Dear Friends in Christ,
Why should we pray? Today’s Gospel recounts Jesus’ parable about the impatient judge, who was constantly being bothered by a widow pestering him for justice. If that judge will answer the woman’s need just to get rid of her and get some peace, Jesus tells us, will not our heavenly Father answer the prayers we make to him?
Even since the age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, people of a philosophical bent have questioned the value of prayer, and especially intercessory prayer. It is said, for example, that the German poet Goethe never prayed because he argued that the world was set on its course anyway. Of course, god knows what we are going to ask him in advance of our asking. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that God ‘is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established, and which remains wholly subject to him and at this disposal. He is mater of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will….’ (para 269). God did not create the world and then leave it to its own devices! He has assured us through the Scriptures that he will change events as a result of our prayers. The world is not just a machine ticking over like a watch. It is more a unity, directed by an infinite mind which we call God. So, we must keep praying, as Paul says, ‘at all times’, that is when things are good and when things are bad.
Of course, prayer can be frustrating. Sometimes our prayers never seem to be answered. But God may be leading us to the virtue of perseverance, in Greek bupomoné, which we might translate as ‘stickability’. Christian faith teaches us the virtue of fidelity even in difficult times. We also have help from others in our prayer. Out reading from Exodus tells us the beautiful story of Moses being helped to pray by Aaron and Hur holding up his arms. The Church has a role in encouraging our prayers, by giving us the right prayer to say, and by giving us pastors and Christian friends who can help us and guide us as we grow in stickability. Don’t give up!
PRAY AS YOU CAN, NOT AS YOU CAN’T