Thursday of Week 11 in Ordinary Time
“In your prayers, do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard.“
I have a constant struggle with prayer, because I have always found it difficult to maintain the balance between praying in a manner I am comfortable with, and piety (with the discipline it involves). On the one hand, I agree with today’s passage in wanting to speak to our Father candidly on whatever is on my mind, without resorting to ‘many words’. On the other, I think it is important to set aside time for prayer even when I don’t feel like it, because my faith ought to be based on more than my moods or feelings – but then, that seems to border on the mindless praying the passage advises against.
I also ponder about what to say during prayer. Sometimes I seem to spend my prayer either rambling/ranting about my day or setting out a long list of petitions, as if I am asking our Father to fulfil my will instead of trying to discern His. I have also tried embarking on devotional prayers; although they help me to know more about Jesus and Mary, sometimes I feel as if I am reciting them on autopilot, or making them into a kind of offering to get what I am praying for – both of which sound very similar to babbling again! And then there are the times I attempted on some form of meditation, which usually ended in me either getting distracted or dozing off.
Maybe the main question underlying my dilemmas is why we pray. There is a wealth of resources on this topic (I found Father Mike Schmitz’s video a concise watch) and I suppose all of us will have to come up with our own answers which may evolve over time too. So I thought it would be more useful to return to the text of today’s passage, which made me recall a priest’s sharing on how the Lord’s Prayer illustrates our relationship with God and all that we should say to Him.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name
We start by praising God (which makes me wonder how much of my prayer I spend in sincere praise and thanksgiving).
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
We acknowledge God’s will and His call to spread His word beyond our shores to the world (which also reminds me of Bishop Barron’s message on how our Lord desires to bring heaven and earth together).
Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
We ask for daily sustenance (which makes me wonder if I sufficiently cherish the ability to receive the Eucharist, and also realise soberly that I am in need of mercy every day).
And do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.
We end by asking for daily protection (which makes me realise how I ought to remember to rely on God’s grace rather than think and act as if I can do it all on my own).
I also need to keep in mind that our Father knows what we need better than we know ourselves, and that He will always provide us what we need. Maybe I can gain guidance for my own approach to prayer by reflecting further on the words He himself gave us.
P.S. Another resource I am currently listening to on how we can decide our daily prayer routine is Dr Edward Sri’s podcast here.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Jaclyn Lam)
Prayer: Lord, forgive us for the times we take You for granted, or are too busy for you, or just don’t know how to relate to You. Guide our attempts to spend time with You, and send us your Holy Spirit to bless us with the fruits of wisdom, knowledge and understanding we need to pray.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always making the time for us and for hearing our every prayer, both spoken and unspoken. Thank you for knowing us better than we know ourselves and for loving us anyway.