Sunday, 27 October 2019
Inadequate Prayer, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today I want to talk about prayer, and about how many of us feel that we’re not very good at praying.
Most of us have been praying for a very long time -since childhood.
We have memorised set prayers we say, like the Hail Mary & Our Father, and Rosary.
We have moments of brief spontaneous prayer, like when we ask God to help us be patient while we’re queuing in the Ferndown traffic.
Most of us, also, have times of longer prayer, what St Teresa of Avila calls ‘mental prayer’
-that simply being alone with the Lord, in a time and place we have set aside for Him;
-that speaking to Him as ‘heart speaks to heart’, to quote Cardinal Newman;
-that speaking TO Him and seeking to LISTEN to Him.
And yet, most of us also have many times when we think we’re not very good at praying.
In our discipleship film this week the speaker said, “We’re all beginners when it comes to prayer” -and there is a lot of truth to that.
In reading today’s Gospel, however, it struck me that something of this experience is actually of the very ESSENCE of authentic prayer.
Authentic prayer is humble.
Authentic prayer always feels LITTLE before God, inadequate before God, always feels like “we’re not very good at prayer”.
God is awesome.
God is infinite.
I, in contrast, am small.
Worse, as the publican in the parable reminded us today, I am “a sinner” (Lk 18:13).
If, in spite of this, I approach God and approach my prayer as if I am an ‘expert’,
then, I’m probably more a fool than an expert.
One of the lessons of today’s parable of the publican is that it’s OK to feel inadequate when we pray.
In fact, its RIGHT to feel inadequate when we pray.
A parent expects an infant to be an infant;
and God expects us to pray as we are, because He knows what we are.
That said, obviously, we want to try and be LESS inadequate.
Our discipleship film reminded us of the need to have PLAN in our prayer pattern:
A regular TIME each day when we pray;
A regular PLACE where we know we can be quiet and undisturbed and focussed.
We also need a BALANCE in the different forms of prayer we use
-each form of praying is different and serves us differently:
(a) we all need some formal memorised prayers -to use words that aren’t our own, to use words that take us outside of our narrow thinking;
(b) we all need some quiet mental prayer -for that intimacy with the Lord;
(c) we all need some communal prayer -which is one of the reasons we attend Mass every Sunday.
If I can close by offering you a prayer TOOL.
If you have access to email and the internet, then then look inside the newsletter today and sign up for the ‘daily devotional’ email at www.churchnativity.com/prayer/ which will give you a daily text to help you pray.
A daily text helps put something good INTO our minds, so that our hearts and minds have something suitable to talk to God and listen to God about.
To close where I began: Most of us have times when we feel we’re not very good at prayer.
True prayer, the Lord Jesus tell us, must be humble.
So, don’t come to Him pretending to be an expert -just come to Him.