“Pray always and not to lose heart” (Lk 18:1)

by Shiu Lan

During this Thanksgiving season as we celebrate with joy and a grateful heart for God’s presence and providence in our lives, what better way to express our gratitude to God than praying, having a conversation and fostering a deeper relationship of love with him?

When we pray and petition to God for our needs, how often do we find ourselves losing heart? We may be frustrated when it seems like God has not listened to my petition to Him for untying a knot in my life, I have prayed novena after novena, but the knot only tightens ! Maybe He is busy with something or someone else! When we pray to God in an emergency, He seems nowhere to be found! So in desperation I even question him, “Where are you, God?”

Why do we complain of not being heard? Why do we demand to see the outcome of our petitions? Do we see the image of God that motivates our prayer as an instrument to be used or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? If the prayer of Jesus seeks only what pleases the Father, how dare we, as God’s adopted children, focus our prayer on the gifts we seek, rather than God, the Giver of gifts? (Ref CCC 2735, 2740).

The theme of this Sunday’s Gospel reading addresses some of our sentiments and doubts about prayer. Not only must we pray, we must do so persistently and continually. Jesus teaches his disciples through a parable that they must “pray always and not to lose heart” (Lk 18:1). Indeed, we too must not lose heart in praying. In the parable, a widow comes before an unrighteous judge, asking him to grant her justice against her opponent. The judge, though refuses her desire at first, finally relents and grants her justice, because he has simply been worn out by the widow’s persistence. Jesus assures us that if an unjust and callous judge would vindicate a persevering widow who pleaded for justice, the Father will all the more come to the aid of us, his prayerful children (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible P 140).

Prayer is about our own transformation — fostering a deeper relationship of love with God, seeking his will and willingness to align our own will with his — naturally it takes time and effort for us to understand the efficacy of our prayer to God. Jesus teaches us not to “lose heart” (Lk 18:1). St. Paul encourages us to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rm 12:12). When we pray with our hearts and persevere in faith and hope, do not be troubled if we do not immediately receive from God what we ask him; “for he desires to do something even greater for [us ], while [we] cling to him in prayer” (CCC 2737).

Let us end this reflection with an inspiring prayer from the Entrance Antiphon of this Sunday’s Mass, “To you I call, for you will surely heed me, O God; turn your ear to me; hear my words. Guard me as the apple of your eye; in the shadow of your wings protect me” (Ps 17: 6, 8).