TWENTY-NINTH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME 2019
It only through prayer that we communicate with God. There is no post office box to send him a letter using either by slow mail or e-mail. We can’t call him on the phone. We can’t skype him. There is only prayer.
Once we recognize that the only way to connect with the Lord is by prayer, we then need to consider the frequency of our prayer. Prayer is one of those tasks that should not be far from our thoughts throughout the day. “Pray constantly” is a phrase that seems outlandish, as if we had the time to do that but at the same time, it makes total sense. Without prayer, we lose the desire to love God and those for whom we pray.
Thus, our prayer must be persistent to the Lord. While he knows our needs, we cannot expect the Lord provides for us if we do not express our desires. In his wisdom, he will respond to our prayers by always acting in our best interests. For that reason, prayers are not frequently answered as we think they should be. When we have an emotional tie to a prayer, it seems that there can be only one possible solution and do not understand why God has not responded favorably to our plea. In our desire or agony, we do not think about the big picture. It is at that time we need to have faith in the Lord that he will, as he always does, take care of us.
Another point that often frustrates us is the time interval between when we pray and the response time in the way that God answers our prayer. At times, it may seem that when God’s reply is delayed that he is ignoring us. While we don't know the reason, God sometimes wants us to be persistent in our prayer, asking repeatedly. Perhaps he is teaching us the virtue of patience. In our world today, we want immediate results which then keeps us from savoring what we receive. In learning patience through prayer, we discover whether we desire the subject of our prayer or if it is a passing fantasy that is replaced by some other desire. If we move on to another subject after a few times at prayer, then how justified is our request? Persistence in prayer shows the depth of our desire.
Prayerful persistence is symbolically expressed in the first reading today when Moses’ supplication to God for the Hebrew’s victory. When Moses kept his hands raised, the Hebrew army advanced on the Amalek army. Even when Moses grew tired and it became necessary for Aaron and Hur to support his arms, God aided the Hebrews. This reading from Exodus confirms that we do not need to go it alone in our prayer. Asking for assistance, when we need support in our prayer, gives us strength not to become discouraged as we await God’s response to our plea.
Another point to consider about the speed at which God responds is the strength of our faith. There is a distinct connection between the intensity of our desire and the strength of our faith. If we pray and a reply is not forthcoming what is our reaction? Do we give up on our longing or only increase the fervor of the prayer? If after on a short interval, we stop praying, maybe we don’t believe in the mighty power of God. Perseverance in prayer, as with the widow in today’s parable, emphasizes that our faith cannot in God’s merciful acts be shaken. We should never lose heart in our prayer for God provides in a manner that best answer our needs.
Persistence is part of the reason why the widow in the Gospel today was able to cause the corrupt judge to decide in her favor. The widow does stop in her relentless pursuit of a just judgment. The judge, after not receiving a moment peace, finally relents just to be done with her. It is important to recognize that the purpose of our ongoing prayer is not to wear down God to receive what we want. When he answers our prayer, God has considered the options and intervenes for us appropriately as the loving caring Father that he is. Our relentless pray is our confirmation that we believe he will be just.
Another significant point about prayer is the reason why we pray. We pray about a multitude of items that we are sure that God has the same level of concern for and will intercede to save us any emotional distress. To consider that God’s interest in our welfare should be directed to winning the lottery, our favorite team winning this week’s game or retribution against an enemy is erroneous. If we want to experience a transformation in any aspect of our lives, then our prayers should be direct to praying for a change of heart.
Praying for world success can be self-defeating. Winning the lottery sounds enticing; to have so much money that attaining one’s heart’s desire is appealing. However, would that wealth prove to be a physical and spiritual benefit? Many who win a large amount of money find themselves have more desperate lives than when they were poor. Maybe it was the devil and not God who enables one to buy the winning ticket.
Since God loves all his children equally, therefore, he has no reason to favor one sports team over another. Whether a team wins or loses does not depend on the number of Hail Mary’s or Our Father’s offered. God’s compassion is with those who suffer from injustice, not a Hail Mary pass in the last second to win the game. God’s graces will rest on his children who have faith in him, not those sports figures who superstitiously make the Sign of the Cross before coming to bat. God’s mercy will be upon those who seek his justice in prayer.
Far too often today, societal justice is equated with seeking punishment for those who express hatred or has a different opinion. Many groups these days use disparaging identifiers of others as racists, sexist, or homophobic to label people with whom they disagree. It is not uncommon for these “righteous” groups to pray that God “punishes or gets even” with anyone who acts or thinks differently. God’s justice is based on love, not hate. In desiring a change to occur in attitudes one needs to first pray for themselves to be more Christlike and not moralistic. When we have a greater understanding of our antagonists’ issues, then we begin to discover how God correct injustice.
The judge, in the Gospel, describes himself as unmoved by God or any person in his judgments. Bribery is the primary factor that influences his court decisions. The judge will rule in favor of one with the largest bribe. The widow, who can offer no bribe, only asks for justice. Eventually, the judge acceded to her demand as her vocalizations is raising a question of the validity of his judgments. In this way the widow is like God, she unmasks injustice until justice is given, even if it is reluctantly given. The judge’s heart is not changed, but his desire to give the appearance of justice is a step towards righteousness. If this judge who has no pity or piety can be persuaded to change his mind, then how much greater is God's justice who always gives us what we truly need.
What then are our reasons for a lifetime of prayer? Praying to maintain our connection with God to seek to do his will is worthy of our constant prayer. Praying for a change in the hearts of all human beings so that God’s justice will prevail is worthy of our constant prayer. Constant prayer enables our hearts to become the heart of God for then we will be like Jesus never relinquishing our desire to love for every person and the pursuit justice for those in need.