Prayer: Our Strength; God’s Weakness

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Word Alive by Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD

July 28, 2019 /17th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

A small boy praying in church said loudly: “Lord, bigyan ako…cheeseburger, French fries, apple pie, strawberry shake, diet coke…” Priest passing by, said: “Iho, nanalangin ka ba sa Diyos o nag-oorder?” (Son, are you praying to God or ordering?) When we pray, we don’t order God. As the saying goes: “Man proposes; God disposes.”

In this Sunday’s gospel the evangelist Luke suggests that prayer begins with the risk of asking (“Lord, teach us to pray”). It is entrusting oneself to silence and uncertainty. God is not at our disposal. We give him the freedom to answer “yes” or “no” or “wait.” For if we want to get what we want every time we pray, we are not praying to God, but to ourselves. Our prayer becomes a projection of our personal needs. We do not expect God to answer us in the way we want, but in the way he wants.

Once a father in a family was diagnosed to have terminal cancer of the lungs. He was given two months to live. The children stormed heaven, begging God to spare their father or at least prolong his life. Unfortunately, the father died even earlier than the predicted two months. The mother who had a broader perception told her children, “God answered your prayer, but in a different way. He didn’t want your papa to suffer long and terrible pains so He took him away much earlier.”

Some people complain that they always pray, but don’t get what they’re asking. One reason why that happens could be because we don’t work to attain it. We forget the other side of prayer: our side.

For instance, we pray for peace and harmony in our families but the children don’t obey and respect their parents or a spouse is unfaithful or one party keeps on nagging her spouse. Reminds of the wife who keeps on insisting she was always right –so she was left (behind)! Or, we pray for the country’s economic prosperity, but some officials plunder from the government coffers with no qualms of conscience.

The gospel message this Sunday concludes with Christ’s admonition to persevere in prayer. This persevering spirit is illustrated in the first reading when Abraham bargains with God to spare the sinful city Sodom and Gomorrah.

Likewise, in the gospel story, the sleepy friend responds to the importuning of his neighbor not because he is generous, but because of the latter’s annoying persistence (“makulit”). “If you, evil as you are, can be generous with your fellowmen,” Christ concludes, “how much more with God.” Lesson? Don’t give up praying. As one spiritual writer said: “Prayer is the strength of a person and the weakness of God. The more we pray the stronger we become and God becomes weaker—and gives in to our petition.”

QUOTE. “It matters little what form of prayer we adopt or how many words we use. What matters is the TIME we set aside and faith which lays hold on God, knowing that He knows our needs before we even ask Him.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

THE LIGHTER SIDE. A priest did an illegal parking. He left a note on the windshield, saying: “I’m a priest. Can’t find a parking space. Please don’t give me a ticket. ‘Forgive my trespasses.’”

On returning, he found a ticket on his windshield with this note: “I’m a cop. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll commit sin. ‘Lead me not into temptation.’” “But if you attach a paper bill on your license, it’s alright. ‘Give us this day, our daily bread.’”

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