"Jesus departed to the mountain to pray..." (Lk.6:12)
Christ departed to the mountain to pray, and eventually spent the whole night in prayer. I keep asking myself whether and why we need to pray. Obviously, yes, and because we need prayer. Personally, prayer helps me stay connected with God. I pray because I need God in my life. I pray because I feel special support each time I pray. I pray also because prayer gives me some confidence. I bet you, it conquers fears, it gives me authority to perform. Prayer assures me that I am not alone, that I have the backing from God in my struggles. And a passage like the one in Luke’s gospel (ch.6:12-16) encourages me to pray. Jesus prays. Jesus is God. Jesus is also human. Jesus makes an important decision; he chooses his apostles. He recognizes that prayer is necessary to make such a great decision. He recognizes that the inspiration and support from on high would be of great help. He prays, then makes his choice of the twelve. So I see it this way; if Jesus who is God, prayed, then I, who am mere mortal, should pray more. A pity I can’t pray half like Jesus, not to talk of praying more. But I pray.
Why is prayer a tough exercise? For me, prayer is tough primarily because it is a spiritual exercise. Like every other spiritual activity, prayer demands the commitment of the spirit. It is the elevation of the mind to God. Another reason is because God, who is the object of prayer is invisible. Because he is not physically present, it is a bit difficult to feel his presence in prayer. That is why sometimes the mind wonders about, thinks about physical things, images, persons, experiences that are practical and touchable. This happens in prayer. That doesn’t mean that such prayer is useless. When your mind wonders away in prayer, just relax a little bit, don’t force it and don’t get upset. Slowly concentrate, or bring the particular reason that took your mind away into your prayer. Stay on it a little bit. Then tell God to deal with it. That’s prayer.
When do we pray? Scripture says, “You ought to pray always…” (Lk.18:1). It is good to form a habit of prayer. Remember that each time you bless someone, you are praying. Each time you ask for something from God, you are praying. Each time you ask God for something on behalf of some other person, you are praying. Each time you say, “I thank you, Lord”, you are praying. Each time you praise him for any favor, you are praying. That means, you may not even know how much you pray daily, maybe a lot. Importantly, it is good to make out time to pray at special times, especially before making major decisions in life. Say your prayers aloud, or silently. Meditate on the words of the Scriptures. Read the lives of the Saints. Use holy images to lift your mind. Read inspirational books. Pray with others, they can help you stay connected. Pray as family, it helps a lot. Praying as family also helps strengthen relationships. Tell God what your family needs. Thank him for his goodness in your home. Ask him for more.
Prayer is the strongest form of communication with God. It is the bedrock of our relationship with God. It is through prayer that we concretely feel God in our lives. If we do not pray, we run dry, we shrink spiritually. Think about your friendship in human parlance. One way to sustain your friendship is through communication. In your communication with your friend, you call each other from time to time, get out together, create memorable moments. You converse and talk, make jokes and share ideas. You communicate with the one you love. Each time communication is neglected, there is strange feeling. The same thing happens in prayer. Just as we feel our friendship in real life, so we should feel our friendship with God. He is our greatest friend. Hence Christ invites us thus, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you" (Lk.11:9-10, Matt.7:7). He sets before us today the need for prayer. Create that memorable experience with God in prayer.
May God hear and answer us. Amen.