Old Betty worked for several years as a maid, in different houses.
She was once asked the meaning of the Biblical verse “Pray without ceasing” and what it meant for her life.
“Well, it just means what it says,” said Betty.
“When I wash my face in the morning, I pray to God…
… that many sinners may be washed in the blood of Christ during the day.
When I put on my clothes, I pray to God…
… to clothe me with Christ and with His humility.
When I take up the broom to sweep, I think of the woman who swept the house for the lost piece of silver, and I pray God…
… to sweep the world and to save lost sinners.
When I clean the vessels and they begin to shine, I pray to the Lord…
… to brighten my soul.
When I wash clothes, I pray that God…
… may wash away the filth from human hearts and all may remain fresh in His grace
When I wipe the windows and scrape the rust from the front-gates, I pray that God…
… may cleanse the society of the dirt of inhumanness and take off the rust of indifference”
And thus Betty went on mentioning the things that gave her an opportunity of approaching God in prayer.
How beautiful and a practical life of prayer, isn’t it?
The Gospel of the Day is a beautiful exposition by Jesus on Prayer.
The Lord highlights the essential dimensions that constitute real prayer and goes on to give the blueprint of an Ideal Prayer by teaching the “Our Father”.
Jesus says, “And in praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words” (Mt 6:7)
In the context, when we look closely into this verse, we see that Jesus is pointing to the important principle in the pagan religions: the spoken word is most important for effectiveness of any prayer or sacrifice.
Prayer had assumed the nature of being a formula or a procedure that had to be strictly followed for its efficacy.
The pagan understanding was all about “pleasing the god” and “tapping the Divine power” by one’s words and verbal formulae.
>> Historically it is reported of an occasion when the presiding magistrate at a Roman pagan festival forgot to include the “Roman people” among the list of beneficiaries in his prayer; the festival had to be started all over again!
It is therefore the attitude towards prayer and perception of God that Jesus condemns.
And this is a strong and relevant message that the Lord seeks to drill in our minds: Prayer is not to be reduced to being a formulaic key to unlock the power of the Divine!
It’s not our many words that makes God to grant His grace
.. Rather, it is by His Will and His graciousness that we receive His blessings.
Then what is meant by prayer?
The blueprint of prayer – The Our Father – that Jesus teaches gives us the answer.
• Acknowledging His greatness
(Our Father, who art in heaven)
• Ascribing glory and honour to Him
(Hallowed be Thy Name)
• Seeking His Kingdom to come
(Thy Kingdom come)
• Longing for His Will to be done in our lives
(Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven)
• Putting forward our needs and offering our aspirations to His Providence
(Give us today our daily bread)
• Choosing to actively being reconciled to all people to receive His forgiveness
(and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us)
• Imploring to keep away from sin and all evil inclinations and desires
(and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil)
Our whole life ought to be translated to acts and deeds of prayer.
In this context, it also good to provide the Catholic understanding and logic of some of the prayers, which are perhaps considered as repetitive (eg: The Rosary, Novenas, Litanies.. etc)
Are all these standard prayers mere “heaping up of empty phrases…?”
The Bible teaches us many examples of repetitive prayers…
>> The angels continually – day and night – sing “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8)
>> Psalm 136 repeats the words “for his steadfast love endures forever” nearly 26 times in 26 verses!
>>Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane prayed in the “same words” three times (Mk 14: 32-39)
>> Jesus, in fact, also commends the fact of continually praying, through the example of the widow and the unjust judge (Lk 18: 1-14)
Thus, it is seen that the Bible has many examples of repetitive prayer.
>> Therefore, the repetitive Catholic Prayers like the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Novenas, Litanies etc… are scripturally well-supported
>> When prayed with honesty and devotion, they become means to allow the heart…
… to praise God and understand His mighty works
… to grow in His love and come to a deeper awareness of His Providence
… and pray with Mother Mary and the Saints and intercede to them for our intentions
When we understand prayer as being a “relationship” and being in “His loving presence”, prayer becomes a joyful, a continual and a meaningful devotion.
May His grace help us to make every moment of our life, an act of prayer in order to grow in greater closeness and union with the One who loves us the most!
>> Let prayer become a joyful action..
>> Let prayer become a continual devotion
>> Let prayer become a powerful commitment.
Yes, in our day-to-day life, let us “pray without ceasing!”
God Bless! Live Jesus!