29th Sunday of the Year C

The theme of the readings this Sunday is quite clear - pray without ceasing.

Moses is the model of intercessory prayer in the Old Testament, and indeed, his arms outstretched in the Reading today pre-figure the intercessory prayer of Christ on our behalf on the Cross.

We are to pray persistently, at all times, in the hope that we will be heard. The plight of the Chilean miners prompted many people throughout the world to pray that they be brought to safety. They themselves never lost hope, and they did not forget to thank God as they reached the light of day. They all wore T-shirts with the phrase 'Gracias, Senhor', 'Thank the Lord' and with the name 'Jesus' on their sleeves. Their persevering prayer was heard.

We are left with the mystery and the question of God demanding that we pray. Why should we, if God knows what we want and what we need?

St Augustine, writing in the fifth century, tackles this question, in 'A letter to Proba':

We pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it. Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realise that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it), but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.
The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed.... The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing, he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it.

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