Pray Always

Luke’s gospel is often called "the gospel of prayer" for three reasons. First, Luke frequently portrays Jesus at prayer; second, he records the prayer Jesus taught his disciples (i.e., the Our Father); and third, he devotes more space than the other evangelists to Jesus’ teaching about prayer and its importance. This Sunday’s gospel, like the following Sunday’s gospel, contains a parable about prayer. The focus this week is on "the necessity...to pray always without becoming weary." What does the parable of the persistent widow teach us about prayer? In the first place, it invites us to consider how we image God. If a godless and dishonest judge can be worn down by a widow – the classic example of vulnerability in any society – to render justice, with how much more confidence can we approach the One whom Jesus invites us to address as "Father," as a loving parent who seeks to give his children what they most need (cf. Luke 11:13)? Thus, one reason to pray always is to allow God to reveal himself to us more and more as loving, patient, merciful, and just. The point of the parable isn’t to wear God down or to make sure that he hears us; rather, Jesus’ exhortation to pray always is really for our sake. Sunday’s second reading, from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, suggests another reason to pray always. Here Paul discusses the importance of Scripture. The more we mature in the life of prayer, the more we ought to find ourselves listening to God. One privileged and sure way to listen to God is to prayerfully contemplate the Sacred Page. Such prayerful listening to God’s Word inculcates "wisdom for salvation," "train[s] in righteousness," and "equip[s] for every good work." In other words, the prayerful contemplation of Scripture is a means by which we are transformed so that our very lives "proclaim the word" to others. In fact, the transformation of lives leads us to the ultimate reason why it is necessary to pray always. The heart of the prayer Jesus taught us is "thy will be done." Jesus himself exemplified this prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. We need to pray always in order both to learn what God’s will is for us and to align our own wills more and more with his. Because of this, constant prayer is a sine qua non for Christian discipleship. It lies at the heart of our expression of faith, one that places us in intimate relationship with the One whom Jesus called "Abba." Thomas D. Stegman, S.J.
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