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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Thursday of the 27th week in ordinary time

Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.

By Father Kevin MacDonald, C.Ss.R.

Jesus was a man of prayer. All throughout the Gospels we see him at prayer. He prays in the synagogue. Before sending out the apostles, he prayed. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane; he prayed before ministry; he prayed before meals; he prayed in lonely places; he even prayed on the Cross. But when the apostles asked him to teach them how to pray, he recommended only one type of prayer: he taught them a prayer of petition.

To most of us the prayer of petition may seem like a second-class prayer. We might feel like we are ready for the prayer of meditation or contemplation. Prayer of petition is something for children, not for the spiritually elite. To always ask for something, to say, “give me, give me, give me,” sounds self-serving. But that is what Jesus recommended. He did not speak much about prayer of thanksgiving or of adoration. He did not teach charismatic prayer of prophecy or speaking in tongues (glossolalia). He did not even stress prayer of supplication, confession, or reparation. Every teaching of prayer given by Jesus is prayer of petition. So we should keep at it. We should keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking.

We do not pray to change God’s mind. God already knows what we need before we ask. We pray to help change ourselves. The people who understand prayer the best are the poor or anyone who has a radical dependence upon God. When we pray, we are saying, “I am dependent. I am not in charge. I am in need of a higher power.”

Prayer is mainly a relationship. And the way to measure the strength of a relationship is to look at how much time we spend with that person. For example, a friend may visit you from out of town. You may go out to lunch or go shopping. You might go to the beach or just hang out together and get caught up on the news in each other’s lives. Time is the gauge. If you want to increase a relationship with someone, you spend more time with them. If you want to end a relationship with someone, you spend no time at all with that person.

St. Teresa of Avila said that “prayer is spending time, frequently, with someone who loves you.” We grow our relationship with God by spending time with God. And, our relationship with God is the only thing that we will take with us when we die. Whenever we pray, we are saying, I believe. I have faith. There is a bond there that, through God’s grace, has grown strong over the years.

The lesson for us is to keep praying. Be persistent in prayer. As Jesus said in the Gospels today, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened for you.”