Prayer as we know is the raising up of our mind and heart to God. Through prayer, we communicate with God, we answer the certain question that He asked in Genesis 3 verse 9 where He said to Adam “Where are you?” When we pray, we answer that question by saying here I am Lord.
When we pray, we show total dependence on God, we show that we relay on Him for everything, we accept Him as our Sovereign Lord, and we submit our will to His.
We cannot do without prayer; prayer is very important. The reading of the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C calls us to reflect on the importance of persistence in prayer. In the first reading, Moses instructed Joshua to go to battle while he went up the hill to pray. In the Gospel, we see the widow who continually bothered the unrighteous judge until he granted her request.
For us to understand the importance of persistence in prayer, we have to look at the first and Gospel reading very closely.
In the first reading you would wonder how the Israelites who were just coming out of slavery and are exhausted from their journey prevailed in battle over the Amalekites who are seasoned and fierce desert warriors – bandits who kill for fun.
All odds where also against the widow in the Gospel reading, first, she was a woman, according to Jewish laws, she cannot speak up in the court. The second thing is that she was a widow, therefore there was no man to speak on her behalf because her husband is late. The third factor against her was that she was poor and would not have money to service the will of justice.
Everything where totally against the widow and the people of Israel but yet, they all came out victorious. The reason they were able to come out victorious was because they persevered and persisted in prayer.
In the first reading, the people of Israel had the advantage whenever Moses’ hands were raised up to God in prayers.
In the Gospel, the widow became a thorn in the flesh of the judge, anywhere she see the judge she will remind him of her case, if she see him in the market, she will remind him of the case, in front of the temple, she will remind him of the case, if he is with his friends, she will remind him of the case, she would come to his house everyday reminding him of her case. The judge had no choice, because if not, she would continue frustrating him. He had to vindicate her.
Our attitude towards prayer should be like the widow, let us not look at the fact that we have already asked and it has not been giving us, therefore why ask? There are some times that situations in life becomes so frustrating that you don’t even know who to go to from there. For instance, the traders who have their shops burnt in this latest fire incident in Onitsha, where do you want them to start from? If you go and tell somebody to endure, God knows best, continue to pray… he would wonder if you’re just being insensitive. But the truth is, that’s the only option you have to do, first to commit it to prayer.
let us continue to remind God of our intensions, when we are praying, it is not just that we are repeating words, but we are actually reminding God of our intensions, we are reminding God of what we want him to do for us. Once we do it with faith, trust and total submission to the will of God, we will be sure that definitely, He would answer us.
We should also understand that prayers have its rules.
Rules of Prayers
- Prayer should be done with faith (You should have faith that the person you are praying to is the solution to your problem)
- Pray for the right intensions (pray for your own good and the good of your neighbor)
- Perseverance and persistence in prayer.
If we have all these things in check, we are sure that our prayers definitely, one day will be answered.
We have the scriptures to guide us, to help us build our faith, to nourish us and help us grow in spirit and in grace. But how many of us take good use of the opportunities that the scriptures have provided for us? Some of us don’t actually have time to open the Bible, to read the scriptures, to know what God’s word is telling us.
The problem we have is most times, even when we read scriptures, we interpret it selfishly. For instance, some people will see the first reading and say “Oh! This is wonderful. God is telling us to pray so that he will give us strength to defeat our enemies”. That is not true, the first reading is telling us to be persistent in prayer.
Aside wrong interpretation of scripture, another problem we face is not understanding the fact that prayer has to go hand-in-hand with work. While Moses was up on the mountain praying, the people of Israel were fighting below, Moses did not ask everybody to go to the tent and pray. He shared the work. Men, go and fight, while he went up to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur to pray. The women where hiding somewhere preparing food or something else.
Prayer together with work equals good results.
When we decide to pray only and not work, what do we intend to happen? For instance, you’ve refused to read and attend class throughout a section but you’re praying for exam success. Its not possible, prayer is not magic.
We have to work as we are praying. It is not enough for you to say I am praying for financial upliftment or financial assistance and you sit down in your house doing nothing, you have to go out to work, you have to do something so that from there your help will come.
Furthermore, we must also understand that we need to support each other in prayers. Like we see in the first reading, when Moses was tired and he was struggling to lift them up, Aaron and Hur supported him and helped him to lift them up. In the same way, we are supposed to support each other in prayers.
You should have partners in prayer, people you can call and ask to them to pray for you and with you.
Finally, we can be a means of answering other people’s prayer. The unjust judge made himself a means of answering the widow’s prayer, you and I can be a means of answering someone’s prayer. Somebody might be praying for a job opportunity, you have a vacancy, why not assist the person? Someone might be praying for financial assistance, you have that, can’t you just assist?
Let us try to be destiny helpers to others, because when we do that God will definitely provide our own destiny helpers at our time of need.
May God give us the grace to persevere in prayer and trust in Him no matter the difficulty we face or the condition we find ourselves he will hear us and answer us.
Homily by Rev. Fr. Anthony Chigbo