The Lord prays and so must we

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The opening verses of the Gospel passage proclaimed this Sunday present us Jesus at prayer.

The Lord, who is God, the second person of the Holy Trinity spends time in prayer. He takes a break from his public ministry, leaves behind his disciples and goes to a place on a mountain, where he can be alone in prayer.

Throughout the Gospels there are many times, especially critical moments in his public ministry and mission, when we find Jesus at prayer. At the supreme moment, before his Passion, Death and Resurrection, he prays in the Mount of Olives.

Since Jesus is true God, his moments of prayer offer us a glimpse into the inner life of the Trinity, the deep bond of love and communion that exists between the Three Divine persons.

Since Jesus is true man, his constant prayer teaches us a lesson for our life.

Prayer ought to be for us too a moment set aside to nurture the deep bond of love and communion that exists between God and us.

We know for a fact that we are beloved children of God. Our very existence is proof of that. We also know that God desires to enter into communion with us. The Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God in the person of Jesus, his solidarity with us unto death and his Resurrection make that manifest. We have to respond to that love and to the invitation to be in communion. Of course, we do that by the way we live our lives, especially our seeking moments of intimacy with the Lord.

Prayer is not simply about presenting God with a laundry list of our needs. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with asking God to help us even with matters that may be objectively trivial or irrelevant, because in doing so we are acknowledging our radical dependence on Him, his love and Divine Providence. Yet our prayer cannot end there. It cannot be a monologue either. It ought to be a dialogue of love with our beloved and, indeed, it must also include prayer of adoration.

Our entire lives ought to be offered to the Lord as a sacrifice of praise pleasing to Him. When we work, for example, we are co-creators with Him. Offering up to the Lord our work enables us to grow in communion with Him who also worked with human hands and thought with a human brain. Everything that we do that is good can and should be offered to the Lord. Our moments of pain and suffering can also become a source or communion and a time of prayer if we unite ourselves to the crucified Lord and associate ourselves to the suffering Jesus Christ endured for the redemption of the world and the salvation of souls.

But we still need moments set aside to explicitly engage in a dialogue of love with the Lord.

As I mentioned before, this dialogue includes our asking the Lord for help with our lives and our needs. It is also about thanking the Lord for the many gifts that we receive from him, have received in the past and will surely receive in the future. It is an opportunity to ask the Lord for an increase in grace, increased participation in his love and life. But it is essential that it also include the contemplation of his glory, his greatness, his nature. That is what the prayer of adoration is about, to adore, to glorify, to praise God for his great glory, nothing more, nothing less.

There is an entire section in the book of Psalms that is called the “Hallel.” It is made up of Psalms 113 through 118. To this day, pious Jews pray them on special occasions, including Passover. The Gospels tell us that the Lord Jesus himself prayed them at the Last Supper. They offer us a model of prayer and a structure that is useful for our own lives of prayer. They highlight the importance of prayer and offer us an example of its different forms. The “Hallel” opens up with Psalm 113, a song of praise and adoration of the glory of God: “Praise, you servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord both now and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised. High above all nations is the Lord; above the heavens his glory. Who is like the Lord our God, enthroned on high, looking down on heaven and earth?” The following Psalms express gratitude for the intervention and action of God in human history on behalf of his people both collectively and individually, they express confidence and trust in the Lord’s protection, in his providence; and manifest a desire to grow in communion with the Lord.

The example of the Lord Jesus at prayer and, indeed, all of Scripture highlight our need to develop a deep life of prayer, to nurture our communion with God, to strengthen the core of our being. Holy Mass is, of course, the most perfect form of prayer because in it we are praying with Him, through Him and in Him. We must also set time aside and realize that the experience of Elijah holds true for us too. We will find God in the sweet breeze and silence, away from the noise and whirlwind engulfing us, men and women of the 21st century.

The Lord Jesus taught us to pray by giving us the Our Father. He also shows us the importance of moments of prayer and intimacy with the Father by his own life of prayer.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid