The Gospel story for this Sunday has the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray. In response to this request Jesus teaches them how to pray in the words of the our Father. He also encourages them to be unwearied in their prayer because the Father who loves them will pay attention to their pleas. Prayer for all kinds of things is good, because it is faith in action and trust in God. As we pray, we are changed. Many people have told me that they have prayed for this or that intention but didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted that particular thing. My experience is that we often get the thing that we pray for not when we think we need it but when god sees that we really need it and it always brings a change for the better in the person who made the prayer. There are so many different forms of prayer and praying such as the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross etc each of us will have a particular favorite.
The greatest example of prayer that has been passed down to us through the generations is the Mass. Each time we gather as a community of believers to take part in the Mass we reaffirm our belief in God made incarnate in Jesus his Son. We also bring all our intentions with us and we leave them for god to answer in his own time. Persistence in prayer is a worthwhile exercise because the God we believe in is not some sulky, withdrawn figure who is unmoved by what he hears and sees remember that our God is with us. Behind Jesus’ advice on prayer is his image of a God who really does want to help and journey with us as part of our lives. The message of Jesus in the our Father is that our God is one who cares for us as well as concerned about us and those who are close to us. So can we depend on God’s providence to feed us, to shelter us, to clothe us, to save us from violence? If we pray hard enough will God see to it that we have a new car, a better house, maybe win a lottery? God doesn’t work for us in that way and we shouldn’t expect him to either. The most important part of our human life is what we become day by day through faith in the will of the Father.
Of course we need to survive and flourish. When things don’t go the way they should, we benefit from our prayers. Think of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. He prayed what was coming his way would not happen. He also added he would abide by God’s will when he said Abba, Father let it be done as you not I would have it. If we stay in sync with the will of God we will grow day by day, despite what good or bad things come our way we will know that God is for us a refuge and our strength in all things. These days when so many parts of the world are hurting for many reasons let us remember the power of prayer to help us to do the right thing in the situations we might find ourselves.