October 8, 2020 – Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/100820.cfm)
Is prayer an obligation? Many of us must have felt that prayer is an obligation, that it is some kind of a to-do list item or like a house chore that one must observe and follow. When I was young, I was taught that I “must and should” pray so that I become a good boy and God will not get angry. Many of us have developed ways of praying and different devotional practices like praying the rosary and the various novenas to the saints. Yet, many of us would always believe that prayer is indeed an obligation.
Moreover, for us religious (priests, consecrated brothers and nuns) are actually obligated to observe our prayer schedules as defined by our Constitutions and Statutes. No wonder, that because of this “obligation to pray” we become guilty when we are not able to observe our prayers. People come to confession because of the guilt feelings of not being able to observe faithfully their prayers.
However, did Jesus really mean that we are obligated to pray?
Today’s Gospel on the “persistence in prayer” is a continuation of yesterday’s Gospel. Yesterday, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. This means that it was the disciples’ desire to learn how to pray. Never did Jesus impose it to the disciples. The disciples recognized the importance of prayer because they realized that this was a way of developing a closer relationship with God, to a deeper friendship with the Lord. This is the invitation for us today.
On these particular verses of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus elaborated on how one should dispose himself/herself in prayer in order to develop ones friendship with God. Indeed, Jesus teaches us to be persistent in prayer and to continuously develop our closeness with the Lord. Jesus gives us these three attitudes in praying.
ASK. Before we can truly ask the Lord, we also need to recognize and identify our need. Recognizing what we need means acknowledging our limitations, our emptiness, our failures and our powerlessness. This also needs an amount of humility to bow our heads and recognize that God truly fulfills and satisfies our hearts. This brings us into a deeper awareness of ourselves and to become more accepting of ourselves. Only then, that we can truly ask the Lord to satisfy the deepest desire of our hearts, and we shall surely receive the grace. Therefore, stop for a moment and pause.
Seek. In the process of asking the Lord for the grace we need, there will be surely a time of becoming weary and anxious. We might feel that God is taking too long to answer and grant our prayers. Doubts may hit us thinking that we might have been forgotten. Thus, prayer also involves “seeking” as in “searching.” Prayer, then, is also a form of searching what is hidden and what remains undiscovered in us, waiting to be found. We don’t search for God for God has not been lost. We continuously seek and search ourselves and to let God find us. Thus, seek for a deeper insight, seek for understanding and wisdom because God answers us not outside of us but within our own context, experiences and relationships. Open the scriptures and seek God’s wisdom.
KNOCK. God always waits for us to come closer and to dwell in God’s presence. When everything else in life will seem to be burdensome, we long for comfort. As demands from work, from home and from our relationship, and expectations from others begin to suffocate us, we long for a break. When failures, pains and guilt begin to take hold of us, we long for an embrace that will give us assurance of love and mercy. To pray is to come closer to God in order to knock the door of His heart. When we come and knock at God’s door, God is most willing to embrace us with His presence, with his forgiveness and mercy. To pray, then, is to seek entrance in God’s heart and to be welcomed by Him. Thus, never be afraid to knock because God is ready to open up His arms to embrace us. Come to the sacraments and be embraced by God’s grace.
With these three attitudes in praying, these tell us now that prayer is never an obligation but more than that. To pray is a privilege given to us to build our friendship with God. When we pray, then, we embrace that opportunity to grow in the knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of God. The more we pray, the more we see ourselves. The more we become persistent in praying, the more we recognize the Lord’s presence in our life, both as individuals and as a community.
Hence, move beyond obligation and instead, pray maturely and freely as we build deeper and intimately our friendship with God and with one another. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR