Catholic Liturgy for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, July 28, 2019. Gospel – Luke 11:1-13. Theme: Lord Teach Us to Pray
In the days of Jesus, it was expected that a Rabbi or Teacher would give his followers a simple prayer that would encompass his approach to God. This is why we heard in today’s Gospel that John the Baptist gave his followers a prayer and why Jesus’ disciples wanted him to do the same thing. And so, we received the Lord’s Prayer directly from the lips of God himself. This prayer is an example of Jesus the Older Brother teaching all of us how to love and speak with God our Father. The Our Father is both a prayer of its own and a pattern or blueprint to teach us how to pray.
When I was a young man newly reverted to the Catholic Faith, I had that very same desire, the very same question which a disciple asked of Jesus: teach me how to pray. Oh sure, I knew how to recite memorized prayers: the responses at Mass, the rosary and such things. And as good and beautiful as those are – and I still use them every day – but I wanted to be able to speak to God comfortably in my own words, from my own heart.
I wanted to establish a meaningful personal relationship with the Father through his Son, Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. I wanted God to be real and active in my messed-up life and I knew that the key to this was personalized prayer. Yet I just couldn’t get there. I don’t know why, but every time I tried I would end up at a dead end. But then the Lord taught me how to pray through a person who came into my life.
This person shared with me a simple method based on the pattern of prayer Jesus gave us in the Our Father, beginning with the praise of God and then laying before him in all simplicity the present and future happenings and concerns of my life. I was taught an acronym which as, you probably know, is a word wherein each letter of that word reminds us of what to do. The acronym I was gives was quite simply the word PRAY. P-R-A-Y.
The P stands for Praise. Just as we begin our visit with a friend by greeting them, so we begin our prayer-time with a short and simple greeting of spontaneous praise to God. Perhaps something like this, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, and I thank you for the gift of my life. I praise You also for this gift of prayer, for this time to be alone with You.”
The R stands for Reveal. We move into the heart of our conversation with God and reveal to him what’s on our minds, what’s in our hearts, just as we would with a friend from whom we are seeking advice. He is, after all, our Father who loves each one of us passionately and delights in having us share these things with him. Speak to him about what is happening in your life; the questions you have; the troubles you face; the fears you worry over. In this way let him really enter into your life and show him that you want him to walk with you through it every step of the way.
The A stands for Ask. Just as we ask a friend to speak their thoughts on what we have shared, so we ask God to do the same. In this part of our personalized prayer we put into practice what Jesus said in today’s Gospel: ask…seek…knock... In our own words we ask God for his guidance; we seek a solution to our situations; we knock on the door of God’s heart knowing that he will open it to us because of our friendship. After spending some time asking, we move on to the final stage of our prayer-time: listening.
The Y stands for Yield. Just as we yield – or slow down and give the right of way to others when driving - we do the same thing when praying. We yield our own voice and give God the right of way to speak. This requires silence, quiet time, so that we can hear his voice with the ears of our hearts. His words might come to our minds as an idea, a thought, an “aha” moment. Then after spending some time in this silence, the Holy Spirit will give us an interior sense as to when our prayer-time is over and we can go about our daily duties.
The great teachers of prayer such as St. Teresa of Avila have said that the Christian who devotes at least 10-15 minutes daily to nurturing their relationship with God is assured of Heaven. She could make such a bold statement because she knew that personal prayer is the foundation of a real and meaningful relationship with God. It takes intentional effort at first, hard work and sweating it out at times, just as with any relationship that is worth having and keeping.
And it is a 100% guarantee that the devil will do his best to shake you from this commitment. He will whisper to you that you cannot do it, or that it’s really not worth he effort, or that you have so many other things that demand your time. But when you get discouraged and tempted remember Jesus’ promise today: ask and you will receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” So, don’t give up but through your commitment to prayer…keep asking…keep seeking…keep knocking and the door to God’s heart will indeed be opened to you.