C Cycle – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22

C Cycle – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22

Lk. 18:1-8

Growing up in a Catholic home, I was introduced to prayer at an early age.  Even before I was school age, I remember prayers being offered at our evening family meal and was told to say my prayers at night.  In preparing for the sacraments, my catechism classes taught me the prayers of faith, hope, love, contrition, Confiteor but I admit I did not do any more than learn them. If I were truthful, I would admit prayer for me as a child was nonexistent because beyond learning them, I never considered God was listening.  No, I prayed because I was told to pray; remember I was just a kid who was never taught anything about God’s love for me.  Yet, God never abandoned me, for he knew one day, Prayer would be the key for me to hear him guiding me because I knew him and wanted to interact with him.

What is prayer? Why should we pray? Does God answer prayer?  In spiritual direction, I listen to the struggles of individuals as they try to grow in their relationship with God.  At the heart of what we do is to make sense of what God is saying to them. To understand the world is saying to them and what barriers prevent them from the graces God desires to fill them with.  Today’s readings give us the impression that persistence and pleading are responded to by God.  Notice I say “the impression” because for us to understand the heart of God we must move beyond impressions which have their root in our emotions.  That is why you hear people saying, “why did God allow that to happen.’  Or where was God when I needed him.

We need to reflect on the words of today’s scripture readings for they are God’s living words speaking to us.  The Old Testament reading is more than a story about a battle between Amalek and the Israelites.  It and the gospel are more than a stories about a persistence.  We need to take the time to allow these stories to be digested and applied to our lives in the context of today’s battles.  If you think about it, as Moses did grow weary holding up his hands and arms.  If you think about how hard that is, you can understand why he dropped them.  But the connection between his hands dropping and Amalek becoming more victorious we can discover something else about our prayer and God’s response.  Pain distracts us and instead of total focus on God our pain causes us to look inward, oh we may cry for help, but we are too wrapped up in our pain to hear or feel God’s presence.  We also learn from this story how others can support us and how their presence brings us back to God and victory over the things we are battling.

God brought them victory that day because he was teaching the Israelites about his provident care and we learn valuable lessons about prayer.  What lesson can we learn, think about it for a minute for it is obvious our mindset has a lot to do with connecting with God.  When I was a child, I did not expect to hear God or to have God respond to my prayers as I do today.  Not because I am older and wiser, but because I have seen his power and witnessed his miracles.  Moses grew tired, and his mind wander to the aches and pains of his muscles.  How long would he have to keep them aloft was all that was on his mind.  That my brothers and sisters can easily happen to us in prayer.  Our minds wander and we disconnect with God and become centered on self.  Who are the Aarons and Hurs who come to stand with us when we need prayer?   Is it possible God gave us the Holy Spirit and the Word to be the support we need to bring us back into the presence of God when we pray, to animate our prayer.  

At times that animation can move us speak from our hearts and like the psalmist asking God why he is silent, or it can move us into a glorious song of praise or thanksgiving. At times that animation can move us to humbly admit our own sinfulness and failings to trust in God. 

Our prayer needs to move from rote words recited to an honest expression of our belief that God does hear us and will respond.  After all, didn’t Jesus not tell us to “ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Mt.21:22).  Did not Paul tell us to “pray constantly without ceasing: (1Th 5:17).  God is not too busy to hear us for we are told he knows when we stand and when we sit. He knows our inner most thoughts before we utter a word of them. So why do we cover all that is going on inside of us to become outward signs of devotion when our inner most being is in pain.  We can trust God even as we beg him to come to our aid.  We can trust God even while we are wondering why this is happening to us.

Yet we should also be persistent in our interaction with God in prayer, as was the widow in the gospel reading.  She needed to have a response and the fact the judge acted to satisfy her is not telling us God can be moved to act by our nagging him.  No, instead it is just the opposite, God desires to give us all that is good and desires to heal our brokenness. The underlying message is not to nag but to believe he cares about us, individually.  He knows our struggles, our pain, our desires, and God made a promise to us to “never abandon us nor to forsake us” (Is.49:15). At the heart of all our prayer must be a belief in and a trust in God’s love for us and his desire to move us to a dependency on his care. For the world with all its ability to fill us with joy and delight is even more capable of being enjoyed when we see it the way God intended it to be.  

Persisting in prayer is an acknowledgement of our need for God and our inability to control the world around us.  Prayer is an act of humility as it acknowledges how much we need God and how much we need to be guided by his words.  This is another reason the scriptures should be part of our daily communication with God.  It is through the scriptures God speaks to us and reveals his plans for us and teaches us how to respond to the daily battles we fight. 

What is prayer?  Us acknowledging and communicating with the God who created us and desires to give us all that is good. It is listening to God speak to us and guiding us to know he is always with us.  

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