IF YOUR PRAYER LIFE HAS NOT IMPROVED SO FAR, YOUR LENT HAS NOT STARTED YET
First Reading: Esther 4:17
Responsorial Psalm: 137(138):1-3,7-8
Gospel Reading: Matthew 7:7-12
Recently, a friend challenged me with her lively faith and unwavering belief in Lenten prayers. Initially, she told me of her doctor’s report owing to the symptoms she manifested, and in order to be sure, the doctor asked her to go for a medical test. After narrating the situation to me, she asked for prayers, of which I promised to be united with her at prayers. About two weeks later, I reached out to her again, seeking to know if she had done the test, and she replied: “I haven’t run the test, I’ll do it after Lent by God’s grace.” When I inquired to know why she decided to postpone it till after Lent, she replied: “I really want to pray about it then and be at peace. I’m somehow troubled now. I want to be at peace and I always get that during Lent; my faith matters at this point.” These words of hers really touched me deeply. Although she had no idea it made a deep impression on me, I said to her: “it is well with you.” Dear friends, Lent has always been known as a period to intensify our prayer life, and for this reason, the Church leaves us with “PRAYER” as one of the three pillars of Lent; thus, if your prayer life has not improved so far, I must tell you that your Lent has not started. As we journey through the “Lenten wilderness,” God knows that we cannot survive by our own making; as such, He wants to assist us through the medium of prayer because it is an essential part of Christian spirituality. God also wants us to pray/intercede for one another. Through prayer, we communicate, dialogue with Him, and discover His will, just as a child dialogues with his loving and caring Father who always provides for him. This is what the readings of the day present to us.
The first reading focuses on intercessory prayer. Our English word “intercession” is derived from the Latin “intercessionem,” which means, “pleading on behalf of oneself or another,” “a going between,” “coming between,” “mediation,” “intervene,” “come between,” “be between.” First, Christ stands between us and the Father as the Mediator of the New Covenant (cf. Heb. 9:15); that is why we pray in His Name and through Him. Secondly, we as Christians are called to intercede for one another at prayers while praying to the One Mediator between God and man, our Lord Christ Jesus (cf. 1Tim. 2:5). Paul gave us an example when he asked the Church to pray for one another with “supplications […] and thanksgivings,” (cf. 1 Timothy 2:1); he prayed for them too (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:2), and he also asked them to pray/intercede for him as well (cf. Ephesians 6:19). This method of praying dates back to the Old Testament times. The famous intercessory prayers in the Old Testament could be seen in Abraham’s plea for Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Genesis 18:16-33), and Moses’ intercession for Israel (cf. Exodus 32). In today’s first reading, we are presented with Esther’s prayer/intercession in a situation of extreme anguish, not because of herself, but because of her people threatened with death. Here, the queen of the Jewish race stands before God only to remind Him of the vocation of her people and the past history sown with divine benefits. While Esther prays with confidence and perseverance, she does not trust herself on her merits, but on the goodness and mercy of God so often demonstrated, and she gets what she asks for. This reality is mirrored in today’s Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.”
Likewise, in today’s gospel reading, Our Lord teaches us to pray with confidence and perseverance, because God is our Father and loves us with eternal love, of which He does not repent. We have heard these statements so many times that they may no longer seem to impress us, but we should not give up; rather, we should be filled with confidence and a strong belief in prayers just as the lady above expressed. Thus, communion with God to which Jesus invites us is an experience that renews us internally: “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.” Confident and persevering prayer does not disappoint, because God can only give good things to those who ask them for He knows our needs. Thus, at prayers, more than presenting our desires, we must abandon ourselves to God’s will with childlike confidence.
Dear friends in Christ, if we need to pray at length, it is not to convince God of our needs, but to transform our desires and make them coincide with the divine will that wants our good; this way, we can understand that God answers all prayers, even when we do not really receive what we ask for at a particular moment. When we open our hearts in dialogue with God through prayers and seeking his divine will, being a merciful and kind Father, and seeing that what we ask for at the moment isn’t the best for us, He would always have a way to communicate that to us in our hearts.
Therefore, as we continually pray for ourselves and for others, may we also recourse to the angels and saints in heaven to continually intercede for us with their prayers, so that our song be like today’s Psalmist: “I thank you, Lord, with all my heart: you have heard the words of my mouth […] On the day I called, you answered; you increased the strength of my soul.”
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?