Prayers, persistence and perseverance

The life of the early Church shows us that regular formal prayer is essential to preserve our sense of God.

Jul 22, 2022

(Unsplash/Igor Rodrigues)

                   Reflecting on our Sunday Readings  with Fr Martin Arlando

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)
Readings: Genesis 18:20-32;
Colossians 2:12-14;
Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

There is a story of two frogs that fell into a bucket of cream. They tried very hard to get out by climbing up the side of the bucket. But each time they tried, they slipped back down again. Finally, one frog said, “We’ll never get out of here. I give up.” So down he went and drowned. The other frog decided to keep trying.

Again and again, he tried to climb with front legs and kicked with his back legs. He had almost lost his strength and his tired feet could hardly move. He said to himself, “ my end has come...I am going to drown.” Then suddenly, he hit something hard. He turned to see what it was and discovered that all his kicking had churned up a lump of butter! He hopped on top of it and leaped out to safety.

It was perseverance in his effort that saved the frog. Perseverance is an important virtue. Perseverance means to be persistent, to continue without stopping. It means to start something and to see it to the end.

The first reading, from the Book of Genesis, is filled with humour and persistence. Abraham persistently presses the Lord to be merciful. It also teaches us so much about our God. This is a God who loves us passionately. This is a God who is always willing to be spoken to. This is a God who wants to forgive us over and over and over again. This God wants to overlook our transgressions the minute we turn to Him even more persistently.

The second reading, from the Letter to the Colossians, repeats this same lesson. St Paul teaches that the mercy of God persistently overshadowing us is already a reality in the life of the baptised. Jesus is the one truly good man, and through one man alone, salvation has been given to the whole world. We are invited to be part of that one man.

Diving into today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us great advice. First, He teaches us to keep it simple and meaningful. Never worry about what to say; just say what is in your heart. The Lord’s Prayer is probably the simplest prayer there is, with very few words. But when prayed sincerely and persistently from the heart, it is all that is needed. Worship the Father; ask for your real daily needs, including forgiveness; forgive all with whom you hold resentments; and ask God not to test your faith right now because you might fail!

Second, Jesus teaches us to trust that our Father hears and answers each and every prayer. There are no exceptions! Remember that Abraham, in the First Reading, the Book of Genesis, was bold enough to persistently ask God to save an entire town, even if there were only a small handful of virtuous people to be found there. Our Father always responds in the most lovable and just manner possible. Perhaps we might think our request went unanswered. We need to see with the eyes of faith that our Father cares, hears, and answers.

When can we pray? It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public…or seated in your shop…while buying and selling…or even while cooking. The important thing is: DO IT! and BELIEVE the words in today’s Responsorial Psalm ‘On the day I called, O Lord, you answered me!’

Many of us, as Christians, have lost three precious understandings. First, Christians have lost the sense of the importance of formal prayer at regular times. The life of the early Church shows us that regular formal prayer is essential to preserve our sense of God.

Second, many of us as Christians, have often lost the sense that when we pray as Christians it is not my prayer or your prayer, but our prayer in Jesus. When we pray simultaneously we are praying as one body and I pray at this time to join my prayer with that of the body, with the whole Church.

Third, to be a Christian is to be a disciple, a disciple is one who learns over time and takes on the practices, the discipline, of the Master. The Master prayed regularly, as we hear about Jesus in today’s Gospel, and so must we.

If something doesn’t happen according to what we ask for, something better is in God’s mind. Something greater is on the way. For these reasons, we can persevere in prayer and pray continually.

For Christians, praying is not about making God human, but about us becoming divine. God’s one desire for each of us is that we be His children, trusting in His goodness. When we learn to pray with trust, then we will also learn to see the goodness of our God in whatever comes to us in our daily lives. The Spirit within us will give us the strength and courage we need to handle the situations of our life-journey.

(Fr Martin Arlando is from the Diocese of Penang. He has just completed his Ecclesiastical Licentiate in Canon Law.)

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