Prayer really is that simple—not primarily a method, but a relationship—an encounter with the One who made you and loves you.
St. Luke’s Gospel gives us an abbreviated form of the Our Father that we know today. The Lord gave this prayer to his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray.[i] I am not going to share some “brilliant exposition” of that prayer with you today. I am just going to ask that when you pray it, take time to meditate on its words; take them from your mind and place them on your heart and ponder them. When we recite the words of the “Our Father” we are engaged in the vocal expression of prayer. When we reflect deeply on the words of the prayer, or on a passage of Scripture, or on a truth of the faith or on a person of God, we are using the expression of prayer known as meditation. If we are to advance in the prayer life, we need to practice Christian meditation. Don’t complicate it, just spend time prayerfully thinking about how Jesus answered his disciple’s question.
Jesus wants us to do this, but he also wants us to learn the qualities that will help us grow in prayer. That is why, I believe, he followed the words of the “Our Father” with examples and explanations… to make us think about what we pray and not just mindlessly recite the words of our prayer. He teaches us that prayer requires a certain disposition of the heart, a growing knowledge of self and the One to Whom we pray. These qualities include:
- Humility: He told the story of the prayer of “the Pharisee and the tax collector” [ii] contrasting the empty prayer of the proud Pharisee with the humble prayer of the tax collector.
- Urgency: He told the story of “the importunate friend” [iii] who disturbed his neighbor at midnight. There should be urgency about our prayer—don’t put it off. Don’t give prayer what is left over of our time, give it our prime time, even if that time is most inconvenient.
- Persistency: He told the story of “the importunate widow” [iv] who persistently petitioned the unjust judge. We must pray faithfully and without ceasing, never losing hope.
- Faithfulness and Purity of Heart: The Catechism reminds us that, “From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else. [v] This filial conversion is entirely directed to the Father.” [vi]
- Hopeful Expectancy: When Jesus mediated the New Covenant, he formed the Church, the family of God. He teaches us that we are God’s children and we are to approach God as our father. If we know, even imperfectly, the needs of our own children think with wonder and love at what Our Father in Heaven will do for us if we approach Him in Christ’s name. [vii]
Prayer really is that simple—not primarily a method, but a relationship—an encounter with the One who made you and loves you. Spend time with Him just as you do with anyone else who you love and with whom you desire to be closer. And always know Who it is you are with. Let your prayer be humble, urgent, persistent, expectant and faithful. If you find prayer difficult to start on occasion, try this… simply praise Him, not for anything He has done for you, but simply for Who He is, giving all glory and honor to God, Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
[i] Luke 11:2-4
[ii] Luke 18:9-14
[iii] Luke 11:5-13
[iv] Luke 18:1-8
[v] Matthew 5:23-24, 44-45; 6:7,14-15,21,25,33
[vi] Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2608
[vii] Luke 11:11-13
The scripture readings for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) are: Exodus 17:8-13; Psalms 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; Second Timothy 3:14–4:2; Luke 18:1-8.
Into the deep…
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