Reflections on the Readings
October 20, 2013 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
Having a Prayer Life
And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)
The Cry of the Heart
Prayer is sometimes made of words. Other times it is waiting in silence. It can be a moment when gazing at an exploding sunrise in wonderment and thanksgiving. There are times when prayer is on the go. And prayer can be a block of time carved out of the beginning of a day. Certainly prayer is that conversation when it's something that just has to be explained again. At least we think the Lord may need an update just in case he didn't...well, we really know he did hear, but, you know! Then there is that prayer that comes with words not of our own understanding, but the Spirit gives us the words to pray within the deepest mystery of our faith. All of these ways and times of prayer are a cry of the heart.
Have you ever seen a basketball player or some other sports figure and wonder if their heart is really in it? It's obvious. It's painful to watch. You know the saying about if your heart ain't in it, then it's not worth doing. Prayer is worth doing and we need to take it to heart and make it a cry of our heart. As the Psalmist reminds us: Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice! Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
The widow sought justice from a judge who neither feared God nor respected the people he served. Yet this did not deter the little widow who did not lose heart, but she persisted in asking for what she needed. Her fearless approach to the unjust judge resulted in mercy. The point of Jesus' parable is not that our Father is like this earthly judge. Rather, Jesus wants us to know that his Father and ours always hears the cry of the poor; of the destitute; the prayers from you and me. He hears us because he looks on the heart and sees and knows our prayer requests. Like Jeremiah the prophet reminds us: For I know the plans I have have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all of your heart, I will be found of you, says the Lord...
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
Spiritual warfare is real. It encompasses the necessity to be vigilant and persistent in prayer. The first reading describes Israel's response to the invading army led by Amalek. The Amalekites were a pernicious thorn in Israel's national side. They were Brutal and vicious in their raids against the Chosen.
We might use this reading to describe the resemblance it has to Satan's attacks against Christ's Church. St. Paul reminds us that prayer is sometimes a spiritual battle that we wage. He exhorts us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Paul says, "For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
When David confronted the taunting Goliath, he did so with a simple faith. It was a faith that had grown in him as he watched over his father's flocks. With his own hands he had killed a lion and a bear to protect the sheep under his care. Upon the lonely hills he comforted himself and the sheep who listened to him sing unto the Lord. So when he went before Goliath he approached him in the strength he discovered in worshipful song and prayer on the hills of Judea.
Answering the arrogant taunts of Goliath, David warned, "This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down..for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hand."
In our prayers, let us be comforted with remembering that our Father knows what we need before we ask. He is present to the circumstances we pray about before we bring them to his attention. So why pray? Because in our Father's great wisdom he has determined that he will do nothing without us. So the scriptures do not say, "If you pray, but rather, When you pray!" And when we truly have a prayer filled life we discover that prayer is a way for us to give ourselves over and the matters we pray about to the mercy and ever powerful grace of God. The battle truly belongs to the Lord.
Praying through Thick and Thin
In the second reading Paul reminds Timothy of the origin and trustworthy faith he received in childhood. Everything we learned about our faith we learned in seed form in childhood. It's something like everything you learned you learned in kindergarten. It's true. Some of the most powerful and invigorating truths of our Father's love for us we learned from the stories and prayers and preaching we heard in childhood. These things are truly irreplaceable treasures. Someone who drifts far from the faith will often find their way back because of a song or prayer someone taught them.
Paul encourages Timothy to preach the word; to be faithful and persistent in teaching the faith. We demonstrate Christian faithfulness when we make persistent and relentless efforts in praying. It may be convenient and sometimes it may seem a little bit inconvenient, like when we are eating out and we hesitate a moment to bow our heads and give thanks. But the hour is urgent, the time is short, today is the day of salvation and it is in that hope and promise of salvation we find the reason to pray without ceasing.
In season and out of season, we must pray. Through thick and thin let us call upon the mighty strength of our Father whose ears are always open. He does not need persuasion. He only waits for an invitation to invade us and our prayers with his love so that we might be filled with hope. Hope is the lifeline we find when we allow our lives to be filled with prayer. A lifetime of prayer is the key to growing in grace and seeing grace grow in all the places in need of that grace. A life of prayer teaches us that nothing is too hard for the Lord. He who is merciful and kind will answer the prayers of our heart to heal someone sick, to comfort someone dying, to love someone hurting. It's just that real. As Jesus said, "We ought always to pray, and not lose heart." Amen
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at: www.dennishankins.com