The Advocate in Our Prayers
The Gift of My Church (#TGOMC) is a series featuring how Catholics from different walks of life have been touched by God through their service or participation in the life of the Archdiocese of Singapore. In this issue, Leroy Rafael Goh, a member of an intercessory prayer ministry, shares with writer Darren Tan how he has witnessed the Holy Spirit empower individuals and the Church.
“Everyone struggles, or has once struggled, with the thought that maybe God does not care. But when we pray, take heart that change does takes place. Whatever situation we are in or challenge we hope to overcome might not necessarily be different. But it becomes new again, because we are made new,” said Leroy Rafael Goh.
For him, prayer is an act of bringing oneself back to “your relationship with God”. By doing so frequently, Leroy explains, “we are more familiar with how God talks to us and we tend to be able to move easier with Him.”
This confidence in the power of prayer exudes naturally from the 27-year-old’s experience as a member of an intercessory prayer ministry. There, Leroy and his fellow ministry members pray regularly on behalf of others, employing charismatic forms of prayer that typically emphasises a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
With the recent celebration of Pentecost and commemoration of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal’s 50th anniversary in the Universal Church, it seems quite an opportune time to take a peek into a local Catholic’s own experience of the Holy Spirit in his charismatic ministry.
Praying for Others
Supported by the Singapore Archdiocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal (SACCRE), Leroy and his fellow ministry members meet weekly to share a time of praise and worship, bible sharing, and intercessory prayer. But during certain periods, depending on who has approached them, meetings get much more frequent.
With the Charismatic Renewal often referred to as a “special gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church in our time” (St John Paul II, 2002), it comes with little surprise that the ministry’s charismatic nature is the reason why they are commonly requested to help pray for youths attending retreats in preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Just last year, they were involved in three different retreats over one weekend.
“For many people, it is during retreats when we can enter into a space where God can come to us, that we really experience how real He is. I think God wants that for all of us. And I think this is our role as intercessors, when we entrust someone into God’s loving care in our prayers for them, the presence of God is amplified in their lives in that moment,” Leroy said.
During intercessory prayer, Leroy and his ministry members often depend on gifts of the Holy Spirit to aid them. He explains that some common expressions of these gifts include speaking in tongues and receiving messages during prayer.
While he understands why some are uncomfortable when they encounter charismatic prayer for the first time, Leroy reaffirmed that such extraordinary gifts, or charismata (Greek word for ‘gifts’), are “God’s gift to us to minister to our friends”.
He pointed out that the Bible is full of instances where God works miracles through His disciples. For instance, when the Apostles spoke in different tongues, when they could heal the sick as Jesus did, and even in the Old Testament, when Daniel could interpret dreams.
For Leroy personally, he shared that there were many times where a thought had popped into his head that he felt was God’s message for the participants of a particular retreat he was praying for. More often than not, his fellow ministry members had received the same message as well despite being in their own silent prayer.
“When someone else is able to reaffirm these messages we get during prayer, everyone in the room shares a deeper sense that God is truly present and working here,” Leroy shared.
Understanding the Gifts
It was through his experience in the ministry, coupled with support from SACCRE, that Leroy deepened his understanding of charismatic gifts and the theology behind them.
Between December 2015 and December 2016, Leroy attended the School of Healing Prayer, a formation programme offered by SACCRE annually for those active in prayer ministries.
“The programme covered everything, from the history of the Church and how the Charismatic Renewal came about, to practical tips for praying for others, and the different forms of prayer,” Leroy said.
Interestingly enough, it was learning about the history of the Church that made the biggest impression on him.
“The programme has helped me appreciate even more deeply what a privilege it is to be a Catholic at this point in time. In the past, praying for others was considered a privilege reserved only for royalty or those ‘anointed by God’. Today, we go back to the days of the Apostles, where we recognise that every lay person is anointed and given the authority to pray for others.”
As 2017 continues to roll on, Leroy hopes that the recent commemoration of the charismatic renewal in the Church would remind all Catholics that, “God isn’t someone we hear about only on Sundays, or when we were younger or some story our parents told us. When we allow the Spirit to work in us, we become part of this history, part of this movement, part of the bigger picture. We are part of it all!”