida Catholic Newspaper.