The Battle to Pray Always
We return to the subject of prayer once again this Sunday. Last week, we reflected on the prayer of thanksgiving as an act of faith. In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciple on "the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary" (Lk 18: 1). Persistence in prayer is the central message Jesus conveys in the parable of the dishonest judge and the persistent widow. The widow demands justice, but the judge is unwilling to act, but she would not cease demanding to be heard. Finally, her untiring insistence soon wears out the judge, and he yields to her request. In like manner, Jesus calls on us to pray to God day and night without ceasing. Consistency in prayer is a fruit of faith, a trust in a loving God who comes to our help when we call earnestly upon him.
Prayer is central to the Christian life, and the Scripture calls us to the practice of perpetual prayer. Prayer is a continuous conversation of heart and mind with God. But how can we possibly fulfill Jesus' demands to pray without weary? This teaching about praying always is an uphill task that seems impossible to do. Indeed, it is a battle. Prayer is a battle. We can quickly glean the prayer of Moses for Isreal against the incursion of the Amalek in Exodus 17. Here we see that prayer is inserted in a battle scene. Joshua and Isreal "had the better of the fight" against Amalek "as long as Moses kept his hands raised up." It is clear that, like Moses, our hands raised in prayers will get tired. Hence, we have to find a way to keep our hands, and at the same time, our minds and hearts lifted to God in prayer always if we want to win the battles of life.
Do not try to look away or avoid reality; prayer is a battle we must engage in to live a victorious Christian life. Consider Jacob's wrestling with God in Genesis 32 as illustrative of how we ought to attend to prayers; it is a wrestling battle against many obstacles to its effective practice. We will benefit from the following insights on prayer as a battle from the catechism of the catholic church:
" In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they "don't have the time." Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone" (2726).
We must identify obstacles to a life of persistent prayers and overcome them. We pray to the Holy Spirit to give us the faith we need to pray as Jesus instructed us, to pray always. We pray to overcome obstacles to this way of praying. "To overcome these obstacles, we must battle to gain humility, trust, and perseverance" (CCC 2728).
Now, let's get into the battle of praying always!
Yours always in prayer,
Fr. Bernard, OP