Be Faithful in Your Prayer

Many years ago, as seminarians, we spent a week after Christmas painting rooms in a convent and one evening the sisters invited us to join them for recreation. As we sipped our cups of tea and ate our Victoria sponge, the conversation was not about the weather or how was our Christmas, but “how is your prayer life?”

I was a little nonplussed. I was not used to being asked such personal questions. I don’t remember how I answered then. But this Sunday’s Gospel encourages us to reflect on our prayer life. How do I pray? What is my feeling about my prayer? Sometimes I hear people say, “I find it difficult to pray” or “I am not praying very well.” There is also a temptation to compare ourselves with others. “Fred seems very holy and spends a lot of time in prayer if only I could be like Fred.”

The disciples, as Jews, had learned prayers, including the psalms, but when they saw Jesus pray, they asked that he teach them to pray. The words Jesus gave, as recounted by Luke, are different from the words we say at Mass which are from Matthew’s Gospel. It is a shorter version.

In the prayer that Jesus gives to us, he begins, not with petitions for things that we need, but prayer and petition for God’s name to be hallowed and for God’s kingdom to come. In other words, for “his will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven”; which is what the Matthean version goes on to say. Then we have the petitions, “give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.”

In this short reflection, I could not do justice to the importance and meaning of these words. I would simply point out that perhaps the bread Jesus encourages us to ask for is not just earthly bread but the supernatural bread of the kingdom, which is of course going to be the Eucharist that he will give to the disciples in Luke 22. When we ask not to be put to the test, we are asking the Lord not to let us yield to temptation, don’t let us fall into temptation; don’t let us succumb to the temptation that often accompanies times of trial.

In this passage today, Jesus also encourages us to be persistent in prayer when he tells the story of the neighbour looking for bread. As one writer put it; “That is how Jesus wants his disciples to pray: relentlessly, shamelessly, without regard for custom or etiquette, in a kind of act of desperation, begging God to give us the assistance that we need.”

In the third section of today’s Gospel Jesus draws on the example of parents always giving their children what they need. He says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

It is important to realise that if we ask for the Holy Spirit then God will give us the Holy Spirit. Are we asking for the Holy Spirit in our petitionary prayer or are we just asking for earthly goods like food, clothing, and the basic necessities of life? I encourage you to be faithful in your prayer every day. Open your heart to God who wishes to speak with you and don’t be afraid to ask for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest