Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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GU’s vice president for mission publishes prayer guide
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff
(From the Oct. 23, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
Jesuit Father William Watson’s Inviting God into Your Life has been published by Paulist Press. (IR photo from Gonzaga University)
For its slim size, Jesuit Father William Watson’s book on prayer packs a wealth of powerful information.
The book, Father Watson’s first, is titled Inviting God into Your Life, A Practical Guide for Prayer. Father Watson, a native of Spokane, has distilled 20 years’ experience of giving retreats and spiritual direction into concrete and practical ways to help people pray.
“I hope to help people move from having ideas about God to having a relationship with God,” he said.
Father Watson spent more than a dozen years working in and directing the retreat program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., before coming to Gonzaga University.
He states the book’s premise very simply in the foreward: “We are to live in God’s love.” The reason most Christians do not have peace and joy, he writes, is because “they have a weak spiritual life.”
Following Father Watson’s book would change that. Its 108 pages are divided into three parts, all filled with clearly written guidance and easily carried out suggestions.
In the first part, Father Watson talks about ways to pray and the ramifications of prayer. In the second part, he offers ideas to pray always, and in the third part are some prayers, reflections and inspirations to get readers started.
“People can make a retreat,” he said, “or read other people’s spiritual writings. But it doesn’t always carry over into their daily lives.”
Father Watson includes a section on the power of evil. It’s in part one where he explains the actions of “the evil spirit” or “the tempter.” When daily life lacks a prayer foundation, there can be harm, but it may not be noticeable. The tempter wants to lead God’s people, not so much into “horribly evil deeds,” but to inaction.
“His purpose is to separate humans from God,” Father Watson explained, “and to dull our senses.” One sign of that is boredom. He quoted Scripture as a reminder that life as a Christian is not boring: “Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the fullest.”
Father Watson also gives a thorough explanation of how to distinguish between the inner voices that lead humans to action. One voice is ours, he said; one is the tempter’s; one is God’s. Trying to tell which is which can be hard amid the noise and bustle of busy lives.
In order to hear, people need to pray, in whatever way they may choose. “The form is not so important,” he said, “as spending time with God.” In spending time with God, “we come to know his voice.” When his voice is the one humans follow, their lives are filled with peace.
How does Father Watson pray? “I spend time in prayer at the beginning of my day, in the middle and again at the end,” he said. Plus he offers Mass each day. He calls Eucharist “God’s gift of agape love,” the greatest gift of love that Catholics can have and one that is frequently not even opened, he said. One of his suggestions to boost one’s spiritual life is to attend Mass at least once during the week.
Father Watson already has his second book planned, on the Sacrament of Reconcilation. He calls the sacrament “the most under-utilized and most helpful for healing and forgiveness.” Two other books are also in the making.
He is currently vice president for mission at Gonzaga University and is also part of a program that is connecting the Jesuit community in Columbia, South America, with the Jesuits of the Oregon Province (which includes Washington).
There are many books on prayer, probably one for every human on the planet. But for those whose prayer life seems stalled, at a dead end or even non-existent, Father Watson’s slim volume will prove to be a treasure.
(Inviting God into Your Life, A Practical Guide for Prayer is published in softcover at $9.95 by Paulist Press, New York/Mahwah, N.J.)
‘Primer on prayer’ begins Oct. 27
Jesuit Father Bill Watson will lead a four-part series based on his book at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes, 1115 W. Riverside in Spokane, starting Monday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. The series is titled “Primer on Prayer.” Registration fee is $35 per person or $60 per couple. Each person who registers will receive a copy of his book, Inviting God into Your Life, A Practical Guide for Prayer. For more information, call the cathedral: (509) 358-4290.