17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

We can learn a lot about prayer from today’s Gospel.  Our Lord teaches us the importance of prayer, by Himself praying.  Again and again in the Gospels we hear of how Jesus went off by Himself to pray.  Jesus travelled to many towns and villages teaching the people as He went.  Our Lord worked many miracles and He healed many people.  Jesus drove out unclean spirits and converted many sinners.  Our Lord lived a very active life, and yet He never neglected prayer.

Private prayer is indispensible for our spiritual lives.  We cannot be in relationship with someone we never talk to or spend time with.  Prayer is the way that we enter into a relationship with God and it is the way that we keep our relationship with Him alive.  Even Jesus took time to prayer to the Father.  One might be tempted to think that Jesus could have done more good by working miracles and teaching all the time: He could have been using the time He was praying to heal more people or reach more people through teaching.  Jesus shows us by His example the significance of prayer.  Nothing can take the place of prayer.  Prayer draws us closer to the Lord, and that is what we were all created for: union with God.  Doing good works and living out our vocation faithfully are essential parts of our faith life; yet we must never neglect private prayer.

If you are not in the habit of praying daily, or are just beginning to pray regularly and aren’t sure how to pray, you can make the request of the disciple we heard in the Gospel today your own: Lord, teach me how to pray.  There are many ways to pray; Our Lord teaches us a prayer: the Our Father.  It can be very helpful to use prayers that are already written down for us, either in Scripture or by the Saints.  We should always try to make sure that we are paying attention to the words that we are praying and pray them with attention and devotion.  We ought to mean the words that we say when we pray.

We can, of course, always simply pray from the heart in our own words.  Ask for what you need; thank God for the good things that you have; tell Him everything that is on your heart.  It is also good to take some time and simply listen.  Ask the Lord what He wants to say to you and then listen; wait for Him to speak to your heart.

Another form of prayer is meditation.  We can take a Gospel passage, or some part of Scripture and just try to imagine it.  Try to put yourself in the scene.  Ask what God is trying to say to you through that passage of Scripture.  All of Scripture is God’s letter to you.  He wants to communicate to you through it.  Scripture is not a textbook; it is the inspired, living Word of God; God wants to speak to your heart through the Scriptures.  Saint Jerome said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  Scripture teaches us about Our Lord and Our Lord speaks to us through the Scriptures.  Spend time with Scripture.  Especially spend time with the Gospels, which relate the life and teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  It will help you come to a deeper knowledge and, more importantly, a deeper love of Our Lord.

There are many different Christian approaches to prayer, and many books that suggest different methods.  The key is to make the time for prayer and then stick to it.  Persevere in prayer.  Our Lord promises that all those who seek, will find.  Seek the Lord in prayer: draw near to the Lord and He will draw near to you.  Lord Jesus, help us to encounter You ever more deeply in our prayer.  Draw us closer to You, Lord, and help us to love You ever more fully.  Amen.

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