Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 2

Praying Angel

This is a continuation of the series of posts on prayer, in particular The Five W’s of Prayer: Part 1.  See also the introductory post, In His Holy Name.

“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer in the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God.” (Catholic Catechism 2725)

Previously, I asserted that prayer should be easy and natural, but thanks to Adam and Eve, it isn’t. In our sinfulness—our shame and guilt—prayer has become a difficult thing to do. Yet it, is a necessary and a good wholesome response to God’s love and a reflection of our own love for God and his commandments. We can read the bible, study his word and tradition, go to church, and perform acts of charity and mercy, but if we do not pray, there is no point to it. There is no relationship with God without prayer. The Catholic Church (and other sects of Christianity of course) knows this and knows that the tempter knows this. That is what makes prayer a ‘determined response on our part’ and ‘a battle’—for if we can be stopped from praying, nothing we can do will bring us to God or impart God’s grace in our lives and our hearts.

Before we can take up the shield and sword of God, let us take a moment to learn more about prayer, in particular the When and Where. The other three W’s (What, Who and Why) were covered in the first post here.

When Should We Pray?

“With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.” (Eph 6:18)

God gives us the aid of the Holy Spirit

Saint Paul directed us to pray without ceasing. By praying without ceasing, we welcome God to walk with us in our lives and establish our foundation in God. Prayer becomes a constant conversation with God. This is an easy thing to say, but perhaps a difficult thing to put into practice. There are many objections to prayer—no time, too many distractions, it is dry and boring, not being heard to name a few. I would be the first to admit the constant, ceaseless prayer is difficult at best, maybe even impossible. I would also propose that it is also very simple, all we have to do is ask for God’s help to make prayer a continuous practice, and in that way a prayer will make constant prayer possible through the Holy Spirit.

Some people pray only when the road becomes difficult, others pray only when the road becomes easy. As the Catholic Catechism beautifully states it, “We pray as we live, because we live as we pray it.” So the answer to when should we pray is clear; with the aid of the Holy Spirit, always, constantly, and without ceasing.

Where Should Prayer Happen?

“According to Scripture, it is the heart that prays. If our heart is far from God, the words of prayer are in vain.” (CC 2562)

The Immaculate Heart of Jesus

Just as our works are in vain without prayer, our prayer itself is in vain if it is just lip service. The bible speaks of this often, “The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, therefore I will again deal with this people.” (Is 29: 13-14) While the Catechism asserts that the church is the proper and favorable place of prayer, as well as a sacred place in the home, monasteries, and shrines, the true place that prayer should happen is in our hearts. (CC 2691) As we see from Isaiah, it does not matter where our physical body is, if our spiritual body is far from God.

Let’s pray that God imparts the Holy Spirit upon us so that we can continuously pray with our hearts close to God!

References and Additional Reading

Catholic Catechism, available online

The Holy Bible, available online

Rahilly, Alfred. “Reason.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 1 Feb. 2012 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12673b.htm>.

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Parables of Talents

Gospel Reflection by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, PH.D. at the Crossroads Initiative

I’ve seen it time and time again. Someone decides to seek a better paying job, or pursue and investment strategy, or launch a new business. Invariably some pious person in the parish objects that maybe this is too worldly, that it will be a distraction from Church and family priorities, that one should be satisfied with what one has.

You’d think from this that faith equals passivity. That the only perfect Christian is the cloistered contemplative. That mildness is the greatest of Christian virtues.

Husband and Wife Bears

There are a number of Scripture texts that shatter this picture. One is the image of the ideal wife in Proverbs 31. The Blessed Virgin Mary read this passage and, as the most perfect of Israelite wives, most probably modeled herself after the woman portrayed here. Does the Proverbs 31 woman sit around passively, praying a lot, and wearing beige? No. The first few verses of the chapter poetically tell how she is more valuable than pearls, a true prize. The rest of the passage tell us why she is such a catch–she knows how to roll up her sleeves and hustle. The passage tells of her side business ventures that increase the family’s wealth, which she shares with the poor. Of course if she hadn’t worked so shrewdly and diligently, there would not be anything to share with the poor.

Parable of the Talents

Another Scripture that shatters the picture of Christianity as passivity is the famous parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Note that it is money (yes money!) that the master entrusts to his various servants, different amounts according to varying abilities. Two servants realize that the master wants a return on his capital, so they invest it and each double it. The master does not expect to get the same sum back from these two because they started with different amounts. But they both received the exact same praise because they both gave him a hundred per cent return.

The servant of least ability, on the other hand, buried the money for fear of losing it.Instead of praising him for being conservative, the master is outraged. If you entrusted your retirement nest egg to a stockbroker, and years later it had not grown at all, would you be happy?

The master was angry because the servant had allowed fear to paralyze him. So afraid was he of losing money that he did not even take the very modest risk of depositing the money in the bank (there was no FDIC insurance in those days).

Money: November 08

The Lord has entrusted lots of things to us: money, natural talents, spiritual gifts, the saving truth of the Gospel. He expects us not just to conserve these things but to grow them. In the last supper discourse (John 15) he speaks of the disciples as bearing much fruit. In the Parable of the Sower and the Seed he speaks of grain that bear 30, 60, and 100 fold. Whatever labor we are involved in–economic, family, apostolic–the goal should be to develop, increase, and grow what God has given us, for his honor and glory.

This inevitably involves taking risks. It means not letting the fear of failure and ridicule stop us from pursuing success.  

One of the greatest Catholic thinkers of the 20th century was a Swiss priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar. He once pointed out that one of the most frequently used words in the book of Acts was the Greek word parrhesia, meaning cheerful boldness in the face of danger or opposition. Without such boldness, Christianity would have stalled in Palestine. It never would have made it to Antioch, Greece, and Rome.

Faithfulness to God means having the courage to take bold initiatives, in pastoral life, family life, and business, to be creative, even entrepreneurial, to express our gratitude to God for all that He has given us by making it grow.

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The Exodus of Life

We are currently in the book of Exodus in the Great Adventure Bible Study, learning the story of Exodus of God’s People from the land of Egypt.  God’s people lived in the land of the Egypt for a very long time. So long, that the people forgot who God is and His promises. They stopped holding to the covenant of the Lord as they ate Egyptian food, dressed like Egyptians, talked like them, intermarried, and even worshipped the Egyptian gods. However, God did not forget his people, and so the Israelites still prospered and soon there were so many of them that the Egyptians became fearful that the Israelites would take over their land.

Moses Pleading with Israel, as in Deuteronomy ...

I think we all know the story from this point: the Pharaoh ordering all of the male Hebrews born to be cast into the Nile; Moses saved from the Nile by the Pharaoh’s daughter; Moses growing up in the Pharaoh courts until one day he has to run from Pharaoh because he killed an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew; the Lord selecting Moses to lead His People out of Egypt; the ten plagues as a warning to Pharaoh to let the Lord’s People go; the parting of the Red Sea; forty years in the desert with the ten commandments given to Moses at Mount Sinai; finally Gods People reaching the Land of Canaan, the land promised to the ancestors of the Hebrews.

As I read the story and answered my homework questions for the bible study, God heard my prayer to ‘reveal to me what You wish me to learn as I study your Word.’ The homework question that astonished me most was to evaluate how Moses has changed from Exodus 5-6 to Exodus 32. As I read these chapters and saw how Moses went from saying, “I cannot do it, send someone else” to “Send me Lord, let me lead these people”, I had flashbacks from my past.

I was a teenager, and trying to figure out the world and God, and I was very lost. I was taken with culture, just like the Israelites were taken with the Egyptian culture, and I became a pagan. Then one day, I actually listened to Jesus, He stole my heart, and I became Christian. I remember being sad and bitter. I remember kneeling in the pews of my church saying, I believe, Jesus, in you and your death and resurrection. But I do not believe in the bible, or Church, or organized religion. I do not believe in testifying, in fact I will never testify. I will not tell others about you, and you cannot send me.Sunrise from Mount Sinai

I was just like Moses, unbelieving, unknowing and unwilling. Just like Moses, the Lord has led me from the pagan life and a life of slavery, through the Red Sea, and camps with me at the foot of Mount Sinai. I am not out of the desert yet, but I know that sometimes the Lord leads me, sometimes He directs me, sometimes He carries me, and sometimes He challenges my faith to see if I will stand for Him, and at the end of this journey, I will be in the Land of Milk and Honey and dwell always with the Lord. Who would have ever thought that we, who live now and in this generation, could experience the same Exodus that the Hebrews experienced so long ago?

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