The Gospel Today
Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
Matthew 6: 7-15
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
I once read somewhere of a story which perfectly describes how prayer should be. The story goes this way:
Late one evening a poor farmer on his way back from the market found himself without his prayer book. The wheel of his cart came off right in the middle of the woods and it distressed him that this day should pass without his having said his prayers.
So this is the prayer he made: “I have done something very foolish, Lord. I came away from home this morning without my prayer book and my memory is such that I cannot recite a single prayer without it. So this is what I am going to do: I shall recite the alphabet five times very slowly and you, to whom all prayers are known, can put the letters together to form the prayers I can’t remember.”
And the Lord said to his angels, “Of all the prayers I have heard today, this one was undoubtedly the best because it came from a heart that was simple and sincere.”
A lot of times, we tend to view prayer as a set of reading materials, a set of stanzas and a set of paragraphs. For some people, prayer is synonymous to a prayer book. But does one really pray by simply reading?
Fr. Ramon Bautista, SJ in his book Wood for the Fire says that prayer is not an activity. Prayer is not a set of materials that one reads. Prayer is a relationship. Prayer is about our loving relationship with God. And most often this loving relationship requires not much but simply our very presence. It requires our very time. In terms of relationships, nothing happens instantaneously. Just like any other relationship with a loved one, for it to grow and mature, it needs time and effort. There is a need to invest time. There is a need to give effort. There is a need to offer one’s very self.
And in our life and relationship with the Lord, we need to invest time, give effort, offer our very selves. It is only when we do this that our relationship with Him grows and matures. It is only when we do this that we get to know ourselves and our God more intimately. But how do we really invest time, effort and self?
In the seminary it is given that our structure provide avenues conducive to nurture our relationship with God but for most people, how do we create such venues? In the busyness of our work, tasks, or responsibilities, when can we have that time?
It happens when we choose to pause a little and stay present with God each day. It starts with one conscious effort to pause. It begins with a heart that is sincere in desiring God. And it need not be inside a chapel, it could even be anywhere and whenever possible like while riding the train, bus or jeep. We can do this because our God is a God who can be found in all things. And in the end, when we constantly seek God in the busyness or ordinariness of each day, we not only grow mature and intimate with Him, praying becomes a way of life – a constant union with God.