Our readings today point to prayer.
The Book of Exodus recalls the Israelite army trying to conquer the
Promised Land 3,000 years ago - and they're fighting the Amalekites. So,
it's a battle scene. As long as Moses keeps his arms up - in prayer - the
Israelites win but when his arms start to sag a bit they lose. So two men
hold Moses' arms up. They lift up his arms, physically...as he lifts his
heart and mind to God.
Persistence in prayer in the point here.
In the Gospel Jesus tells a story about a widow who keeps nagging a
notorious judge for justice. The judge, who respects no one, denies her
justice. But she keeps coming back. Finally, he says, "I'll do what she
wants." Though Jesus' point is don't give up on prayer - it's an unusual
story. For some, it might make God look like an unjust judge who won't
give in unless we nag Him.
The point, again: Don't give up on prayer!
Let's be honest about prayer. Most people find it hard to pray - at least
hard to find the time. Others have no desire for it.
Well, here are four prayers - real easy to remember - found in every Mass
- and that should be prayed all the time:
I love you
Please help me
I love you
Please help me
"I love you" is adoration - usually adoration of another human being in a
human way. And in that same very human way we tell God that we love
God. We just sang the 'Glory to God' a few minutes ago. That's adoration.
I love you.
"I'm sorry" ~ contrition. At the beginning of Mass I said, "Let's confess
our sins" and we prayed. That's our "I'm sorry" prayer.
We say it to God the way we'd say it to each other.
I'm sorry I said it
I'm sorry I did it
I wish I hadn't
I can't change it
I did it
I take responsibility for it
I'm sorry for it
Thanking God for the gifts we've received: our bodies, our souls, our
talents, our husbands, our wives, our kids, our job - you name it - we
actually thank God for these - we don't just assume these things are
there. We say, "I'm really grateful." The prayers over here at the altar are
mostly prayers of thanks. Thank you, God, for what you've done in the
history of the human race for salvation, especially in Christ.
And the 4th prayer ~ petition ~ asking ~ Please help me - the way the
woman in the Gospel asks the judge for something.
In a few minutes we'll have petitions read after the Creed. They ask for
God's help. Most people think prayer is asking for things. Certainly
asking is an important part of prayer but it's only one
fourth of prayer.
It's really crucial to realize that prayer is the heart of faith. Without prayer
we really don't believe. We've all heard people say, "I believe God's up
there and everything...but it doesn't affect me." Or, "God doesn't
Well, that's the end of faith. That puts God out of the picture because it
doesn't make any difference whether there's a God or there isn't - no
difference at all.
And when people stop praying that's when faith starts draining out of
their veins. And what they end up with is a very distant figure that
doesn't make any difference.
And that's one of the reasons we lose faith in prayer because we say,
"What difference does it make?" But it does make a difference.
Think for a moment about the way we pray for others. One way I think of
it is: 'turning up' for people. ~ the way that parents and grandparents go
to baseball and soccer games - school plays - piano or dance recitals
- for their children and grandchildren. Your presence, in some mysterious
way, transforms them - and transforms you.
Praying for others changes them but it also transforms us.
It's a bit like getting a note in the mail from someone you knew a long
time ago and it says, "I'm thinking of you."
There's an amazing sense of the richness of our life when someone says,
"I'm thinking of you" - which makes us realize that life is richer than just
us - that we're involved in something much bigger.
It makes a difference! And isn't life about making a difference? Isn't
prayer a certain kind of difference that we make?
A difference we make within our hearts?
- that changes us
- and in some mysterious way transforms the people for whom we're
When you tell someone in the hospital, "I'm praying for you" you can
almost see their blood pressure improve. They think, "I'm just one sick
person in this big hospital and this person is going to drive home and say
a prayer for me. I'm on her mind - his mind.
Isn't that what's important in life, knowing you're on somebody's mind? In
And just imagine how happy God is when He knows He's on our mind and
in our heart?
So, what could be more fundamental than...?
I love you
We ought to say those things to God and say them regularly.
Just like husbands and wives, parents and their kids, priests and
parishioners, and friends must say them to one
They're what coming to Mass is supposed to teach us.