29th Sunday in OT (October 16, 2016)

29th Sunday in OT (October 16, 2016)

A man took his small son with him to town one day to run some errands. When lunch time arrived, the two of them went to a familiar diner for a sandwich. The father sat down on one of the stools at the counter and lifted the boy up to the seat beside him. They ordered lunch, and when the waiter brought the food, the father said, "Son, we'll just have a silent prayer." Dad got through praying first and waited for the boy to finish his prayer, but he just sat with his head bowed for an unusually long time. When he finally looked up, his father asked him, "What in the world were you praying about all that time?" With the innocence and honesty of a child, he replied, "How do I know? It was a silent prayer." [http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/p/prayer.htm] 

Our Scriptures today draw our attention to prayer, particularly perseverance in prayer—as Jesus says, about the necessity for His disciples to pray always without growing weary.  Yet maybe were not even sure what this means, especially when we’re weary.  But our prayer is always an act of faith, because if we didn’t believe in God and that God cares and that God can make a difference, then why would we bother?  As Jesus indicates in His parable, if this awful judge eventually caved to this widow to get her to stop pestering him, wouldn’t the Lord of heaven and earth, our Creator—who is Justice, Love, and Truth—not respond to us?

Still, it’s not that we’re looking to “wear down” Almighty God, like a child’s persistent request of a parent “Can I…?”  No, our call to persistence in prayer isn’t that God needs it, but that we need it.  We need to go to Him more often; to our God whose loving movement toward us is the start of this interaction.

To quote from some others, as one writer noted, “God is not a banker or credit manager, a personnel officer or intermediary in the offices of love…prayer is not a cash business; it is the world of grace, which is to say its language is the language of the spirit, and its specifications are very different from what we are accustomed to.” [Ann & Barry Ulanov, Primary Speech, 103]  Famous Trappist spiritual writer Thomas Merton said, “There is no true spiritual life outside of the love of Christ… If we know how great is the love of Jesus for us we will never be afraid to go to Him...  Indeed, when we understand the true nature of His love for us, we will prefer to come to Him poor and helpless.  We will never be ashamed of our distress.  Distress is to our advantage when we have nothing to seek but mercy.  We can be glad of our helplessness when we really believe that His power is made perfect in our infirmity.” [Thoughts in Solitude, 35]   

Catholic author and professor Peter Kreeft writes, “…all prayer requires: faith, hope, and love. Great holiness, or piety, or sanctity are not required. Prayer is a road to holiness; if holiness were a prerequisite, we would have a Catch-22 situation, like the young job applicant who cannot get a first job because every employer wants someone with work experience. You cannot get a job unless you have experience, but you cannot get experience unless you get a job.” [Prayer for Beginners, 47]  He also says, “Our conversation with God should be utterly free and familiar, because God is the only person who will never, ever misunderstand us and never, ever reject us (hate us, ignore us, or be indifferent to us). These are the two reasons we hide from other people, even our friends, even our parents, and the two reasons we should never hide from God…We can tell him everything. For he is our everything.” [Kreeft, 29] And so, “We must not only ‘say our prayers,’ we must pray.” [Kreeft, 30] 

What we are to bring to God is the prayer of our heart—the good, bad, and ugly; our hopes and fears; our petitions, praise, contrition, and thanksgiving.  Prayer is an invitation to be who we are; inviting Jesus into our home, no matter what state it’s in.  Prayer involves consistency and honesty, two things that are in our control.  It is crucial that we be ourselves before God, and to be able to see ourselves as God sees us.  The raw material of prayer is desire—ultimately, our desire for God, our desire to be loved unconditionally. Even if it just seems like we’re “wasting time” with God and not saying anything sometimes, that is okay.  “There is no such thing as a prayer in which ‘nothing is done’ or ‘nothing happens,’ although there may well be a prayer in which nothing is perceived or felt or thought,” Merton says. [49]  Other key aspects of prayer include having to want to be there, focusing on Jesus (the One we love above all), desiring to move, counting on grace, being open, and listening. 

The Jesus with whom we have Holy Communion—our Friend and our Lord—will not fail to draw our hearts closer to His when we approach Him.  So let us be persistent in prayer and persistent in faith in the One who from the beginning has first loved us.