“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them.” (Matthew 6:7-8)
Everybody prays. Even animals pray. If you are attending mass now, you are praying. Prayer is life but then, just as in the time of Jesus, there are still many who do not understand prayer. Already, Jesus teaches us that prayer is not something we do for public show, it is an act of communion between two people madly in love with each other; God and you. “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door.”
Today, Jesus teaches us that it is not the number of words we use that moves God but the love that God already has for us. Every single word we utter in prayer carries weight. Think of prayer as a conversation between you and the one who loves you. Is it really necessary for us to shout at the top of our voice when we pray? In teaching us to pray, Jesus shows us that prayer requires a structure; a formula; a plan. Without a structure, we are like people driving without a destination. If we prepare our speech and plan our words before meeting with a Governor or some high ranking government official, how much more, God.
Secondly, Jesus teaches us that prayer requires adoration (worship). “Hallowed be thy name; Your Kingdom come.” As the saying goes, he who sings well prays twice. Singing praises, kneeling (prostrating, etc.) before God are important in prayer.
Thirdly Jesus teaches us that giving thanks and submitting to the superior will of God is important in prayer. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” No matter what we ask in prayer, we must never forget that it is not better than God’s plan. Prayer can change God’s decisions but it changes us first.
Fourthly, Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread showing us that the past and future are not ours to worry about. All we should be concerned with is today, to overcome present temptations and be delivered from all evil.
Finally, Jesus shows us that even the very life we live is part of our prayer. After praying the words, we must follow our prayers with actions. If we refuse to forgive those who sin against us, then our pleas for God’s forgiveness is not complete. Let us pray: Lord Jesus, work through me as you worked through the prophet Elisha. Amen.
Bible Study: Sirach 48:1-14, Psalm 97:1-7, Matthew 6:7-15).
“Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1).
Worshipping God is not something we do, it is the very life we live. In his conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus says: “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24).
If our worship of God does not come from the heart, if it is all about what people will see, then it is not pure. It is one thing to be good but a different thing if that goodness is purely motivated by societal applause. If it is all about what people would say, then our good name becomes the god we serve. Jesus says we should pray in secret and fast with glowing faces because God sees everything, He sees our hearts and knows if we are pretending. As the Psalmist puts it: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away… Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.” (Psalm 139:1-4).
Better be a Zaccheus who acknowledges his sins and come to the light than a Pharisee who prays standing in the market place yet is a whitewashed tomb. The irony is that we cannot even please people. There is no need trying to project an image of yourself to the world. Be real with yourself and with God. If your goodness proceeds from your heart, then like a light bulb, you shine even when no one is looking.
In the first reading today, we see the transition of office from Elijah to Elisha. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and he got it. He took Elijah’s mantle which had fallen on him and with it, he parted the water and returned home. Not too long ago, I saw the video of a man selling a piece of cloth which he called prayer mantle in a church using this particular scripture as a backing. This is a clear case of what Jesus is talking about; making an undue profit from ignorant Christians while pretending to be a man of God.
My dear, buying a piece of cloth for a thousand dollars will not suddenly force the hand of God in your favour. God only says we should ask and He will do it for us. God is not and can never be for sale. Let us pray: Lord Jesus, free me the desire to please people. Amen.
Bible Study: 2nd Kings 2:1-14, Psalm 31:20-24, Matthew 6:1-18).