Prayer is relationship and needs discipline…

Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013

Never-Give-Up-Winston-Churchill-715349Our Readings today remind us of one of the basics yet also one of the most important aspects of our faith- prayer. We need to pray because we need God whether we acknowledge him or not. We need to pray because only God can satisfy all our needs. No amount of worldly wealth can make us happy forever. We need to pray because our human flourishing could not only be achieved through human relationships. In fact, we can attain the fullness of our humanity also in relationship with God– a real and a personal one. It is in relationship with God that our lives can get  its full meaning and significance and purpose.

So today we are to sit down and ask ourselves: How’s our relationship with God? How’s our prayer life? How do I pray?

We can see how is our relationship with God by the way we pray. “Prayer is relationship” says our former Spiritual director in the seminary, Fr Pat O’Sullivan. Fr Pat would add that to grow in this relationship, “It is a great help for prayer if there is a certain discipline in our life.”

So what kind of discipline could we take to grow in our prayer life?

Jesus in our gospel today would invite us to practice this certain discipline in our prayers and that is “To pray continually and never lose heart.” This means persistence, perseverance, and patience. This is one point of the parable that Jesus tells us in our gospel today. By telling us the parable of the unjust judge and the needy widow, Jesus is telling us that we must persist in our prayers, even if they are not answered immediately or even if the answers are not the answers we are expecting or we are wanting. All our prayers get to  God, though not all are answered according to what we want. “God’s response to our prayers”, according to Fr Francis Moloney, SDB, “often calls upon us to accept his ways, rather than our own.” We only have to persist in our prayer and we will surely be reaping its fruits.

This beautiful story of persistence might inspire us.

There was a man who was born poor. Almost all of his life he had to confront defeats and failure.  Maybe, we can call him a born loser. In 1816, his family was forced out of their home so he had to work to support them. Shortly after that his mother died. He ventured into business,but he failed. He ran for the office in the government, he lost. Then he lost his job. He wanted to go to law school but he couldn’t get in. He borrowed some money from a friend to start a business on his own, but went bankrupt by the end of that year. He then spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt. But he never learned a lesson, so it seemed. He ran for state legislature again  and he won. He was engaged to be married, but his fiancée died and that caused him a total nervous breakdown. Once again, he sought to become speaker of the state legislature but was defeated. Then, he sought to become elector was defeated. He ran for Congress but lost. Then he ran for Congress again and this time he won.  He went to Washington and did a good job. But at the next term, he ran for re-election to Congress, he lost. He tried to work as a land officer in his home state but was rejected. He just never gave up. It seemed like the politician in him was boiling up that he would try all means just to get it. So he ran for Senate of the United States. Once again he lost. He suffered another defeat when in 1856, he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention. Another blow for him was in 1858 when he ran for U.S. Senate again which he lost too. He could have stopped. We could tell him, politics is not really for him. He has got more defeats than victory. But no, he persisted. So at last, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln [(February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865)] was elected president of the United States. A beautiful story of persistence.

St Paul in our Second Reading today would also offer us another way: Make our faith concrete and alive in our lives by getting to know Jesus Christ more personally and more intimately- and St Paul would say to us by : ‘Knowing the Holy Scriptures.’ This means we are to read the Sacred Scriptures prayerfully and reflectively for, according to St Paul: ‘From these we can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation…[and it can] be used to teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and  teaching them to be holy. This is how the person who is dedicated to God,’ St Paul continues, ‘becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work.’ St Ignatius of Loyola is one good model for praying with the Scriptures. And he has got a hint for us. He said: “We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.

Another discipline for prayer is offered  by the First Reading today- that is we support each other in prayer. Yes, prayer leads us to personal and intimate relationship with God, but it should be reflected on the community.  We have heard that the Israelites were under attacked by the Amalekites. So Moses resorted to prayer for God’s help, with arms raised, a gesture of complete abandonment, trust and surrender. It helped but he could only raise his arms up to a point. Here is a beautiful imagery of a communal prayer. Aaron and Hur helped him by providing a stone for him to sit on, then they supported Moses’ arms one on one side and on the other. That is why, I always urged you all that we pray for one another, not only at Mass which is the highest form of prayer, but also in our communal acts of prayer for the whole world.

But there is one more thing we need to aid us in prayer: Faith. Let’s keep up with it. You might have heard of the terrible earthquake happening in Cebu and Bohol,  Philippines last Tuesday. It caused much damage to the centuries-old churches and buildings. But then I am consoled by the optimism shown by the people to cope up with the loss and devastation. They said: ‘Our Churches might be damaged, and shaken, but our faith remained firm.’ Such is the power of faith in our lives. It might not change the situation or circumstance, but it can really change and influence our attitudes towards adversities, challenges and trials. So as we continue this Eucharistic celebration let us ask ourselves these two questions: How real and personal our relationship with God? How’s my life? 

2 comments on “Prayer is relationship and needs discipline…

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