A Humble Prayer

Sunday readings in Brief 30 C

Eccl 35:12-14, 16-19; Ps 33(34); 2 Tim 4:6-8,16-18; Lk 18:9-14

A Humble Prayer

Dear friends, today is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary. We have four more Sundays left to close the liturgical year C. Jesus, the greatest teacher of all times, is today teaching us about the attitude we need to have when we pray – humility. They say it matters not what we say but how we say it. The way we express ourselves has a lot to do with what we get as an answer from those listening to us.

Prayer is communicating with God. Though many people pray every day and night, not everyone knows how to pray effectively. One day the disciples of Jesus saw him praying and they realized that they did not know how to do it, and when he had finished, they said to him, “Lord teach us to pray” (Lk 11:1).

Prayer is all about the attitude and the disposition we have before God. Sometimes we go with readymade answers and clear-cut aspirations before God. We give God no freedom to even, modify our petitions. Most of the time we go to ask him for our needs and want nothing to do with what he has to say to us. If this is how we communicate, I am not surprised if we do not get answers. Just like in the communication process, many factors determine a good prayer such as the way we encode it, the channel we use, and our readiness to receive whatever feedback. God can say ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or ‘Wait’ or he can modify or pray and give us what is the best according to his wise judgment.

One example is how the people in the mission here, the majority being pastoralists, pray to God during dry seasons such as we are experiencing right now. Many call me to go and bless their animals so that they may not die out of hunger and offer me one or two cows. Now, unless the rain comes or they get alternative feeds for their animals, blessing alone cannot keep the animals alive. Their faith in this case is not an “All season” affair rather it is for “emergency purposes”. When the rain comes and plenty of grass is everywhere, the same people will not be seen in Church.

Our relationship with God is a key factor in our prayer. If we stay far from God, we cannot expect to move him to perform miracles for us when we have an emergency. Some only got a baptism of registration but do not live the tenets of faith demanded by their baptism. These can be likened to someone who lights a fire when it is very cold and goes to squat 10 meters away and expect to get warm. If we want to get warm then we must stay close to the fire. If we go far, we may only see the light of the fire but we may not get the warmth we need.

Today the readings highlight the importance of humility in prayer. The first reading tells us that the humble person’s prayer pierces the clouds and reaches God fast. When we pray, we must not dictate to God what and how he should answer but let him surprise us because he is the one who knows best what we need at any particular time. However, prayer is not just kneeling, standing, or lying to tell God what we need and how we need it, hot or cold, of this color or that size. When we perform our duties well like St. Paul, we are praying. Paul is at the evening of his missionary journey and he feels that he had done his best concerning his vocation to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. He is not asking God to remunerate him but he is expecting to inherit the Kingdom of God submitting to the will of God.

In many places of worship today, prayer has become like a competition about who shouts the best, who formulates the best prayer, who can move the highest emotions in the crowds, and who can best manipulate the spirit and other theatrics of the same nature. Everyone is trying to outdo the other in worship. Those in the Catholic Church where the Prayer is part of a well-organized Liturgy are made to feel that this way their prayer is lacking something. At times groups emerge in the Church trying to hike the Catholic prayer and give it some warmth. There is very little humility left in how we pray just like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel who went in front of God’s chest thumbing and despising everyone else including the tax collector who was also praying at the other corner.

Though we must not be cold in our prayer, we cannot expect to accelerate God’s decision or manipulate how he answers our prayer by our momentary theatrics. Prayer is the way of life that reflects our beliefs and values. It is not an emergency weapon, stuck on our waist while outside the worship places we live like unbelievers.

Dear friends, as we reflect on today’s readings, let us examine the way we pray and the way we live our lives and see if this could be the reason we get nothing out of our long and emotionally charged prayers.

Have a blessed Sunday

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD (see also svdkentan.com)

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