Friday, 23 July 2010

Prayer is a gift of God

On the Gospel of Luke (11:1 -13)

The Gospel is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke chapter 11 (1-13). This passage begins with Jesus in prayer, and after He is finished, some of the disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray. Subsequently Jesus teaches them the “Our Father”, the same prayer that we still pray today.

In prayer we communicate with God. It is seeking to engage in a relationship with God. We can read, especially in the Gospel of Luke, that Jesus frequently went off alone to pray. In the midst of his busy ministry, of preaching and healing Jesus encountered His Father, He sought communion with the Father early in the morning or late in the evening, when all was quite. He “gave himself unto prayer” (Ps. 109:4) as the psalmist says.

One of the Dominican Contemplative Sisters in Drogheda, Ireland, recently presented a paper on private prayer in which she says, “prayer is a gift of God that we receive. It is fundamentally not what we do but what God does in us, how God loves us, addresses us, looks at us, enlightens us, forgives us, heals us, purifies us and eventually transforms us – if we let Him! “.
This is a fundamental point to remember when we speak of our relationship with God. All grace comes from God, and it does not depend on what we do. Silent prayer can be very difficult. At times iot may seem that we achieve very little if anything. But it is important to remember that when we pray it is not a question of our achievements when we raise our minds to God but rather, but what God achieves while we seek communion with Him.

The same passage in which Jesus teaches his disciples in St. Matthew’s Gospel also mentions the following: “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mat 6:7-8 RSV) Prayer is not so much of making ourselves being heard, telling God what He needs to do for us, instead it is an engagement in a relationship.

The “Our Father” starts with addressing God as our father. It does not start with “Our Lord”, or, “Oh most high”, but begins with the familiar “Our Father”. Prayer is communicating on a friendly level, it is a question of building up our friendship with God. Therefore it is a dialogue, and has parts in which we engage with God, and parts where we are still and listen. Prayer is personal, and God is personally calling us. We celebrated the feast of Mary Magdalen last week. The gospel passage at Mass on that feast told of how Mary remained at the tomb while the other disciples went away; “Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb” (Joh 20:10-11 RSV). She was weeping, and seeking --- Jesus, the fact that she could not see Him did not discourage her. When Jesus appeared to her Mary of Magdala did not initially recognize Him, but then when “Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).” (Joh 20:16 RSV). As Jesus called Mary by her name, so Jesus calls each of us by our first name, He is looking for us. Because he is seeking us we have the grace to seek him in prayer. The initiative always begns with God, even though it may seem otherwise to us in our experience of prayer.

The promise is that if we seek Him we will find Him; “For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Luk 11:10 RSV) Our desire for union with God is written on every human heart, Psalm 62(63) beautifully portraits this desire , it opens with these beautiful lines “O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you, like a dry weary land without water.” Each one of us us called to listen to this desire deep within us, if we do, we will never be disappointed, as Pope Benedict XVI has often said “Jesus is the hope which never disappoints”.

4 comments:

Em the luddite said...

As a baby Catholic, it is interesting to me how different a Catholic understanding of prayer is than a Protestant one. The idea that "prayer is a gift of God that we receive" is entirely new to me, the idea that it is "what we do but what God does in us." Thanks for this reminder!

Bro. Luuk Dominiek Jansen OP said...

Well, the middle voice :-)

evanscove said...

Great reflection! At times I worry about praying "the right way," and I probably just complicate matters! It is indeed part of a relationship, not a formula to worry over getting exactly right.

Barb Schoeneberger said...

We cannot pray without God's grace, and what we pray cannot be prayed without His grace. It is His constant working in us and our co-operation with that work that allows us to grow spiritually. Our Guardian Angels will help us pray better if we ask, since their faces always behold the face of God. This is all so deep to consider. Our God is truly and awesome God.

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