In the Gospel extract presented to us today we see how Jesus told his disciples that they must pray continually and never lose heart. Obviously these words addressed to the disciples gathered around Jesus on that particular day were not meant just for them only. We recognise that they are addressed to us just as much as they were to his immediate disciples.
You might think that praying continually is a bit of a tall order. You might ask how you can be expected to pray continually, let alone never to lose heart. You would be right in thinking that it is no easy matter since you have a life to lead, children to raise, a job of work to do. And you might then go on to conclude that this means that you simply don’t have the time to pray very much.
It would be easy to think that the kind of continual prayer that Jesus is talking about is something best left to those who have sufficient time for daily mass and who have no responsibilities apart from going to Church. It would be easy to think that this is something that you can leave until after you have retired.
But this is a very particular trap that we can easily be lured into. It is a way of thinking that is ultimately unworthy of any dedicated Catholic. Because putting things off till tomorrow inevitably means that they will never be done at all.
Yes, we can agree that it would be good for us to go to daily mass. It would be excellent thing to spend a half an hour or so in the Church on a weekday when we can be sure of finding the necessary peace and quiet to say our prayers. However because of practicalities we realise that only a few can actually get to the Church on a day other than a Sunday.
We must recognise, however, that prayer is something for busy people too. It is far too important to leave prayer to those who have sufficient leisure and plenty of time on their hands. We ought to be aware that prayer is the vital driving force of our lives. We need to discover for ourselves that prayer is a wonderful conduit between us and God and therefore it is something necessary for each and every one of us.
Actually as a priest it is easy to observe that once people start to neglect their prayers then they begin the gradual drift away from God and towards selfishness. It cannot be over emphasized just how vitally important prayer is in the life of a Christian.
Many of us were taught very well by our parents. They managed to instill in us the habit of prayer, whether it was on rising from our bed in the morning or when we returned to it at night. They may have emphasized the importance of saying such prayers as the Grace Before Meals or the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be as we left the house.
It may be that we have been able to continue with these habits of prayer and hopefully they will last our whole lives long. If you haven’t acquired this custom of saying certain prayers at specific times of the day then maybe you could consider doing so.
When you have a young family it is very good to start saying the Grace Before Meals together. It could begin with something like the Our Father and then each person could say a short intercession and then conclude together with the traditional Grace Before Meals. Getting the whole family into such a habit of prayer at mealtimes can only be a good thing.
Such a practice especially if each person says an intercession of their own devising will help the children in particular to develop their own interior habit of prayer. Not only this, but it will help them to discover the vocabulary of prayer so that whenever they talk to anyone about prayer they will have the right words and personal experience to draw on.
Helping your children to acquire the habit of prayer is one of the greatest gifts you could give them for it will help to set them on the road to a truly happy and fulfilled life.
What I have been talking about up to now has emphasized the saying of specific prayers but not so much about what we might call interior prayer. By this I mean that dialogue with God that each person can have going on within themselves throughout the day. I think it is this that Jesus is talking about when he tells his disciples to pray continually.
As you walk to the bus stop or as you go up the stairs or as you go through any of your other daily routines it is possible to keep up a dialogue with God. It is possible to simply talk to him, to tell him things, to make requests to him or to ask for insights. As you do this you will find that new ideas will come into your head and holy thoughts will spontaneously arise within you.
By telling God your problems in this way solutions gradually begin to appear. By explaining to him how you feel about certain situations your imagination will spontaneously come up with alternative ways of approaching them. By mulling over the events of the day while being conscious of God’s close presence you will become aware of aspects that you never thought of at the time.
If you have been on a bus or an underground train lately you will see that almost everyone has their smartphone out perhaps listening to music or playing games or going through their texts or emails. Each one is in a world of their own, but they are entirely preoccupied with whatever is on their phone.
I would say that they are missing out on valuable prayer time. I would say that if these people just spent a moment or two looking at themselves and entering into dialogue with the God who loves them then their time would be much better spent.
Actually though, if you find yourself glued to the smartphone there are even some good apps that can help you with prayer. One is called Universalis which has the daily readings from the mass as well as morning and evening prayer. It is worth downloading on to your phone and taking a look at during your next bus or tube journey. There are surely other good apps that you would find helpful.
Jesus wants us to pray continually and he gives us the parable of the unjust judge and the widow who constantly petitioned him for justice. Even this unjust judge eventually gave into the widow because of her sheer persistence. How much more our Heavenly Father will give us if we only persist in asking him for what we want and need in life.
Prayer is the royal road to a much deeper relationship with God. Prayer may begin with reciting old and familiar prayers but it does not end there. Prayer carries us forward beyond those set prayers and into a profound dialogue with our Divine Saviour. Through prayer we become more grounded each day and grow in an ever deeper communion with the God we love.
St Joseph's Catholic Church
191 High Road
18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
09.30 (Family Mass)
11.00 (Solemn Mass)
12.30 (With Hymns)
Weekdays: 07.30 & 10.00
Confessions: Saturday 10.30-11.00 & 19.00-19.30
St Joseph's Catholic Church
T: 020 8427 1955
Saturday: 18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
Sunday: 08.15, 09.30 (Family Mass), 11.00 (Solemn Mass), 12.30, 18.00
Weekdays: 07.30, 10.00 - additional mass every first Friday at 19.00
Saturday: 11.00 & 19.00-19.30
First Friday: 18.00-18.45
EXPOSITION & BENEDICTION
First Friday: 18.00-18-45