29th Sun [C] 2007

Fr. Charles Irvin

Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8

Picture yourself, for a moment now, next to someone you dearly love, someone you want to be with all of the time, someone who has captured your heart. Hear yourself say, “I love you. I’m here for you. What would you like me to do for you? I’ll do anything you ask.” Now picture yourself saying those words to the one you love every day, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Now picture yourself saying those words in each and every day of your life. What do you suppose would happen in your relationship with that person you love so much?

Jesus wants those words from us each and every day of our lives. He wants to hear them from us consistently, regularly, and continually, even when times are bad for us – even when we’re facing huge problems. It’s the persistence, the regularity, and the consistency that proves we’re not just mouthing words but instead we’re living out our love. Love, as we all know, demands constant renewal. Without that, love grows cold.

The quality of our prayer, the kind of conversation we have with Jesus, doesn’t depend on how long are prayers are. It’s persistence, daily constancy that counts, not the long, flowery, and windy words we pile into our prayers.

Is God a passing fad for us? Do we contact God only in times of loss, pain and suffering? Only in times of trial? What about regularly giving God prayers of praise and thanksgiving each and every day, especially words of gratitude and thanksgiving?

So many times I’ve read letters to the editor in our newspapers telling us that religious people are hypocrites and do bad things in the name of religious beliefs. There are a lot of people out there who want to keep God and religion at a distance… except when disaster occurs. And then they wonder where He is! They’ve had no contact with Him and now, when things are bad, they wonder where He is.

As Christians we know that God is aware of our needs. He knows them better than we do, and knows them even before we ask Him to fulfill our needs. So when we pray we’re not informing God about anything He doesn’t already know. What we’re really doing is asking Him what He wants us to do.

The second thing that under girds our understanding of prayer is that God is able and willing to meet our needs. He wants to take care of us… He is eager to respond to us. We shouldn’t assume that we pray in order to overcome God’s reluctance. We don’t pray in order to have God change His mind. I don’t want Him to change His mind about me. He’s already totally for me. I don’t want Him to change at all.

So why pray?

Well, first of all we need to rid ourselves of the bad habit of praying as if we are talking at God. Prayer should not and cannot be a one-way presentation of our own little shopping list of items we want Him to take from His shelf and put into our shopping cart. That’s little more than Wal-Mart Christianity. A very important reason for praying is so that we will take the opportunity to listen to God, to reflect on what He has been doing in our lives, and to contemplate… so that we can begin to see His responses to us. Another very important reason is so that we will place ourselves at His disposal. Prayer, consistent prayer, is saying to God “I love you. I’m here for you. What would you like me to do for you? I’ll do anything you ask.”

God offers. Then He waits for our responses to His offers. No gift can be given unless and until it is received. Prayer affords us the opportunity to respond to and receive God’s loving presence and gifts to us. Prayer, consistent prayer, gives our presence and our gifts to God.

Another important point is that we pray in order to ask. Not that God needs us to ask. No. It is we who need to ask. We need to hear what we are asking for. Is what we want worthwhile, of value, of sufficient value that it’s worth asking God? God is present to us in His most valuable gifts to us. What value do we place on them? Are they of enough value for us to invest our time in seeking them? Time is far more valuable to us than mere money. When take the time to fashion something we must really value it. Prayer, says God, is valuable to us.

That is reason enough to pray. Unless we pray why should God bother? And unless we pray persistently and constantly, even in the face of God’s apparent non-response, why should He take our request seriously? In praying we give God our very best so He can give us His very best.

Which perhaps explains the fact that a gift cannot be given unless and until it is wanted and received. How can God give you the gift of His presence if you don’t want Him around? If you don’t take the time to be with Him? If you don’t seek what He’s offering you?

When there have been school shootings we hear the question: Where was God? On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, after the World Trade Center attack the same question was asked. My answer is that He was there waiting… waiting to be a part of our lives. Like all lovers, He won’t impose Himself upon us. Like all lovers, He wants to be wanted. How many of those victims talked with God before they left for school on the day of those shootings? How many of those September 11th victims talked with God before they commuted to work that day in the World Trade Center?

So why pray? To show God that we really do want Him. To let God give us what we really want and truly need, something far deeper than simple answers to most of our prayer requests.

In your prayers, give God your very best. Tell Him: “I love you. I’m here for you. What would you like me to do for you? I’ll do anything you ask.” Then, and only then, ask God for His very best – His love. He will give it to you, His very own presence and love in your heart and in your soul. Did not Jesus tell us: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

The big thing, however, is to be persistent, so seek God daily and consistently Love that’s not renewed grows cold. Is love that is unspoken really love? When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on earth? When we return to God, will He find love of Him imbedded deeply in our hearts, in the days of our lives?

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”