Be determined to pray always

By: Fr. Roy Cimagala

YES, we need to pray without ceasing, as St. Paul told us in his First Letter to the Thessalonians. (5,16) To keep our spiritual life alive, to make it survive all trials in life, let alone, to make it work effectively and grow healthily, we need to pray without letup.

What food is to our biological life, prayer is to our spiritual life. Prayer is like breathing and the very beating of the heart of our life with God and with others. It is the primary and abiding link we have with God and with everybody else. Without it, we would simply isolate ourselves.

In short, we can say that while God is objectively with us, since he is present everywhere, we have to make sure that on our part, we should also be subjectively with him. Precisely, St. Augustine once complained about this problem of God being with us while we are not with him. We need to correspond to this objective reality of our unbreakable and intimate relation with God.

Our need to pray is like our need to breathe. It should be non-stop, since it is indispensable in our union with God our Creator, who keeps us alive and healthy in our spiritual life. Again, let’s bring back a basic truth —without God we are nothing!

The only difference is that breathing is a bodily necessity and is instinctive and automatic until we die, while praying is a spiritual necessity that requires conscious effort and continues even after death, though in a different form.

In fact, praying requires faith, hope and charity which first of all are gifts from God that need to be corresponded to by us with a lot of patience and the dynamic interplay of all the other virtues.

We should not be surprised by this requirement of prayer, much less complain about it, since praying is our most basic way of dealing with God who has given us all and who has the right to expect all for us also, we being his image and likeness.

We are reassured that God always listens to us even if it would seem to us that he does not. Precisely this is the point that is highlighted in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 18, verses 1 to 8.

It talked about the parable of the dishonest judge who in the end gave in to the demands of a widow who was persevering in her petitions for her to be given justice.

“While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,” the judge said, “because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally comes and strikes me.”

From there, Christ concluded: “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.”

But the problem, according to Christ, is that people hardly have faith in the power of prayer. It is this deficiency that prevents them from persevering in prayer. But in another gospel, we are reassured that God always gives us what we need.

In another part of the gospel, Christ tells us: “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you…Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11,9-13)