Authentic Prayer

23 February 2010 Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent
Isaiah 55, 10-11; Psalm 34; Matthew 6, 7-15

The readings in the season of Lent are taken from different passages in Scripture. They are chosen to prepare catechumens for baptism. Catechumens are those who have decided to become Catholics. The readings therefore are catechetical; the readings teaches the catechumens about the faith that they are committing themselves to. Today’s lesson is about authentic prayer.

Nachman of Bratslav said, “Faith is not only in the heart; it should be put into words.” However, though they have to be articulated, they don’t have to be superfluous and flowery. The Gentiles thought that saying too much will make the Lord listen to them. This type of praying can also be self-righteous: “Because I have put all my effort in praying, you Lord should listen to me.” Our prayer can be a form of coercion and control by letting God change His will in our favor.

However, Jesus said to His disciples in the Gospel: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” The Lord knows what we need before we come for prayer.

And thus Jesus teaches us how to pray. This is how:

First, acknowledge that even prayer comes from the Lord. “OUR Father, YOU are in heaven, holy is YOUR name. YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This acknowledges that it is God who is the source of all, including our prayer and all our lives. In contrast to self-righteous prayer, the focus is not ourselves.

Second, our needs comes secondary to our acknowledgement of God. “Give us THIS day our daily bread.” God already knows our needs, and so we simply ask Him to grant it to us today, every single day, at the present time.

Third, authentic prayer also rectifies our relationship. It cannot be that we pray but we don’t put any effort to be reconciled with the people who hurt us or whom we hurt. “And forgive us our sins, AS we forgive those who sinned against us.”

Thus when we pray, we put ourselves humbly before God and acknowledge that God’s will is above all — and thus if God’s reply to our needs is a great “No” then His will is to be done and not OURs.

And then we converse with God and articulate to Him what we believe we need. And let Him fill out what we also need but have not realize them yet.

And finally, our prayer does not happen only in words, but also in deeds. Our sincerity to follow God above all else should be shown. So, because it is God’s will, we go to our brothers and sisters and reconcile with them.

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