When I set out to read today’s gospel I noticed it starts out with Jesus telling the disciples a parable about the “necessity” for them to pray. I don’t know that I had seen that word before. Maybe I had previously spent my time focusing on the story of the dishonest judge and the badgering widow. But, what an opening statement.
Our Lord telling us it is necessary for us to pray. A “You need to do this” statement. I think we all kind of get the need to pray, or do we? So often I would get to prayers when I could. And when I did I was often just “saying my prayers”, asking for some things, thanking Him for good things, dutifully saying Our Fathers and Hail Marys. When everything else was done.
I received two pieces of advice about praying that have really changed my prayer life. A priest told me to pray to Jesus like you are sitting across from a friend that you really love, and you know really loves you. Share your joys, your challenges, your struggles, tell Him where you are in life, and don’t hold back. Be honest. Take off your masks. Invite Him into your life. He wants to be there.
And secondly, make prayer a priority. A commitment. Every day. Alone. In solitude. No excuses. For me that has meant stopping in a church to be in front of the tabernacle. Wherever I am. In quiet. Alone to pray. Each day. Or if I can’t, going off to a quiet room and closing the door. But for sure taking time each day. What a difference. Both have changed my relationship with The Lord, and my life.
Jesus taught us much about prayer, and so often witnessed to the need to pray. How often Our Lord went “off to the mountain”, “woke early and went off to a deserted place” or “prayed in private”. The disciples witnessed this for three years. It’s clear they got the message. When you read the Acts of the Apostles you can see how often they “devoted themselves to prayer”, “prayed every day”, and prayed over every decision. I think we know where they learned this.
The goal of prayer is to draw us closer to The Lord, to be with Him. I love what Blessed Mother Theresa said, “We encounter the Lord in prayer, the Eucharist, and serving the poor”. Jesus knew this, He taught this. The apostles learned and followed this as well. But do we heed His call to pray? Intentionally and thoughtfully? I know when I do I feel so much closer to Our Lord and so much more open to His Love.
Steve Walsh is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre ,and a good friend of the Passionist Community.