The Grace to Go on Praying

10-20-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

The scripture this weekend helps to reveal the interlocking relationship between prayers that are said and people who are faith-filled pray-ers. Consider how we gather to pray, which helps to form us, and then as we pray, we are formed even more and differently. The act of praying and its content do profoundly affect us. We grow to pray, and then prayer causes growth in us and so it goes on in this cycle of life of prayer. As we think about the readings for this Sunday, keep this philosophical insight in your mind to help process what the Word of God may mean to you this weekend.

Note right away that the first reading lifts up the power of God over human violence. No great acts of war or monstrous machines of destruction can bring about victory in arms, only God can. We are reminded again that God is the giver in life and we are the receivers. God offers and we respond. The reading, however, also highlights two more truths: that we must always persevere in trials and also we must keep trust that God will answer our prayers. In addition, this passage also emphasizes that prayer is greatly strengthened by the community. This passage certainly tells us of the many factors of authentic prayer to God.

The Gospel’s real focus is the praying widow, not the all-powerful judge as many may think. Jesus is illustrating for us that our prayer must be like that of the poor widow. It must be directed to the Almighty, persistent and born of a faithful trust. Jesus informs and invites us to pray incessantly to God, trusting that God will respond in God’s good time. Jesus intends us to recognize and comprehend the correlation between perseverance in prayer and faith. Remember, Jesus does ask: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” This question reveals to us that prayer is necessary to preserve faith just as much as faith is necessary to validate prayer.

Obviously Jesus recognizes that faith is not easy to keep alive in bad times or, surprisingly, in good times. Note how his own apostles let faith melt away. Jesus’ insistence on perseverance and persistence is a result of understanding what disturbs our faith; for example: a serious illness, always struggling over money for basics, outrage over injustices, boredom with work or life, wounded pride, or even a very comfortable life that makes us deny our need to continue to pray. Jesus refused to give up on the stumbling faith of his apostles and he also refuses to give up on us. On the contrary, he warns us and urges us not to lose heart, to keep going and continue to believe and trust that God is with us. He also at the same time strengthens us and grants us the grace to go on—in faith and in prayer, and also in life.

Through prayer, we are able to become more aware of living in the presence of God. When we pray, our memory and our search for meaning actually meet. In the holy Mass, we join in prayer in the present time in order to allow the memory of the past times to be in the present and to give us a hopeful glimpse of the promise of our future. When Christians join in prayer, it is not a large cacophony of sound by individuals; rather it is a shared loud voice of hope, trust and faith. Bear in mind this shared prayer shapes our faith. Prayer and faith, in fact, are inseparable. A person who prays has living faith and through a community of faith we keep the story and message of Jesus Christ alive.