What is a Charismatic Prayer Meeting?

A "Charismatic Prayer Meeting" is a weekly gathering of Christians to give praise, thanks, honor, and love to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. In the San Francisco Archdiocese, prayer groups gather each week as a community of believers in the power of prayer. We pray and praise God on a one-to-one basis, as the Holy Spirit moves us.

A prayer meeting is also a time to pray for the needs of others – Intercessory Prayer. Biblical examples abound: Job for his children (Job 1:5), Abraham for his nephew (Gen 18), Moses for Israel (Exodus 32), Daniel for the remnant (Daniel 9), Ester for the Jews (Ester 4-5), Jesus for Peter (Luke 22:31-32), and Paul for his kinsmen (Rom 9:1-5).

If you have a need, the prayer groups of the Archdiocese will join you in praying for it. Send us your prayer request.


What is the Purpose of a Prayer Group Meeting?

A prayer meeting is not a discussion club, a therapy session, or a time for counseling. It is a time to give our full attention to Jesus – through the help of the Holy Spirit. St. John Damascene stated, "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God." But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or out of the depths of a humble and contrite heart? The Catechism teaches, "He who humbles himself will be exalted, humility is the foundation of prayer." (Catechism of the Catholic Church section 2559)

St. Paul reminds us, "Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes. 5:20).


What happens at a Prayer Group Meeting?

Each prayer group is uniquely different because the group reflects the personalities and gifts of those who attend. However, there are some common happenings. Since Mary is the Patroness of the Renewal, many groups start by praying the Rosary. Some start with gathering songs, followed by an opening prayer, a time of praise and worship, and a reading from Scripture. There also can be testimony (How God is working in someone's life), prophecy (God inspiring someone to speak), and ministering of the Gifts of the Spirit by praying over one another.

There also may be prayer in tongues (See 1 Cor. 12:7-10), or prophecy of tongues-prophetic utterances. "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances." (I Thes. 5:19-20)


How Long do Prayer Meetings Last?

Most usually last a minimum of 1½ hours.


Do I have to raise my hands to Pray if I attended a Prayer Meeting?

No. While hands raised in prayer is not unusual, you should pray as you feel comfortable, remembering to respect others as they pray in the way they feel comfortable. Outward manifestations of prayer are not important. St. Therese of Lisieux summed prayer up for her by saying: "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy."


Do I have to say: "Praise the Lord, Alleluia, or Amen?"

No, you do not have to say or do anything. Whether prayer is expressed in words or gestures, it is the whole person who prays. Scripture speaks sometimes of the soul or the spirit, but most often of the heart (more than a thousand times). According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church section 2562)


Is a Prayer Group a Parish Organization?

No. It is a small faith-sharing community. It is unlike Parish organizations such as the YMI, Knights of Columbus, or Ladies Guild, because its primary mission is to develop a personal conversion to Jesus Christ through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for those who belong to the group. It is parish based and under the direction of the pastor.

Prayer Groups that are members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of the Archdiocese of San Francisco are under the direction of the Archbishop's Liaison, and a Board of Governors appointed by the Archbishop. The Liaison directs the spiritual growth of these small faith-sharing communities through monthly First Friday Masses, seminars of spiritual enlightenment, conferences, and retreats.


What are the Spiritual Gifts?

Beside the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Piety, Fortitude, and Fear of the Lord, Charismatics strive for the spiritual gifts of tongues and prophesy so that the church may be built up. (See 1 Cor. 14:1-5)


Is "Baptism in the Spirit" a New Sacrament?

No. It is the RELEASE of the POWER of the Holy Spirit already within us which we received at our Baptism and Confirmation. Baptism in the Spirit helps us to develop the gifts of the Holy Spirit and live the Christian life. It helps us to experience a new ability to appreciate Jesus, the Bible, our daily prayer life, and our faith through this living experience.

The United States Conference of Bishops explained it this way in their recent document (March 1997), Grace for the New Springtime:

"In the Sacraments of Initiation we experience the action of the Triune God. As regards the Third Person of the Trinity, in Baptism we become temples of the Holy Spirit; in Eucharist we share in the Body and Blood of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit; in Confirmation we are empowered with the gifts and charisms of the Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. "In this statement, we want not only to affirm the good fruit of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal but also the grace which is at the heart of this Renewal, namely, baptism in the Holy Spirit, or the fuller release of the Holy Spirit, as some would prefer.

"As experienced in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, baptism in the Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ known and loved as Lord and Savior, establishes or reestablishes an immediacy of relationship with all those persons of the Trinity, and through inner transformation affects the whole of the Christian's life...

"Because of this, it is our conviction that Baptism in the Holy Spirit, understood as the reawakening in Christian experience of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit given in Christian initiation, and manifested in a broad range of charisms, including those closely associated with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is part of the normal Christian life."


Do I have to talk about myself or speak at a Prayer Meeting?

No. Most people do not. You don't have to give a testimony. Simply come to experience the life and love of Jesus working in the people present at the meeting. Come to listen, praise, and learn how prayer to God the Holy Spirit can change your life.


What is a "Testimony"?

A testimony is also called "faith sharing" which is the recounting of how the Lord is working in someone's life. It is always a first-hand experience, not another person's story. If the testimony is led by the Spirit, the result will be that the center of the testimony is the honor and glory of Jesus, not the person sharing.


Can I Grow Spiritually in the Charismatic Renewal?

Yes! We have been encouraged by the leadership of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Pope Benedict, the Catholic Bishops of the United States, Canada, and many in South American and European countries, who have written pastoral statements supporting and encouraging the renewal.

The Bishops of the United States, in their 1984 pastoral letter to the American Church, wrote: "We assure those in the Charismatic Renewal of the support they enjoy from the bishops of the United States, and we encourage them in their efforts to renew the life of the Church."

The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops stated, "We believe the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is particularly called and gifted by God to be with the Church as it prepares for the Great Jubilee and for the challenges it faces as we enter the new millennium." (Grace for the New Springtime, March 1997)