Thursday, October 8, 2009
Thursday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Malachi 3:13-20; Psalm 1:1-4, 6; Luke 11:5-13
Much discussion about how Christians pray is centered upon the methods of prayer. People I have talked with have asked the question of me as to whether formal or rote prayer is better than spontaneous dialogue with God, or whether silence is better yet. I believe all these are necessary and helpful. We have formulas like the Lord’s Prayer, from yesterday’s Gospel reading (1), and prolonged prayer sets like the Liturgy of the Hours or even the Mass. Some find contemplative methods to be most effective, while others prefer trustful spontaneity, as in a conversation with their best friend.
No one of these is better than another- the Spirit must be allowed to move each of us differently and as He wills. When I went to Cali, I began to spend a short time in front of the Blessed Sacrament each day praying only that I would be able to learn a new culture and language and to better serve the people of our parish and school. I do not consider myself a spontaneous person, but my time in Colombia increased my appreciation of short and informal prayer.
Today’s readings, from the prophet Malachi and from the Gospel of Luke, also present us with differing ways to pray, contrasting one way that is displeasing and one that is pleasing to God.
How often we Christians fall into the pattern decried by Malachi. It is easy to see the evil in the world and, as those referred to in the first reading, to complain bitterly that those who commit such evil are not held accountable by God, but even seem to thrive. (2) How could a just God allow that to continue unabated?
In today’s follow-up to the Lucan version of the Our Father, Jesus teaches us about “persistence” in prayer (3), but He goes a step farther: If a friend needs to be persuaded toward hospitality when bothered at an inopportune time (4), and even if many among us would give almost anything to a fellow person in need- I met several of this kind of people in Colombia- God is even more generous in answering our prayer. (5) We have been sealed with the ultimate answer to our entreaty, the gift of the Holy Spirit. (6) Therefore, no longer is the core of Jesus’ message about persistence in prayer, but about unceasing prayer amid our everyday activities in a spirit of thanksgiving and of joy.