“Persistence in Prayer” by Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM

The efficacy of our prayer does not come from its form. What matters is the faith that accompanies the forms of prayer; the filial trust and confidence that we are children of God who is a Father.

In this age of charismatic renewal in the Church, a new prayer form has emerged. It is spontaneous, scriptural, accompanied by bodily gestures, raising and waving and clapping of hands. Some are hip-swaying, feet-thumping in joyful singing. Compare it to the traditional forms of prayer. It is ready made, usually read if not memorized already. It has minimal bodily gestures and movements. It is also repetitive that can lead to mindlessness. When this charismatic form of prayer was first introduced, not quite a few were turned off as they found that this movement, like dancing, borders on the disrespectful as we are used to minimal movement and herefore expect the church to be a place of quiet. On the other hand, some charismatics would frown and do away with the traditional form of prayer. Which is a more efficacious form of prayer, singing praises and thanking or the intercessory prayer of pleas and pleading?

Readings

This Sunday’s liturgical reading converges on the theme of prayer, and persistence on it and equates it with faith. Moses, sitting on the mountain with hands uplifted, while people fight in the plains below, has become a symbol of the necessity of prayer and its efficacy. (Ex. 17: 8 – 13). It illustrates that combatants as heralds of the apostolate, need, in order to emerge victorious, the prayer of the “contemplatives” who wear themselves out by praying without rest on the mountain. In the Gospel today, Luke made a surprising start by opening the Gospel account with the meaning of the parable which is the need for prayer and not to lose heart. Understood in this way, the parable of the unjust judge or the persistent widow teaches the necessity of prayer without ceasing even when the Lord seems slow to coming and deaf to our pleas. If an unjust judge finally gives the widow her due, how much more will not God, who is a Father, give justice to his elect. The lesson is that God gives justice promptly out after a long delay. Christians then in prayer must allow for the delay which God demands. They will pray “without intermission.” No longer is Christian prayer an appeal for immediate intervention. It accepts the patience of God.

Word

For a strong faith we need a strong prayer life. Our readings suggest there are things that may weigh heavily on our prayer life. We sometimes become tired and weary like Moses. Some call that spiritual burnout. It needs great effort and discipline to pray regularly. When Moses became tired, others came to support him. Do we appreciate the fact that we are supported by others? Not only do we pray for others, but others are praying for us at this moment. It is crucial not to overlook that. We are not spiritual castaways trying to survive on our own. We belong to the church, a community of faith, to support, give and transfer strength to one another. Know that someone, somebody, if not the whole community is praying for and with you.

The efficacy of our prayer does not come from its form. Whether it is a praising and singing hymn or pleading for God’s intercession. There is room for both, or any form of prayer. What matters is the faith that accompanies the forms of prayer; the filial trust and confidence that we are children of God who is a Father. If an unjust judge would relent, how much more would God, being a Father, deny us what we need. The work of intercession, praying for others is a powerful work of faith. Through it, we can touch the lives of others, the lives of our leaders, friends and people many miles part. Sometimes our form of prayer seems to be in a rut, and we need a spiritual jump-start; that is the time to turn to the Sacred Scripture. Paul today reminds us all that Sacred Scripture is inspired and useful for teaching and training. Let the word of God enliven our prayer, opening up new avenues to the Lord. There is room for both spiritual and traditional forms of prayer.

Finally, sometimes we simply become frustrated. We pray but the word doesn’t seem to change; at least not as quickly as we would want. We can became discouraged and lose our confidence in God. Our prayer does not consist in expecting God to accomplish what we ourselves fail to accomplish; give us peace; stop corruption. God is not a stop-gap. Prayer is basically a protest because war triumphs over peace, injustice over justice, evil over good. It is an entry into communion with the God of patience. In such communion the cries of protest are gradually translated into action. The perseverance asks of us is not only in praying to God, but in cooperating with Him to establish the justice we long for.

as published on October 20, 2013 Parish Bulletin
About Fr. Tasang and his other reflections

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