Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Rooted in Christ through Prayer

By Colleen O'Sullivan
We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.   Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel, that has come to you.  (Colossians 1:3-5)

At daybreak Jesus left and went to a deserted place.  (Luke 4:42a)

Come now, little one, turn aside for a while from your daily employment,
escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts.
Put aside your weighty cares, let your burdensome distractions wait,
free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him.
Enter the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything except God
and that which can help you in seeking him.
And when you have shut the door, seek God.
(St. Anselm of Canterbury, 1033-1109)

Our first reading is from the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colossae, written from Rome, where Paul is in prison.  Locked up, I’d probably be frightened and depressed.  I’m not sure I would be writing letters to anyone.

Yet here we find Paul, a prisoner, not feeling sorry for himself, not praying desperately to God to be freed, but writing about praying for the Colossians.  He’s actually never met them.  A convert from Ephesus, Epaphras, is the one who’d gone to Colossae, preached the Good News, and established the church there.  But Paul writes that when he prays for them, he prays with a thankful heart, because he’s heard good reports about their faith in the Lord and how they live out that faith with love for one another.  He writes to encourage them and to reinforce the teaching that Christ reigns supreme over all creation.  He doesn’t want them to fall prey to false teachings about “cosmic powers.”  At a time when many of us might be despairing, Paul sends the Colossians palanca from prison.

The apostle’s ability to pray for others and to send them support and encouragement in the midst of his own trials and tribulations doesn’t happen by accident.  Paul is deeply rooted in his relationship with the Lord.  He has learned to be truly indifferent to his circumstances; the only important thing for him is to be centered in Christ.  He has to have spent many an hour in the sort of prayer we read about in today’s Gospel, where Jesus withdraws to a deserted place to be alone with his Father after an entire night of healing the sick and casting out demons.

If we are serious about having a relationship with Christ, we, too, need to carve out quiet times to be alone with him.  Think about the relationships we have with our friends.  If we don’t spend time together sharing, talking and listening to each other, the friendship peters out.  Prayer is the way we grow and stay close to the Lord.  Prayer is sometimes talking to Jesus, but, at least in my life, more often becomes listening to what he is saying to me.  Our lives are busy, but it’s essential to carve out the time to be alone with him.

Prayer is an exercise.  We have to be committed to it and we have to show up every day for it, no matter what.  Like any exercise, the more we stick with it, the easier it becomes. 

This might be a good opportunity to review your prayer life.  Do you have a daily prayer routine?  We’re less likely to give up if we have set times of day for praying.  Do you pray faithfully, or are you hit or miss in the time you spend with Jesus?

If you’re looking for books on prayer, two of the best I’ve read are by William A. Barry, S.J. – A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace and Praying the Truth:  Deepening Your Friendship With God Through Honest Prayer.

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