Oh Lord, Please Teach Me How To Pray!
Readings: (1st: Gen 18, 20 -32; Ps: 137, 1-3. 6-8; 2nd: Col 1, 12-14; Gos: Lk 11, 1-13)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working with the Spiritan International Group of Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic. He is the Administrator of Parroquia La Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
“Then, Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them how to pray always and never give up” (Lk 18, 1). Oftentimes we hear people imploring us, “please pray for me or remember me in your prayers.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. After all, we owe it as a duty to pray for one another!
Paul constantly requested for prayers, “pray also for me so that when I open my mouth words may be given to me…pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should” (Eph 6, 19-20). It however, may not be completely out of place to suggest that one of the reason some of us “indulge” in asking people to pray for us always is that we ourselves are very lazy to pray, and in some cases do not actually know how to pray!”
The late Jim Reeves titled one of his songs: “Teach me how to pray”. In it, he recounted how his little boy confronted him: “Daddy, you have taught me every other thing, teach me how to pray, so that I can thank God and ask Him to bless you.” This is the request of a humble child, and we must also humble ourselves to learn how to pray and begin to pray. This Sunday therefore, the Church draws our attention to the need to always turn to God in prayer in all circumstances of our life. She reminds us that prayer is the key to unlock and enter the heart of God. Today, Christ Himself gives us in truth, the power (The Lord’s Prayer), to become children of God.
Once while on a journey, a drama unfolded in the bus. The actors were a little baby boy and his young mother. This baby who all through the journey remained calm suddenly began to cry. The young mother immediately reached out for her bag, brought out a feeding bottle filled with baby feed and tried to feed the baby, but the baby refused to suck from it while at the same time making frantic effort to reach the mother’s breast. The young mother (for obvious reason which I would like you to figure out yourself), would not allow him have his way.
As the struggle continued the baby intensified his cry and it was so loud that people around noticed the drama taking place between mother and child. Suddenly, an elderly woman who could no longer bear the scene and seeing the travail of the baby said to the young lady: “My dear, feed your baby with your breast milk, he knows what he wants and it is his right to have it. I bet you he will not stop crying until you feed him the right way.” Immediately everyone around echoed in unison: “Yes it is his right, give it to him!” Seeing that her baby has attracted the sympathy of all, the young mother breast fed the baby there and then. Afterwards the baby slept off and peace returned to mother and child, as well as to their fellow passengers. The baby got what he wanted because, he persevered and persisted with his cry and struggle, and because the passengers interceded for him.
In the first reading of today, Abraham our father in faith demonstrated great confidence. He approached God as a father, not being afraid. His prayer was that of intercession not for his own sake but for the sake of his nephew, Lot and his household. He stood in the gap for them (Ezk 22, 30). Through this Abraham taught us that life is not about oneself alone. We must take pains to help those in distress. We must not under-rate the power of intercession because it is said that “God governs the world while prayer governs God”.
On the account of our prayer God could save those in need, because He surely cares and answers prayers. In the second reading Paul reminds us of our redemption in Christ Jesus. This he insists became possible due to our belief in the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead. It is through this faith that we approach God in prayer as a loving father who listens and never fails.
The gospel of today is an explicit call to us Christians to pray. The wise disciple who curiously and humbly told Christ: “Lord teach us how to pray.” is like the man who says: “Do not give me fish! Rather, teach me how to fish.” For us to pray effectively we must long to pray, thirst for prayer, and get into our “closet”, get down on our knees and start praying.
Today Christ prayed and at the same time taught us his disciples how to pray. Our Lord’s Prayer has been the object of unnecessary controversy as to whether it is prayer itself, or a model of how to pray. Yet with this same prayer mountains have been moved. Jesus not only taught us how to pray but through his two stories reassures us that if we pray God will not fail to answer us. All we need is to be persistent, patient, and humble.
It is quiet unfortunate that most of us do not tarry and travail in prayer yet we want mountains to be moved on our behalf. The reason is simple, we have lost faith in prayer and consequently in God. This is also the reason we move from one ministry to the other like moving wagons. If we must achieve any success in life, our prayer life must be re-energized! Worst still is the fact that many of us do not know how to pray. Therefore, like this wise disciple we must humbly implore Jesus: “Lord teach us how to pray.”
Prayer is a “simple project” that accomplishes much. As a project, prayer is a thing of the spirit and must not be approached mechanically. Unfortunately, most of us have lost the right approach to prayer and so, we are nowhere close to praying in spite of all the noise we generate in the name of praying. Paul tells us that: “We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us in groans that words cannot express” (Rom 8:26). So, whenever we lack wisdom of how to pray and what to pray for, we must ask the Spirit of Jesus to teach and help us to pray.
If we must succeed in life, we must adopt Abraham’s resoluteness, and the courage and humility of Jesus’ disciple. Therefore, we must not be quick to give up. Our God never keeps silent, rather he waits for the appropriate time to respond and act. If with gentleness and calmness of spirit we stand before God in prayer, he will hear us and of course we will succeed. We must not give up the habit of prayer because it is a gift of Jesus through which he empowers us to be constantly in touch with God. If we pray according to the mind and will of God, we shall gladly join the Psalmist in saying: “On the day I called, you answered me, O Lord!”
Peace be with you all!