A woman prays:
Dear Lord, I pray for wisdom to understand my man,
Love to forgive him, and
Patience for his moods.
But Lord, please do not give me strength, because, Lord, if you do,
I’ll beat him to death.
During the interview for marriage preparation, two of the questions to be asked of the young couples are, “which parish do you belong to?” and “Do you practice your faith regularly?” When they leave the first question blank, the answer to the second question usually negative as well. When I see that, I ask them another question, “Do you pray?” Most of them say they do. Then I ask, “How do you pray?” Their answers are almost the same, “I think about God during the day.”
Can we say thinking about God a prayer? I don’t think so. Prayer requires more than just thinking about God or thinking about God’s stuffs. Prayer is a way of communication. When we pray, we communicate with God. Communication means interacting between the two persons. When you think about your friends, or your parents, you are not communicating with them. They are not affected by your thinking of them at all. When you are thinking about your friends or parents without calling them or visiting them, or doing something for them or with them, it does not do any good. Your thinking is still in your own mind. It does not improve the relationship with them. But when you pick up the phone and call your friend and talk, you are communicating. Communication means we take time pick up the phone to call, or turn on the computer and send an email to our friends. Prayer is the same way. When we pray we take time to communicate with God. We open the Bible, the prayer book, and talk to God or listen to God speaking to us.
In October 2010, the whole world was transfixed by the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 69 days. All of them came out in good health and good spirit. Many people have admitted that miracles do happen. During these 69 days being trapped more than 2000 feet underground, millions of people were praying for them. The families and friends of those miners set up a religious site called “Camp of Hope” at the recuse location to pray for their safety and rescue. The 33 miners were also praying constantly. Sepulveda, a 40 years old miner said, “I was with God, and I was with the devil. They both fought for me. God won.” While they were being trapped underground, their only desire was to be able to come out alive and be with their loved ones. But they were trapped and helpless. After 17 days, the orange size drilled hole reached them. That was the only line of contact and communication to give them hope and and to send them supplies to keep them alive.
Prayer is like that drilled hole to keep us in contact with God. Prayers give us hope. And through prayers God continues to send us supplies for the journey to the Promised Land.
We pray because we have a relationship with God. We pray because we believe that God will be there for us. The act of prayer itself tells us that we have a relationship with God. The closer the relationship is the more we pray. We call our best friend more often and more consistent because we feel the need or an urge to stay in touch with them. To the other regular friends we might just randomly call them or see them. Or if we are close to our parents, care much about them, we would call them or visit them more often. It is the same way in our relationship with God. The closer is our relationship with God, the more times we spend with Him in prayer. We talk to God more often. We practice our faith regularly. We join a church community to stay in touch with God’s family.
The words of God today tell us that prayer is also a necessity. The people of Israel have relationship with their God. God chose Moses to lead his people from Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land. On their journey, they encountered numerous threats to their safety. The army of Pharaoh chased them. They had to cross the Red Sea. They ran out of water and food in the desert. All their needs were provided through prayers. One of the difficulties they had to face was opposition from those peoples whose land they had to pass through. The first reading speaks of an attack by Amalek. Moses sent his assistant, Joshua, to go and engage the Amalek. While Joshua and his men were engaging the Amalek, Moses was on the top of the hill praying for them. It is important to notice that as long as Moses kept praying, Israel had the better of the fight. When he became tired and could not keep his hands up, the Amalek had the better of the fight. Aaron and Hur had to use the rock to hold his hands up in the praying position. At the end they won the battle, and continued on their journey to the Promised Land.
Like the people of Israel, we are also on our journey to the Promised Land. On our journey from this world to heaven, there are many adversaries along the road. These enemies are trying to block our way or to distract our focus. They don’t want us to reach the Promised Land. Like the people of Israel, to overcome our enemies, we need to engage in the battle as well as in prayer. We will not be able to overcome our enemies and reach the Promised Land if we do not pray. Without prayer we will be defeated. Without prayers spiritual supplies with be stopped.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus emphasizes that prayer is not only a desirable thing or just a good thing to do, but it is a necessity. He uses the parable of the unjust and arrogant judge and a humble but persistent woman to tell us that we need to pray constantly and persistently. The judge ignores the poor woman at first, but she won’t give up and she won’t go away. Because of her determination, finally he grants her request.
Jesus is not suggesting that God is like this judge. He is pointing out that God is much better than that arrogant judge. Jesus is using this judge to make his point that if a selfish arrogant, careless, and unjust judge is willing to help the woman and grant her request, then how much more our loving, caring and merciful God is willing and ready to help us when we ask Him. Jesus is telling us that God doesn’t mind if we bother him with our prayers. In fact, God wants us to bother him. Our only help to survive in this world and to reach the Promised Land is from the Lord. “Our help is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” And this help only comes through prayer.