Archive for June, 2011
Just two weeks ago, I received an inspirational text message from a friend. It says, “God always says YES to all our prayers. The YES of God does not always the YES that we want it to be. But it will always be the YES God knows to be the BEST for us!”
Why is it that some of our prayers are left unanswered by God? Rephrasing it differently to be more precise, why is it that some prayers are answered by God but not in the way and time we want them to be?
There are some possible reasons for these. Some do not truly pray at all. Some do not know whom they pray to. Some do not know what to pray. Some do not know how to pray. And some do not do their part in prayer.
It has been said that the secret of the many failures in life is the failure in prayer. Either people do not know to pray or they do not truly pray at all. Today’s Gospel reminds us of the necessity of prayer and the permanent validity of the teaching of Jesus on prayer:
Going back to the Gospel reading, Jesus ‘was praying at a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples’ (Lk 11:1). In response to this request the Lord entrusts to his disciples and to his Church the fundamental Christian prayer originally called the Lord’s prayer and commonly called the “Our Father. There are two versions of the Lord’s prayer in the Gospel. St. Luke presents a brief text of five petitions (Cf. Lk 11:2-4) while St. Matthew gives a more developed version of seven petitions (Cf. Mt 6:9-13). Which of the two the Church has been using in her liturgy and worship? The liturgical tradition of the Church has retained St. Matthew/s text (see CCC 2759).
“In the Our Father, the object of the first three petitions is the glory of the Father: the sanctification of his name, the coming of the kingdom and the fulfillment of his will. The four others present our wants to him: they ask that our lives be nourished, healed of sin and made victorious in the struggle of good over evil” (CCC 2857)
What are the common features and significance between the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer?
First, it teaches us everything that we need to know about prayer. It teaches us the need to pray, whom to pray, what to pray, how to pray, what to do as our part in prayer.
Second, the Lord’s prayer is the truly unique: it is “of the Lord”. It is taught and given to us by the Lord Jesus himself who is the master and model of our prayer (see CCC 2765 and 2775).
Thirds, the Lord’s prayer or popularly known as the Our Father “is truly the summary of the whole Gospel” (Tertullian, De orat. 1: PL 1, 1155).
Fourth, it is “the most perfect prayers…In it we ask, not only for the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them” (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh. II-II, 83, 9).
If you want to pray well and live well accordingly, read, study and pray the Lord’s prayer. Pray with Jesus as your model Pray-er, pray with the Lord’s prayer as your model prayer.
Let us, therefore, pray with confidence to our Father the prayer taught to us by Christ himself. “Praying to our Father should develop in us the will to become like Him, and foster in us a humble and trusting heart” (CCC 2800). Pray to our Father to unite our will to that of his Son, so as to fulfill his plan of salvation in the life of the world.
In Christian morality, there is a principle that states: a human act that is good in itself becomes morally evil when it is done for a wrong purpose and with bad intention. In today’s Gospel, Jesus denounced the act of doing the “right thing” with a wrong purpose. To illustrate his point Jesus used as examples the three pillars of Jewish religion on which the good life is based: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Why are they considered three pillars of the Jewish religion. Because, to the Jews, when a person gives alms, prays and fasts he fulfills the law, becomes a righteous person and receives the reward of a just man.
Here, Jesus did not condemn the Jews in general and the scribes and Pharisees in particular for their devotions and good works. In fact, he even enjoined his disciples to keep on praying, fasting and giving alms or deeds of mercy because these are all good, virtuous, and praiseworthy in themselves . What Jesus really condemned is the act of doing the right things with the wrong purpose. That is why he warned them of four dangers whey they perform their devotions and good works: hypocrisy, self-righteousness, arrogance, and ostentation (public display of devotion and good works for personal vain glory).
As we go on with the celebration of the Mass, let us pray to the Lord that we will not be tempted to multiply, exaggerate and parade our devotions and good works in public for personal vainglory. Rather, let us ask for more graces from God that we can pursue and grow in our devotion to Christ and multiply our good works done with sincerity, humility and for the right purpose of glorifying God as the Lord said “Let your light shine before the people so that seeing your good works they may glorify your Father in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).