In The Father Wants to Heal You, Father Nigel Woollen guides us on a personal journey through the Lord’s Prayer to discover the depth and healing power of God’s love for us. On this journey – and from the prayer’s very first word, ‘our’ – we are reminded that we say this prayer together as a community.
Written in an easily accessible and enjoyable format, The Father Wants to Heal You reinforces the significance of the Lord’s Prayer, exploring its connections to the seven sacraments and uncovering the deeper meanings it contains. How many times have you said this prayer quickly without contemplating the beauty within it? You won’t say the Lord’s Prayer in the same way again.
Fr Nigel Woollen, originally from London, was ordained a Catholic priest in Ars, France, at the Shrine of St John Vianney, in 1996. He studied biblical theology in Rome and worked for some years in retreat centres in France and Italy, and at Knock Shrine in Ireland. He is currently assistant priest at Kingsland Parish in London (Westminster diocese). He is the author of “The Lamb Will Conquer: Reflections on the Knock Apparition” (Veritas, 2017) and “Learning to Love: Journeys through Life with the Rosary” (Veritas, 2018).
This is the third book by Father Nigel that I have read, both of the other s I have read more than once, and I know that this is also a book I will return to and read again. My only regret is that currently none of his books are available electronically. I have a few friends with learning disabilities whom I know would love these books and this one in particular. But with the eBook option and using adaptive technologies they will remain out of reach. The description of this volume is:
“This timely book takes us by the hand and invites us on a personal journey through the prayer to discover the depth and healing power of God’s love for us, while at the same time reminding us through the first word Our that we pray it together as a community. Written in an easily accessible and enjoyable format, deeper meanings are uncovered and discussed with ease, reinforcing the importance of the Lord’s Prayer. How many times have you said this prayer quickly without contemplating the beauty within it? You won’t say the Lord’s Prayer in the same way again.”
And the chapters are:
Preface: Miracle Prayer 1. We are Family: Our Father, who art in Heaven 2. Our Real Identity: Hallowed be thy Name 3. To Serve is to Reign: Thy Kingdom Come 4. From Prodigal to Redeemed: Thy Will be Done, on Earth as it is in Heaven 5. You Are What You Eat: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread 6. Your Sins are Forgiven: And Forgive us our Trespasses, as we Forgive those who Trespass Against us 7. Going into Battle: And Lead us Not into Temptation, but Deliver us from Evil Postscript: In the Heart of the Father Appendix: The Lord’s Prayer and the Sacraments
This book was very hard to put down. I read it through the first time over a period of three days. I know I will be returning to it this year during lent. This is an excellent volume to read at any time of the year, but I think reading a chapter a week over lent, or a chapter a day during Holy Week could have added benefits. I appreciated the postscript and appendix ad much as the main text. So, if you do pick up the book, read it all the way through to the end. I highlighted many passages while reading this book some of them are:
“Those words were written by Saint Peter Chrysologus in the early fifth century; he was renowned for his short but inspired sermons. So many people have an inbuilt tendency to discouragement, leading to low self-esteem and even depression: we can be bound, rendered helpless by negative thought patterns which seem to proceed in a downward spiral. We often need help to discover our true worth. How can we break this cycle of negativity to find how truly precious we are?”
“Everybody’s looking for something, the saying goes; we could go further and state that everyone is looking for the ultimate miracle prayer, the prayer that’s always answered. There are no atheists in foxholes, they used to say in wartime; we might add, there are no atheists in times of stress, whether experiencing an earthquake or watching a penalty shoot-out: everyone prays to their god... If only there was a prayer that was all-powerful, able to transform the world and work miracles. In the Gospel, we find what Jesus says about prayer: “In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do... your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven...’ ” (Matthew 6:7-9).”
“When we pray in the words Jesus gave us, we become, in a sense, what we already are, children of God; the Father sees his Son Jesus in us, and wants to give us everything we need in order to find happiness and salvation. All we have to do, then, is to believe we're loved infinitely, to come to God with confidence and to trust we’ll receive everything we ask for, if only we ask with faith.”
“But there’s a problem: the very word father can have so many connotations, often negative ones, resulting from hurt and anger with regard to parents, father-figures and those in authority. This isn't God’s fault, but we project onto him our unhappy affective experiences from the past and we hit a brick wall. There’s a massive need in our society for healing with regard to parent figures.”
“There are various books on healing parental wounds, written by people more qualified than me on the subject. This book is simply a kind of personal retreat based on the Lord’s Prayer from the point of view of healing, since we know it contains all we need to live to the full the kind of life God wants us to live.”
“We will also explore how the seven Sacraments seem to correspond to the seven clauses of the Our Father (as divided up here), thus strengthening our understanding of the healing power of God’s love.”
“The God who loves bestowing gifts on his children constantly wants to render us able to receive his ultimate Gift: the Holy Spirit who prays in us, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:14). If we could only be like small children, calling on Abba with total confidence, we would truly begin to live a new life.”
“Heaven-the goal which is the ultimate gift-must be an important word for Jesus, since it’s one of the few keys words that appears twice in the Lord’s Prayer. Saint John XXIII recommended we should think every day about the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.”
“Starting out on our journey towards healing from anxiety, the following practical steps may help: count our blessings, and include all that God spares us from. Think of serene people we know. Call on the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints, who didn’t have worry-free lives!”
“Take off your shoes: this action-repeated even today in many churches and other places of worship-shows respect for God’s presence, reminding us that we are on holy ground. We could also say that removing our footwear is part of letting go of our own will and desire for control; we are thus rendered more vulnerable and a little poorer. Many pilgrimage sites incorporate a space where pilgrims traditionally walk barefoot (one recalls Fátima, Croagh Patrick in Ireland, the Slipper Chapel in Walsingham and various other shrines) as a penitential gesture, not so much seeking suffering for its own sake as striving to go out of our comfort zone to meet the Lord.”
“Names are important. Each of us has a given (or “Christian”) name-which usually we didn’t choose-which implies that each of us has a unique identity whose depths are known only to God. When we take off our shoes (metaphorically speaking) we not only grow in an awareness of the divine in our midst, we also hopefully become more receptive to God’s presence in others-since each person is a “holy land”, a sacred space we mustn’t trample over unthinkingly, especially with regard to those who are poor or vulnerable.”
“We are called to live life to the full on this earth, while remembering at the same time that Jesus stated before Pilate, “Mine is not a kingdom of this world” (John 18:36).
We can ask the gentle Spirit of God to heal us of hurts resulting from negative experiences with regard to the Church-which is holy yet made up of sinners-recalling that “nothing is impossible to God” (Luke 1:37).”
“There’s a principle we should reflect on every time we pray for what we need today: when we resist the temptation to be hoarders-making sure we always have plenty of supplies in reserve-we give glory to our heavenly Father, since we are making an act of trust in his Providence, believing that he is looking after us.”
“Of course, there is a distinction between hoarding and good planning! Parents need to make sure they have enough to feed their children and so on.”
“To get to “know the author”, we need to spend time with him. There are many ways of praying, but one of the simplest and most effective is surely to dwell on the Lord’s Prayer-as I’ve personally discovered in a new way while writing this book. If we begin by picturing ourselves being tenderly held in the Father’s hand (or call to mind a similar image we feel to be appropriate), then we start: Our Father, who art in heaven-and stop there! Remain in silence with that first line, think about the Father, or about heaven, or one of the themes of our first chapter, such as the wonderful gift of being called a child of God through baptism. After ten, twenty, thirty seconds of silence, we go on to the next line: Hallowed be thy name.”
“May Joseph and Mary continue to intercede for all God’s children, helping us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives as they did, inviting us to discover by our contemplation of the Saviour, the amazing secret that Jesus shares with his friends: “To have seen me is to have seen the Father” (John 14:9). For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen!”
This book opened my eyes. It opened my eyes to some of my own needs. And it opened them for new ways to help and support others. I am certain it will do the same for you. This is another excellent offering from Father Woollen’s pen. It is a book that has the strength and wisdom to become a spiritual classic, along the lines of Brother Lawrence’s Practice the presence of God. I highly recommend it. Pick it up for your benefit and pick up copies to give to friends and family. An absolutely excellent read!