What are our Difficulties in Prayer?

by Ben Cheng
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gensis 18:20 - 32

Colossians 2:12-14

Luke 11:1-13

Our Gospel for this Sunday is of great significance, for in it the Son of God teaches us to pray. We hear from not just a guru, or a spiritual teacher, but from the very Son of God. This is why the “Our Father”, the Lord’s Prayer, is the model of all prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer for the Christian journey which has been offered up consistently for the past two thousand years. Nevertheless, we often find our prayer as source of great frustration. Perhaps, we listen to the Gospel, we are edified and inspired by it. But then, many people may say, "I pray and pray, but things don't seem to happen the way I want them to happen." How do we explain this beautiful and inspiring Gospel, with people's lived experience runs against it? When we study the scripture in length, there are certain rules, or directives, on how we should pray. I would like to briefly introduce them.

Rule #1: Pray with faith. How often in the New Testament, before Jesus heals someone, does He say, "Do you believe I can do this for you" (Mt 9:28)? Recalling an account when Jesus visits His own town but people do not believe in Him, “He did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” (Mt 13:58). Our faith is like the opening of a window. God wants to live in us, and act in us. Nevertheless, the divine power is not going to flow until God finds a place in us, where He can "plug in". If we shut that down, He cannot enter. Therefore, ask in faith, with a passion for the impossible, or say, "Lord, what I can't do on my own, I ask more of you to the point that I've expected of you." Jesus says, "I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours" (Mk 11:24). Faith is necessary in prayer.

Rule #2: Forgiveness. When we pray, and we realize that we need to forgive somebody, go and do it! What blocks our access to God? It may mainly be our anger, resentment, past hatred, and our incapacity to forgive. All of these build up in our soul, and they block the flow of God's power. God wants to speak in and through us, but if our souls are filled with all kinds of obstacles and blockages, then it will not work. So, forgive those against with whom we have a grievance, heal a broken relationship, get rid of the past frustration, hatred, and resentment. Reconcile then pray.

Rule #3: Persistence. As mention throughout the Bible, God wants us to persist in prayer. Our first reading for today is the famous account of Abraham praying to God on behalf of Sodom. Abraham goes on persistently to beg for God for rescuing the city (Ref. Gn 18:23-32). Keep praying, keep asking, be persistence with the Lord. Why Does God make us wait? Is God too busy to answer? St. Augustine says, "Sometimes God makes us wait because He wants to enlarge the capacity of our soul so as to receive the good He wants to give us" (Ref Tract. 4: PL 35, 2008-2009). So, ask persistently!

Rule #4: Pray in Jesus’ name. When we pray, we are relying on His help. But also, when we pray in Jesus name, we are aligning our prayer properly, orienting ourselves to Christ, assuming his attitude, and his perspective. St. Paul says, " Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). Therefore, we have to pray for the "right things", focus and sanctify our desires and mind in the Spirit of Jesus. Prayer is not designed so much to change God’s mind than it is to change ours. Rather, He is the one who wants nothing other than to give us good things — though they might not always be the things we want. Practice to pray with all our strength, mind, and heart with the above 4 rules. Then God, Abba Father, “who art in heaven”, who creates, sustains, governs, and provides for us, will transform our prayer into daily miracles in our life.

This is an excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s homilies, including “The Ways of Prayer”, and “Rules of Prayer”. For more information, please visit WordOnFire.org.