I recently heard a story about a pilot flying a small plane. He was having trouble so he called in to the tower. ‘I am over the ocean about 80 miles from land, and I am out of fuel. My altitude is about 600 feet. Please advise”. The air traffic controller answered; “Repeat after me: Our Father, who art in heaven…. “
Today’s readings invite us to think about prayer. Prayer is so woven into the fabric of what it is to live as a Christian that perhaps sometimes we forget to ask that simple question: “why do we pray?” And if we forget to ask why we pray, then there must be a danger that one day we may simply forget to pray altogether.
One very good reason that we pray is to ask God for blessings, help and graces for ourselves and others. Moses recognizes that the Israelites need God’s help- there is real danger and by themselves they may not have the means to prevail. They have no military strategy or secret weapon to save them. Moses turns instead to constant prayer. He does so having faith in God, knowing that Israel’s “help is in the name of the Lord”.
The widow in the Gospel story has nobody to defend her rights; only by constant “prayer” – not in this case to God, but to the unjust judge – can she hope for justice. It is right that we should, in humility, recognize our dependence on God and be constant in bringing our needs before the Lord. We prostrate our souls before God in humble and contrite submission.
Another reason we pray is to adore God, expressing our love and loyalty. Our love for a God who loves us so much he sent his Son, our love for his Son who gave us the means to be free from sin and death. We pray to express our loyalty, our steadfast love, our faithful love. Are you in your heart, in your mind, and in your life and your activities loyal and committed to God? If so tell him in prayer. Be thankful for God’s loyalty to you and for giving you the grace of love and loyalty towards God.
A third reason to pray is to obtain from God pardon for our sins and remission of their punishment. We pray to confess our sins to God, to acknowledge that we have offended God. Your well-formed conscience enables you to take responsibility for things you do or say. If we commit evil, the just judgment of conscience within you is the witness to the universal truth of the good. Bring your troubled conscience to God in prayer and ask forgiveness.
Implicit in your prayer for pardon is the faith that God does and will forgive. Jesus, through his passion and resurrection, opened for us a channel of forgiveness, of mercy. The Church teaches that there is no sin, no matter how serious, that cannot be forgiven. To imply otherwise is to deny God’s omnipotence. God’s mercy is more powerful than any human ability to sin.
A fourth reason to pray is to thank God for his favors. Thank him for life, for his love, for the beauty of creation. Giving thanks reminds us of how much we have. Human beings are prone to focus on what we don’t have. When we focus on blessings rather than wants, we are happier. When we start thanking God for the things we usually take for granted, our perspective changes.
Remember this – all prayer initiates with God. The Holy Spirit is constantly calling out to you to pray, and when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” we are ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. In prayer, God’s initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. Prayer is the action of God and of man, springing from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father in union with the human will of the Son of God. Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always requires effort.
Prayer isn’t about persuading God to do what we want, however noble that may be; it is about inviting God to mold us in faith into what he wants for us. Prayer can’t change God; it should change us.
As our parish undertakes the great work and grace of perpetual adoration, keep these thoughts in mind. In adoration we will pray before Jesus in the way that Moses shows us- pray constantly and with great effort. If we grow tired the Church and the angels will sustain us, one on one side and one on the other. We pray before Jesus as the widow did, asking again and again for graces and favors. We pray for forgiveness and to express our thanks. Most of all we pray before Jesus in adoration, in loyal and faithful love.