He (Jesus) cured many and as a result those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him. Mark 3:10
Recently, I received an urgent message for prayers. A dear friend of mine was suddenly taken to the hospital with severe stomach pains. I responded right away, saying that my prayers were not just for him, but also for the whole family.
About a minutes later, my phone message apt started pinging. I was not the only one who had received this message for urgent prayers. Many people began praying for my friend. Some were old friends going back some forty years, to the time when I met him. Others were new friends, people who had been touched by his generosity. We were all worried. About a couple of days later, we received the message: our prayers have been answered!
As I read this passage from today’s Gospel, I immediately identified with it. I could just imagine people coming to Jesus, people who were sick, hoping to touch the hem of his garment, hoping to catch his attention, and be healed. They believed in Jesus’ power to heal.
So many of us turn to prayer when we feel overwhelmed by life and its troubles.
Why do we pray? What motivates us to pray? When do we pray? These are questions that come to mind as I reflect upon this Gospel passage. I think prayers of petition, prayers for favors needed are probably on the top of everyone’s list of why we pray.
Such things as illnesses, tragedies, injuries, injustices, disasters, to name a few realities that drive us to prayer, make us feel helpless and powerless. We become aware that our personal efforts are not enough to overcome these overpowering happenings. We recognize that there is a Power greater than ourselves that is needed to lift us out of danger, to save us from the grip of sickness, to save us from the sufferings of this life. Prayer to a God who saves, a God who heals, a God who loves us is a very proper response to life’s troubles.
God invites us to pray so that we can develop a deep, personal relationship with our Loving God. Many people pray in order to get well, so that we can get out of difficulties, to help others in their times of trouble. Some even measure their faith in God on whether their prayers are answered or not. I don’t know how many stories or confessions I’ve heard over the years that began by relating a failed response to a prayer. They lost their faith in God and consequently, lost their way in life.
It is when we begin to understand that prayer is basically a deepening of our relationship with God, a loving God, a friendly God that we gain insight into prayer. St. Theresa of Avila says that prayer is a friendly conversation with God. When we realize that, we begin to pray differently. We begin to pray like Jesus prayed, who said, “Not my Will by Thine be Done!” That is the kind of prayer that we are all called to make.
I often say to others who ask me for prayers: I will pray for you and your needs, but please pray for me. Let’s keep promising to pray for each other!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.