“Pray continually and never lose heart”
This is the heading given to today’s Mass readings in the Missal.
Saint Luke introduces a parable unique to his gospel
with this sub-heading:
Jesus told His disciples a parable about the need to pray continually
and never lose heart”
I can just imagine Jesus telling this with animation.
The pleading widow making a nuisance of herself
in order to wear the Judge down;
and the grumpy Judge who finally gives-in just for a quiet life!
Jesus makes the point that she was a nuisance,
that she was “a pain in the neck”;
“…since she keeps pestering me I must give this woman her just rights,
or she will persist in coming and worry me to death!”
The Greek for this latter phrase implies
that the Judge feels “attacked”, “bruised”, “beaten-up” by her.
Perhaps she does attack the Judge verbally and physically;
no wonder he wanted a quieter life!
What is this to do with prayer?
One of the things Jesus is trying to say
is that you don’t have to batter-down God’s door
in order to get Him to listen to your prayer.
In my earlier life I worked in Waitrose as a checkout operator.
I saw plenty of children who screamed and threw tantrums
trying to make their parents give in to their vacuous pleading
for sweets or whatever else they didn’t need.
God is like the greatest parent, who looks out for our need,
but turns a deaf ear to our greed.
So – what is prayer?
Does prayer change God’s mind?
Does our pleading make any difference?
Has God, being God, already made up His mind?
Think about a time when you prayed earnestly for something.
Did you feel then that God listened to your prayer and answered it?
The word “Prayer” comes from the Latin precarius,
"obtained by begging"
God listens to those who call upon Him.
His door is always open.
It is us who put up the barriers and prevent prayerful communication.
He always listens, and works with you to get you through.
Mahatma Gandhi, father of modern India, described prayer as:
"Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.
There is no peace without the grace of God,
and there is no grace of God without prayer.
Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement.
Properly understood and applied,
it is the most potent instrument of action.
Undoubtedly, prayer requires a living faith in God.
Heartfelt prayer steadies one’s nerves,
humbles one, and clearly shows one the next step."
Canon Allchin in his paper, “With whom we Pray” says –
“When we speak about prayer,
we speak about the place where God and Humanity
come together and meet.
We speak of something that brings together earth and heaven,
humans and angels, things visible and invisible, time and eternity,
what has been and what will be.”
"Prayer is a conversation with God," said St. Augustine
"The key to having a good conversation is to realise
that Jesus is interested in everything that is important to me."
Prayer is concerned with a relationship,
the relationship that exists between God and humanity,
between God and me, and that through this relationship,
we can experience the deep and satisfying “belonging together”
which prayer provides.” (Mother Mary Clare)
Jesus in the parable is not suggesting for a minute that the only way to pray is to batter down the door of heaven and force your way into the presence of a Being
who might or might not make up His Divine Mind
through your persistence.
What He IS suggesting is that you keep in constant touch with the Lord.
Prayer is not about changing God’s mind,
but about building relationship,
giving God a chance to get to know you better,
and giving you a chance to develop
a fruitful, loving relationship with God.
Fr. Mark Gibbard – quoting the famous pianist Paderewski
who said this about piano practice:
““If I stop practising the piano for one day I notice the difference;
If I stop for two days, my family notices the difference;
If I stop for three days my friends notice the difference;
If I stop for a week the public notices the difference.”
This is true of prayer.
The quality of our love for God and our neighbour deteriorates
if prayer ceases to be genuine and regular.”
Persistence in prayer will strengthen our relationship with God.
It is when we get to know God and be known by God,
to love and be loved;
where prayer turns from constant pleading
to conversation, and our strengthened relationship opens up a conduit
for God’s grace to pour into those for whom we are concerned.
Blessed are those, O God and King,
who have travelled over the tempestuous sea of this mortal life.
Watch over us who are still in our dangerous voyage;
and remember such as lie exposed
to the rough storms of trouble and temptations. Frail is our vessel, and the ocean is wide; but as in your mercy you have set our course, so steer the vessel of our life toward the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at last to the quiet haven of our heart’s desire, where you, O our God, are blessed, and live and reign
for ever and ever. Saint Augustine