Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Prayer of the Heart

Reflections on the Readings
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 17, 2010 - Year C
Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins

The Prayer of the Heart (Part I)

And (Jesus) told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 

Prayer is deeply personal; the exchange between two hearts.  The Psalmist describes the prayer of the heart like this:  As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.  Jesus today speaks of this longing, of this need to always pray and not lose heart.  And the way to not lose heart is to draw near to God in prayer.  We must believe that God lives, and that he rewards those who seek him with his life and his love.

The widow in the Gospel is extremely vulnerable.  But her only hope for protection is if the judge vindicates her.  Otherwise, her situation will grow worse.  So she pours out her heart, begging for the attention of the court.  The judge cares little for her plight.  However, he would rather be rid of her than to be worn out by her persistent plea.  In the end, the judge vindicates her.  

Jesus wants us to know that God, unlike the unjust judge, responds to our prayers.  He cannot be worn out by our requests or our pleas.  He does not grow weary or become too tired to hear the feeblest voice among us.  Those who cry out to him, whether it be day or night, will find God ready, willing, and able to comfort our troubled hearts.  

It is said, that after several years of married life, a husband and wife start looking alike.  They certainly begin to finish each other's sentences.  And sometimes each will know what the other is thinking and wanting.  Like the kiss between a husband and wife, prayer is the kiss between our heart and the heart of God.  After a few years of prayer, we begin to be more like him whom we love; through prayer we begin looking more like Jesus.  And in time, the heart in prayer even knows the thoughts and will of the Lord.  Indeed, before we ask him, our Father knows our deepest longing.  He knows the thoughts and the deepest intentions and aspirations of our heart.  

The prayer of the heart is not only persistent praying.  It is not only prolonged contemplation. The prayer of the heart is filled with confidence.  Coming to the Lord in prayer, we draw near to the throne of grace.  Before this throne nothing and no one is hidden.  Nothing should be hidden between us and the Lord.  Everything that matters to us and to him is visible before his merciful eyes. 

Jesus said one time, "My house shall be called a house of prayer."  St. Paul describes Christians as 'temples of the Holy Spirit.'  It is our heart that is now a house of prayer.  Sometimes we don't know how to pray.  What can be done in such a time of weakness?  The Spirit helps us in such times, intercedes for us and through us with sighs too deep for words. Our confidence in prayer derives from the truth that the Spirit intercedes for us according to the will of God.

But Jesus raised a question.  It is an important question for us today.  "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Jesus asks.  Will we lose our heart for prayer or will we remain faithful in prayer?  We enter into the deepest of all prayer when we receive the body and blood of Jesus.  As we contemplate such closeness with our Lord, we pray more fervently, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."  Wishing not to presume upon his love, we pray, "only say the word, and I shall be healed."  And once again, we commune with our Lord; it is deeply personal, it is the exchange of love between two hearts.  We love him back because he first loved us.

And this shall we do, until he comes in glory.  


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