I have always found it interesting that many parishioners will approach me and request that I pray for them, or their intention(s). It is always a privilege to be invited into something that is very private, intimate, and sacred but, I believe they are short changing themselves by not believing that their Father in heaven wants to hear from them personally.
Their thought is, that I, father, a priest, has a “better” or maybe a “more personal” or “direct” connection with God. I tell them that this reasoning is not correct. Not to mean that I do not enter into personal prayer, or do not want to pray for, or with them but, that God wants and desires to hear from all His children, ordained or not. What loving parent would not want to hear from their child?
I ask myself why do the faithful sometimes doubt that their prayers are heard? Why do I doubt, that my prayers are not heard at times? I think one reason is that we live in a society/culture that for the most part, is instantaneous. We have information at our fingertips in this age of technology. We have luxuries and a life style that most royalty never experienced in history. In this country, we still have the ability to move about, to come and go as we please, we have freedom. The freedom to pray, should we “choose” to pray.
Do we choose not to pray because prayer seems so intangible? We cannot see our prayers ascending to the Father! We cannot see them being heard, or our Father’s reaction when they reach Him! And, as a consequence, since we seemingly are unable to have any concrete evidence that our prayers arrived at their destination, we choose to believe they were not heard and have gone, or will go unanswered. Furthermore, many in our society choose to believe they have the license to do what they want to do since their prayers were not answered “immediately.”
Imagine, you that are parents, your child coming to you with a request and expecting immediate gratification. For those, who are parents, and are annoyed with this, then think what our Father, our heavenly parent in heaven thinks, when we as His children do to Him what we dislike and have done to our earthly parents.
The definition of faith taken from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews is: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Have we become so overloaded with stuff in our life, tangible distractions, that we do not have “hope” in what we cannot see? Then, if we cannot see God, then why should we place our faith in Him?
Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, are replete with people who persevered in their faith in God through their prayer. The first that comes to mind for me is Abraham, (Genesis 18:16-33) who interceded with God on behalf of the righteous in Sodom. Abraham continued to engage God in conversation/prayer, for the 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, and finally, 10 righteous people.
The second for me is Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32) who wrestled with God through the night. Indeed, prayer at times is like a wrestling match. But, we may not be wrestling with God Himself. We could very well be wrestling with the evil one himself, who does not want us to have a relationship with our heavenly Father and will do all that is in his power to prevent, discourage, and destroy that relationship.
And finally, we have Jesus our brother, the Son of God who persevered in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 26:39-44) we see Jesus praying to His father: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Jesus took to prayer these words.
How many times do we take to prayer our will, rather than our heavenly Father’s will? The greatest part of prayer is listening. We must never stop approaching our Father and we most certainly must never stop listening.
Our answer then is, never stop praying. And, possibly, the answer we seemingly did not receive, is our answer!
Fr. Schuster is the pastor at Church of St. Hildegard in Menoken and Sacred Heart in Wilton.
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