Praying Persistently, Insistently and Consistently
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Our readings this Sunday, the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speak about PRAYER. However, more than simply wishing, prayer demands a higher level of commitment. It entails hard work and it entails certain qualities in order to exercise it as God intended. Let me help you remember these qualities with this acronym: P.I.C., which stands for the following:
P - ersistence. Persistent means that our prayer should not just be a one-time demand. It demonstrates to us that we believe God will answer, and it helps to remind and convince us that prayer is effective. In the Second Reading, St. Paul in his 2nd Letter to Timothy exhorts, “Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” He was saying that in order for our preaching to become effective, we have to be persistent in doing so, pushing for more and more with conviction. It reminds me of a little child who keeps asking until he breaks his parents down and gets what he wants. Here this story I read in the internet:
After my mother died, I divided her belongings among family members. There was one thing, however, that I especially wanted for myself—a simple brown plaque with gold writing. She displayed it in the various homes we lived in over the years. Its message? - Prayer Changes Things.
And where did I place it? An unusual place: above the mirror in the bathroom, directly across from the toilet seat. This reminded me several times a day that prayer does indeed change things. About the time I hung the plaque, one of our daughters was in love with a man many years older than she. When she came home, they spent hours each evening on cross-country phone calls. A marriage seemed inevitable. As parents, we hoped and prayed for a husband closer to her age.
Despite my anxiety, the plaque reminded me: Prayer Changes Things. As I read those words, I’d say, “Lord, I don’t see how You can change this, but I know You can do anything. If this match isn’t Your best for her, change her desires.
A few months later, our daughter broke off the relationship. God does indeed change things that we humans cannot. God has not yet brought His choice mate into our daughter’s life, but I believe He will. And He helped her avoid a wrong choice. Now, I have a different kind of problem that to me seems insurmountable. However, I believe, it too will be resolved, for I know Prayer Changes Things.
The major lesson here then is to have persistence in asking God for what you want. Jesus comfortingly tells us that if you ask it will be given to you because God is a loving parent, and like any parent, loves his or her child and listens to the needs of that child.
I - nsistence. The Gospel reading today begins with Jesus teaching through a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. Then Jesus tells the story of a widow who goes to seek to help of a dishonest judge to help her with her case. In the story, for such an unusual analogy, the dishonest judge was God the Father Himself (though we all know how untrue that is recognizing His merciful character) But at times, we feel that we are like this widow especially in times when our prayers are unanswered and so we see Him as a dishonest judge. But Jesus indicates that the widow was insistent and wouldn’t stop bothering him, he relents and gives the justice that the widow was seeking.
After the story, Jesus explains that we need to ask and that we must be insistent, that is, to be persevering until what we ask is given to us. Then Jesus explains that if this works for a widow, unrelated to the dishonest judge, how much more would it be true if you are speaking about a God, who has a vested interest in you and your well-being.
C - onsistence. A person of virtue is a person of balance ... a person who is able to set a balance between his bodily and spiritual needs. Moreover, a person of virtue is a person who is able to focus on his/her priorities. What is your greatest need at the moment? If you are a parent, what particular need do you devote your prayer to? At times, we ask too much from God that in the end we no longer remember what they are. Yes, we forget, but more importantly, we do not give our full attention into it. Or maybe, they aren’t that important after all. Being consistent means being able to know our priorities. Being consistent means being able to identify our most important needs with a conviction that, after all, it is what God really wants, and therefore, we should really want. We begin more and more to identify our thinking with God’s thinking.
One day in the mother house in Calcutta there were about three hundred novices and they were all out for the morning. One of the novices working in the kitchen came up to Mother Teresa and said, “We’ve planned poorly; we have no flour to back these chipaties for lunch.” Chipaties are little flour and water pancakes. The situation looked bleak—three hundred plus mouths are coming to be fed in about an hour and a half and there’s nothing to cook with. There’s no food.
“What I would expect Mother Teresa to do,” Fr. Langford (co-founder of Missionaries of Charities) explained to me, “was that Mother would pick up the telephone and call some of her benefactors and mobilize them to find some way to feed her daughters. Instead, her reaction—her spontaneous reaction—was to say to this little one, ‘Sister, you’re in charge of the kitchen this week? Well then, go into the chapel and tell Jesus we have no food. That’s settled. Now let’s move on. What’s next?’”
Lo and behold, ten minutes later there was a ring at the door and Mother Teresa was called downstairs. A man she had never seen before was standing there with a clipboard. He addressed her saying “Mother Teresa, we were just informed that the teachers at the city schools are going on strike. Classes have been dismissed and we have 7,000 lunches we don’t know what to do with. Can you help us use them?”
Mother Teresa was trying to tell the novice to highlight the current need and asks her to be consistent as it was the need of that particular time. God will provide if only, she would do her task to pray consistently.
We have been praying practically since the very young age when our parents have first taught us to pray. Prayer has formed almost every aspect of our spiritual and Catholic life. As the number abounds, how much of those intimate moments with God have been spent with sincerity and utmost devotion? Have we fully grown in our prayer life or have we stayed at the level of simply "wishing"? Like our dearly beloved Father, God awaits us to constantly seek Him in prayer ... persistently, insistently and consistently.
May you have a prayerful (oh that’s a wonderful feeling!) … a prayerful week ahead of you.