Friday, August 30, 2013

22nd Sunday Year C (Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14) What is prayer?

(If you look closely you'll notice the man in the front of this picture is actually on the phone!)

All through our life we are continually in relationships.  It’s what we are about.  Can you imagine having a relationship with someone who only asked you for things and nothing else?  I guess we would hardly even call it a relationship.  If a relationship is to grow it takes work from both sides, otherwise it will break down.

The way we relate to each other and the way we relate to God is very similar.  If we don’t communicate with him, there will be no relationship and the way we communicate with him is through prayer.  Just like a relationship with another person it isn’t limited to certain times and places.  We speak to each other whenever and wherever.  Sometimes people think that prayer is something for priests and nuns, or just for churches and monasteries.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  It is for everyone, everywhere.

How do I speak to God, you might ask?  The same way we would speak to anyone else.  What astonishes people the most, is that when we begin to communicate with God, God also communicates with us.  God is in fact speaking to us all the time, but so often we are not listening.  But as soon as we begin to pray, we start to notice it much more.

The best way to learn about prayer is to look at the Scriptures and see how did the people of the Bible pray.  It says that God spoke to Moses face to face as a person talks to his friend.  As well as talking to God directly, Moses interceded for the people when God was angry with them.  Then he also defended God’s actions when the people were rebelling against God.  So he continually stepped in the breech between God and the people.  We are also called to intercede for the people around us and indeed for so many different needs in the world.  Maybe that is why the Lord has you exactly where you are, so that you can intercede for the people who live around you, or work with you.  There are usually not many people who are doing this and it is a really important role.

Another form of prayer that we see very often in the Bible is prayer of praise, where people simply acknowledge God and praise and thank him for all that He does for us.  One of the most beautiful examples of it is The Magnificat, where Our Lady meeting Elizabeth gives thanks for all that has happened:
My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

The most powerful prayer we have is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  There is nothing greater than this, but you may not even think of this as a prayer, rather as something you just go to.  But there is nothing else like it because it is the offering of God the Son to God the Father at Calvary.  In each mass time stands still and we are present at Calvary with Jesus being offered to the Father.  That’s why it is so powerful and that’s why we pray for everything and everyone in each mass. And of course we also receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  There is no more intimate meeting with God than this.

As well as reading the Sciptures, which are the living and inspired Word of God, there is also praying in silence, or just being still in God’s presence.  We are not used to silence and often not comfortable with it, but this is where it can be a great help to learn some method to help you be still in prayer.  God speaks to us in the silence.  In fact the mystics say that the language of God is silence.

But what about the fact that so many people are just busy with going to work, dropping kids to school or having the ongoing demands of your children at home which doesn’t really leave you with an awful lot of time for prayer?  Well I know a lot of moms who pray with their kids on the way to school or just talk to God themselves at home while working around the house, or maybe taking a minute or two to read part of the Scriptures.  The bottom line is that it’s always possible if we want to.  The Lord never forces us, but continually invites us to grow closer to him.
If you feel that you can’t pray, or don’t want to pray, just ask yourself this: would you really expect to have a relationship with someone without speaking to them at all; and do you really expect to have a relationship with God without speaking to him at all?

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