29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“The sons of Zebedee came to Jesus and said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

This is the extent of how some people pray to God: some people only pray by bringing their list of wants or needs to the Lord.  Outside of asking for something they need, they never think of God or pray to Him.  There is certainly nothing wrong with bringing our needs and even our hopes and wants to the Lord, but that should not be the only time or the only way in which we pray.  Imagine that someone you know only comes to talk to you when they want to ask you to do something for them.  Would you consider them a very good friend?

Prayer is meant to be a conversation with God; it is meant to deepen our relationship with God.  By spending time in prayer, you are spending time with Someone; Someone Who knows you better than anyone else in the world and Who loves you more than anyone else ever could.  God created you.  He made you to know and love Him.  He wants you to spend time with Him.  He desires that you tell Him everything that is on your heart.  We should talk to God in prayer; but remember that prayer is a conversation.  We should also spend some time trying to listen to what it is that God wants to say to us.  God speaks in the silence; we have to open our hearts to receive His message.

If we open our heats to God in prayer, He can transform our lives.  Perhaps that is why some run away from silence.  Some people are afraid of being transformed.  If I take prayer seriously, I may be called to change the way that I am living my life; and I might be attached to some things that God may want me to give up.  That can be a frightening thought.  “I don’t want to change my life; I have a plan for my life and I don’t like it when my plan gets interrupted.”  God also has a plan for your life.  And He is God.  He knows everything.  He knows what is best for you.  He loves you.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  If we believe that God is Love: that He is all good, all knowing, and all-powerful why would we not want what God wants for us? Trusting in God can be intimidating; it means that we have to let go of some control.  Giving our lives to God means that we have to give up sin, and that can be difficult.  But that is the way to find fulfillment in this life.  Do you want to find peace and joy in this world?  Then instead of saying: “God, I want you to do whatever I ask of you”, say: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”  That takes faith.

Our culture says that we should be free to do whatever we want.  We live in a culture that rejects God and there is a lot of misery in the world as a result.  Temptation is a lie.  When we are tempted, the promise is that sin will make us happy.  When we give in to the temptation, however, we find ourselves more miserable afterwards.  Sin does not produce joy; it separates us from God.  We were created for God and so we can never be fulfilled apart from Him.

Our culture tries to surround us constantly with noise.  There are many people who are not comfortable with silence.  If things are quiet, God can speak to us.  If we are silent, our consciences can bother us.  And so some people try to constantly surround themselves with noise, so that they will not be able to hear the Lord.  Noise drowns out the Lord’s voice.  In order to hear the Lord, we need to find a quiet place for prayer.

The Lord wants to draw us closer to Himself; He wants to change us: He wants to shape us and mold us more and more into the likeness of His Son.  The Eternal Son of God became a man in order to show us how to live as God created us to live.  He taught us how to love, by the way He lived and by the way He died.  We are called to imitate Jesus, Who says in the Gospel today that He did not come to be served but to serve.  If we want to be truly great, we have to imitate our Lord.  Jesus spent time helping others, and He also took time alone for prayer.  We read in the Gospels that He often went away, to be alone and pray.

Our prayer life should help us to love God ever more deeply, and it should also inspire us to help others.  Authentic prayer must be joined to some form of charity toward others.  Our faith must be lived out in love: love for God and love for others.  How can we say that we love God if we never pray?  How can you love someone that you never talk to; how can you love someone that you never listen to?  We need to pray and when we pray we need to both talk and listen.

On the other hand, if we say that we love God, but we do not put our faith into action, Saint James says that we are deceiving ourselves: “Faith without works is dead,“ he says.  Jesus says it like this: “whatever you did or didn’t do to the least of my brothers, you do or didn’t do also to me.”  Faith leads to prayer and prayer leads to charity.

The challenge for all of us is to examine ourselves: “Do I pray as I ought?”  “Does my prayer affect the way that I live my life?”  Lord Jesus, help us to deepen our love for You through prayer, and help us to put our faith into practice in our daily lives.  Amen.

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