Have you ever wondered when the first Novena was prayed? Look no farther than chapters 1 and 2 of the Acts of the Apostles to see that the disciples were gathered together in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost with Mary waiting and praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the promised Gift of the Lord. They had been there since Ascension Thursday praying the Church’s very first novena! Despite the modern anomaly of moving Ascension to a Sunday, the Church repeats that original novena every year in preparation for the coming of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Sanctifier.
Let us make the nine days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday an extremely fruitful time of prayer. There are three ways to bring fruitfulness out of this novena:
First, make time to pray in silence every day. This seems so simple, but busy people will know that it easier to say than to do. Jesus advised, “Go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret.” Indeed, that is what we need to do. Find the Upper Room of your life, whether it be your own private space, a Blessed Sacrament chapel at the local parish or just the focused “sanctuary of the heart” in a quiet moment and place; and spend some significant down time in silence so that you develop spiritual ears to hear the Voice that only speaks in silence. A minimum of 15 minutes each day in silence will train busy people to have more discerning hearts. That practice of a quarter of an hour in silence will undoubtedly lead the heart to want to spend more time with the Beloved every day.
Second, pray specifically for what you need. This means that you must identify the concrete needs of your life and present them to God as St. Paul says in Ephesians, “in every form of prayer and petition.” God loves to answer prayers, but His answers can only be recognized by those who know exactly what they want! No need is too big. God will temper our prayer if it does not fully correspond to His Will. No need is too small either. God will also lift our spirits by answering our needs either by giving us just enough for the task at hand or showing us that what we ask for is less than what He really wants to give us. Either way, ask specifically and petition as many prayers as you and your loved ones need to a God who has an infinite storehouse of goodness ready to bestow on those who ask with childlike trust.
Finally, pray for the seven-fold Gift of the Holy Spirit. Even if you don’t know what to pray for, the Eternal Spirit does. All good things in heaven and earth are contained in that One Gift. Pray to receive the One who satisfies all our needs in a new and special way this Pentecost. He gives gifts that cannot be exhausted: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Piety, Fear of the Lord and Fortitude. Jesus also said, “Will not the Father give the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks him?” (Lk 11:11-13) Indeed He will!