29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year ~ October 16, 2022
CONSISTENCY IN PRAYER
Have you ever felt the urge to pray for someone and then just put it on a list and said, “I’ll pray for them later?” Or has anyone ever called you and said, “I need you to pray for me, I have this need?” Read the following story by an unknown author that was sent to me, and may it change the way that you may think about prayer and the way you pray. You will be blessed by this one.
It is said that a missionary on furlough told this true story while visiting his home church in Michigan. Upon arrival in the city, I observed two men fighting, one of whom had been seriously injured. I treated him for his injuries and at the same time talked to him about the Lord Jesus Christ. I then traveled two days, camping overnight, and arrived home without incident. Two weeks later I repeated my journey. Upon arriving in the city, I was approached by the young man I had treated. He told me that he had known I carried money and medicines. He said, “Some friends and I followed you into the jungle, knowing you would camp overnight. We planned to kill you and take your money and drugs. But just as we were about to move into your camp, we saw that you were surrounded by 26 armed guards.”
At this I laughed and said that I was certainly all alone out in that jungle campsite. The young man pressed the point, however, and said “No sir, I was not the only person to see the guards. My five friends also saw them, and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid and left you alone.”
At this point in the sermon, one of the men in the congregation jumped to his feet and interrupted the missionary and asked if he could tell him the exact day that this happened. The missionary told the congregation the date, and the man who interrupted told him this story: “On the night of your incident in Africa, it was morning here and I was preparing to go play golf. I was about to putt when I felt the urge to pray for you. In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong, I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary to pray for you. Would all those men who met with me on that day stand up?” The men who had met together to pray that day stood up. The missionary wasn’t concerned with who they were — he was too busy counting how many men he saw. There were 26.
This story is an incredible example of how the Spirit of the Lord moves in mysterious ways. If you ever hear such prodding, go along with it. God walks with us whenever we pray to him because “Ask and you will receive, search and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you”.
What is prayer and why should we pray? According to the Oxford dictionary “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship”. The true definition of prayer is “a devout petition to God or an object of worship. a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving, adoration, or confession. The act or practice of praying to God or an object of worship”. We should pray because it helps us to connect with the Lord ask for his blessings, protection, healing, forgiveness, and mercy. In the Catholic traditions there are four basic elements of Christian prayer:
- Prayer of Adoration/Blessing
- Prayer of Contrition/Repentance
- Prayer of Thanksgiving/Gratitude
- Prayer of Supplication/Petition/Intercession
Prayer is spiritual communication between man and God, a two-way relationship in which man should not only talk to God but also listen to Him. Prayer to God is like a child’s conversation with his father. It is natural for a child to ask his father for the things he needs. There are many promises in God’s Word to encourage us to pray, such as: “He shall call upon me and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him” (Psalm 91:15); “And it shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24); “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The Scriptures tell us that we are to pray for one another and assure us that God hears and answers prayer. When you receive Christ into your heart, you become a child of God and have the privilege of talking to Him in prayer at any time about anything. The Christian life is a personal relationship to God through Jesus Christ. And best of all, it is a relationship that will last for all eternity.
St. Augustine had a perfect explanation for prayer “Why in our fear of not praying as we should, do we turn to so many things, to find what we should pray for? Why do we not say instead, in the words of the psalm: I have asked one thing from the Lord, this is what I will seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to see the graciousness of the Lord, and to visit his temple. There, the days do not come and go in succession, and the beginning of one day does not mean the end of another; all days are one, simultaneously and without end, and the life lived out in these days has itself no end. So that we might obtain this life of happiness, he who is true life itself taught us to pray, not in many words as though speaking longer could gain us a hearing. After all, we pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it. Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers. The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed. No eye has seen it; it has no color. No ear has heard it; it has no sound. It has not entered man’s heart; man’s heart must enter it.
In this faith, hope and love we pray always with unwearied desire. However, at set times and seasons we also pray to God in words, so that by these signs we may instruct ourselves and mark the progress we have made in our desire and spur ourselves on to deepen it. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal and ask it of him who alone is able to give it”.
Prayer is like a war against evil and when praying you must lean to the Lord and believe he is just sitting in front of us, and we are talking with him.
A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When the pastor arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.
“I guess you were expecting me,” he said.
“No, who are you?”
“I’m the new associate at your local church,” the pastor replied.
“When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up.”
“Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”
Puzzled, the pastor shut the door.
“I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man.
“But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head.”
“I abandoned any attempt at prayer,” the old man continued, “until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here’s what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you’re doing with me right now.”
“So, I tried it, and I’ve liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”
The pastor was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue the journey. Then he prayed with him and returned to the church.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her father had died that afternoon.
“Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked.
“Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange, in fact, beyond strange, kind of weird.
Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.”
This weekend we filter all the readings we can learn that prayer is a war and consistency in both, make people winner. In the First Reading Amalek though were related to Israelites as they were from the descendants of Ephraim, and he was the son of Joseph and caused the problem for Israelites. Moses became the symbol of strength and encouragement for the Israelites to win the war against them. Same way prayer helps us to fight against the devil to win the war. (Please read 1 Peter 5:1-14).
Holy Father Pope Francis while reflecting on the readings encourages us to follow the examples of the saints who stood to support us with their prayers, and we must do the same to be one in heart and mind. (Please read Acts 4:32-35). “By our own efforts, we cannot give ourselves such a heart. Only God can do this, and so in the prayer we ask him to give it to us as his “creation”. In this way, we come to the theme of prayer, which is central to this Sunday’s scriptural readings and challenges all of us who are gathered here for the canonization of new Saints. The Saints attained the goal. Thanks to prayer, they had a generous and steadfast heart. They prayed mightily; they fought, and they were victorious”.
So, pray! Like Moses, who was above all a man of God, a man of prayer. We see him today in the battle against Amalek, standing atop the hill with his arms raised. From time to time, however, his arms would grow weary and fall, and then the tide would turn against the people. So, Aaron and Hur made Moses sit on a stone and they held up his arms, until the final victory was won. This is the kind of spiritual life the Church asks of us: not to win by war, but to win with peace! There is an important message in this story of Moses: commitment to prayer demands that we support one another. Weariness is inevitable. Sometimes we simply cannot go on, yet, with the support of our brothers and sisters, our prayer can persevere until the Lord completes his work.
Saint Paul writes to Timothy, his disciple and co-worker, and urges him to hold fast to what he has learned and believed (cf. 2 Tim 3:14). But Timothy could not do this by his own efforts: the “battle” of perseverance cannot be won without prayer. Not sporadic or hesitant prayer, but prayer offered as Jesus tells us in the Gospel: “Pray always, without ever losing heart” (Lk 18:1). This is the Christian way of life: remaining steadfast in prayer, to remain steadfast in faith and testimony. Here once again we may hear a voice within us, saying: “But Lord, how can we not grow weary? We are human… even Moses grew weary…” True, each of us grows weary. Yet we are not alone; we are part of a Body! We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church, whose arms are raised day and night to heaven, thanks to the presence of the Risen Christ and his Holy Spirit. Only in the Church, and thanks to the Church’s prayer, are we able to remain steadfast in faith and witness.
We have heard the promise Jesus makes in the Gospel: “God will grant justice to his chosen ones, who cry to him day and night”. This is the mystery of prayer: to keep crying out, not to lose heart, and if we should grow tired, asking help to keep our hands raised. This is the prayer that Jesus has revealed to us and given us in the Holy Spirit. To pray is not to take refuge in an ideal world, nor to escape into a false, selfish sense of calm. On the contrary, to pray is to struggle, but also to let the Holy Spirit pray within us. For the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray. He guides us in prayer, and he enables us to pray as sons and daughters.
The saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer. Men and women who struggle with prayer, letting the Holy Spirit pray and struggle in them. They struggle to the very end, with all their strength, and they triumph, but not by their own efforts: the Lord triumphs in them and with them.
Here are some quotes from the saints to help us to understand the true spirit of prayer and why must we be consistent in our prayer life:
“Prayer -A soul arms itself by prayer for all kinds of combat. In whatever state the soul may be, it ought to pray. A soul which is pure and beautiful must pray, or else it will lose its beauty; a soul which is striving after this purity must pray, or else it will never attain it; a soul which is newly converted must pray, or else it will fall again; a sinful soul, plunged in sins, must pray so that it might rise again. There is no soul which is not bound to pray, for every single grace comes to the soul through prayer”. St. Faustina
“Prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trail as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus”.
St. Therese of Lisieux
“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.”
“You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him”.
St. Teresa of Avila
“It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life”.
Saint John Chrysostom
“Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit and raises man to Heaven.
Saint Ephrem of Syria
“Purity is the fruit of prayer.”
Blessed Mother Teresa
What prayer could be more true before God the Father than that which the Son, who is Truth, uttered with His own lips?” Prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness”.
St. John Chrysostom
‘He who prays most receives most.
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
“My little children, your hearts, are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the souls and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.
Saint John Vianney
‘We must speak to God as a friend speaks to his friend, servant to his master; now asking some favor, now acknowledging our faults, and communicating to Him all that concerns us, our thoughts, our fears, our projects, our desires, and in all things seeking His counsel.’
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Other Sermons In This Series
September 01, 2023
June 02, 2023
April 08, 2022