Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-24; Luke 11:1-13
St. Theresa of Avila was known to be a holy person and a prayerful person. She was always praying whatever she did. It is said that even when she was inside the comfort room (CR) she was still praying. One day, the devil reportedly appeared to her and insulted her for praying even in such an unholy place. Obviously irritated, St. Theresa retorted: “Shut up, you devil! What comes out from my mouth is for God; what comes out from my behind is for you!”
That is why, prayer is oftentimes, the bone of contention among people. Some would say: “Why bother to pray. I have nothing to ask for.” Some also would say: “How should I pray? I pray always but nothing happens.” There are so many articles, writings and books about prayer.
What do we mean by prayer? It is the expression of men and women’s desire for communion with God. Some spiritual writers would define it as: “the lifting up of mind and hearts to God” or “the communication between God and human being.”
The need to pray, however, is not only for saints. It is for all of us. Even Jesus, who is God Himself and always in communion with the Father, He prayed. Mary, the Mother of God who is sinless, prayed. Our Muslim brothers and sisters also pray for five times in a day and so with Hindus. How much more for us who claim to be followers of Christ and are baptized Christians? A Christian without Christ is like a vehicle without brake and accelerator. He could not move or stop. If we take the word ‘CHRIST’ from the word ‘CHRISTIAN’, the remaining letters are ‘IAN’ which means I Am Nothing. In other words, without Christ, I Am Nothing at all.
There are occasions when prayer becomes the easiest thing to make excuses with. We have so many reasons and excuses for not praying and faithful into it. When we are too busy with our work at the office or at home, we cancel or delete from the planned schedule our prayer time or our bible reading schedule. Even during Sunday, a day usually spent for contemplation, praying and re-evaluation, we sometimes change it into a worldly celebration or affairs. And yet, Sunday is the Lord’s Day; we make it as a consumers’ day. We may probably find the Mass as the same, a repetitious one. It is routinely done, boring and mechanical. We cannot find meaning and nourishment in the celebration.
When I was reflecting this gospel during the week, I happened to read a book on homily where the author said: “I remember a person claiming to be a Christian wrote to the “Letters to the Editor section” of a newspaper. In his letter, he complained that it did not make sense for him anymore to go to the Church every Sunday. He explained: ‘I’ve gone to Church for thirty years now and heard something like 3,000 sermons. But throughout my life, I can’t remember any single one of them. So I think I’m wasting my time and the priests are wasting theirs too by giving one at all.’
“It became a controversial issue that it went on for days and even weeks with many people reacting to agree or disagree with his opinion. But somebody wrote an enlightening. It said: ‘I have been married for thirty years now. In that time my wife cooked 32,000 meals. But throughout my life, I cannot recall what the menu was for a single one of those meals. But I do know this; they all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be dead today.’”
May be we also have so many questions when we pray. Like for example, what I do I get from praying? Why do I continue praising God when sometimes He doesn’t seem to hear and give what I ask for from Him? Certainly, God has His positive reasons even if our requests have negative answers. There is no such thing as unanswered prayers. All our prayers are being answered. In today’s gospel, Jesus says: “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you,” (v. 9). God never says lies and He is faithful to all His promises.
We should not also forget that other side of prayer, our side. He doesn’t answer our prayer in accordance with our standard or what we want. It is because NO is already an answer to our prayers in the sense that God knows more than us. For instance, we pray for good health but we keep on eating food which are rich in bad cholesterol. We eat too much. We pray for our country’s economy to recover, but we steal money from the government treasury. How can our prayer be granted?
God is not at our disposal. We give Him the freedom to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘wait’. For if we want to get what we want every time we pray, we are not praying to God but to ourselves. We pray to Him because of our vested interests and personal needs.
In prayer, we do not expect God to answer us in the way we want but in the way God wants because He knows what is best for us. Hence the saying: “Man proposes, God disposes.”
There was a father who was diagnosed to have a terminal lung cancer. He was given two months to live. So the children prayed to God to give their daddy some years to live. Sad to say, the father died before the two months ended. The children were desperate and down because for them God did not answer their prayers.
The mother told her children: “God answered your prayer but in a different way. He didn’t want your papa to suffer long with terrible pains, so He took him away much earlier than expected.”
To end my sharing let us reflect on what Benjamin Franklin had said: “Work as if you were to live 100 years and pray as if you were to die tomorrow.”
See Today’s Readings: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time