Homily for Thursday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle II
Theme: PRAY THEN LIKE THIS!
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Thursday June 18 2020
*Sir 48 :1-14, Matt 6 :7 – 15.
Still on the Sermon on the mountain – full of revolutionary teachings, Christ turns over to the topic of prayer. He warns them about what prayer is not – babbling or showmanship.
An MC once described a Pastor’s prayer in a ceremony in UNN as the ‘most eloquent prayer ever offered to a University audience’. I couldn’t help but wonder as the pastor kept receiving an unending gesture of handshakes as he walked down to his seat : Is this really what prayer is turning into? Display of eloquence?
The ‘Our father’ is a great pattern for prayer ; its address is perfect, its form is ideal, its method is instructive and its expression simple. It has 2 structures ; the 1st part relates to God and his honour while the second part relates to our needs. The 1st part contains the praise of God, establishment of his kingdom and surrendering to his will. The 2nd part contains our present needs, past errors and our future dangers. According to St Augustine, ‘What we ought to pray for is in the Lord’s prayer ; what is not in it, we ought not pray for’. For example, Christ’s attitude to the devil was exorcism but in prayer, his recommendation for us is grace to overcome temptations. Deliverance prayer not only came last but emphasizes evil in its whole (Devil, world and self). The prayer of petition for our daily bread deemphasizes frivolities while the prayer for forgiveness of sin is conditional (as we forgive those who trespass against us).
I have seen no areas where Christians falter like in the aspect of prayer. Our 1st reading wants us to emulate the Prophet Elijah in the power of prayer. He was second to none as a prayer warrior in Old Testament biblical Theology. Through prayer he brought famine, rain, fire, food, life.. In fact, they say he was the greatest service provider in Old Testament history. He brought down Ahab in judgment and anointed Jehu as the new King of Israel, 1 Kg 19 :16. He gave Elisha the double portion of his anointing and was taken up by a whirlwind of fire in a heavenly chariot. But how did he pray? No much shouting or waste of words. He mimicked the prophets of baal : ‘Cry louder.. May be your god is asleep so you can wake him up!’, as they babbled and hobbled round the altar wounding themselves, 1Kg 18:26.
Let’s learn from Elijah how to pray in the Spirit. Let’s learn from Jesus how not to use too many words in prayer. According to Vima Dasan, ‘It is not the arithmetic of our prayer – how many they are ; it is not the rhetoric of our prayer – how eloquent they are ; it is not the geometry of our prayer – how long they are ; it is not the music of our prayer – how sweet they sound, which God cares for. Faith is what counts in prayer ‘. May God give us faith like he gave Elijah to pray just like Jesus taught us and no more!
May God bless you today!