In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Perhaps they didn’t fully understand the significance of their request. Maybe they thought it was some type of inside information which would identify them with the teacher.
In Matthew’s Gospel he tells them they should not be like the hypocrites looking only for the public to notice them. Your Father who sees in secret will repay you. However, in Luke’s Gospel, the request is made after observing Jesus in prayer. The disciples want what Jesus possesses: a relationship with the Father.
I have often heard it said by those who have become converts to the faith that part of the dynamic of their personal decision began with the observance of a friend or fiancé and their prayerful relationship to the Eucharist. They have told me they desired what they had observed in their friend or fiancé and wanted that for themselves.
Book Four of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2559) states:
“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God. But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will or out of the depths of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that we do not know how to pray as we ought, are we ready to receive the gift of prayer. Man is a beggar before God.”
In my years as a priest and bishop, what has been reinforced again and again is that everything begins with prayer and everything should end with prayer.
I have seen patients in the hospital who are dying and in a coma cross themselves at the words of a blessing. I read the lips of people at the end of their lives praying the Hail Mary.
In the last years of her life, my mother consciously prayed for friends and family members in need, even though she could no longer physically offer her services to them. Her nine-hour novena prayers saved me many a time when I was facing a difficult matter, giving a presentation or just worried about problems.
I have seen parish communities transformed by a commitment to Eucharistic adoration. I have a friend in her early 90s and she faithfully takes her weekly adoration hour at 3 a.m. Does she have to do it? No. Does she want to do it? Yes. God is the priority in her life and she demonstrates it through prayer.
As I’ve said before, the success of the Archdiocesan Synod was due to prayer. The continued implementation of the synod priorities must be grounded in prayer. Alone we can do nothing; with God all things are possible.
Throughout the process of the bankruptcy, I was approached by people who told me they were praying for me and the archdiocese. Many people also prayed for the victims and their healing.
Now in September as we begin our year of activities as an archdiocese, we need to ask God for his assistance in many of our programs.
Our Urban Initiative under the direction of our new Vicar General, Fr. Timothy Kitzke, will seek to shine a light on problems facing our city.
The Seton schools initiative is an innovative approach at supporting our urban schools under the watchful eye of Kathleen Cepelka, our superintendent, and Chris Rappe, our commission chair. They are establishing a collaborative vision, bringing together a number of parish communities for the sake of quality educational standards, administration formation and enhanced governance. This model will be unique among Catholic schools in the United States.
The continued implementation of the Hispanic pastoral plan addresses our obligation to our Latino brothers and sisters in a systematic manner. There is also the Black Catholic summit in November to discuss approaches to Black Catholic ministry in the archdiocese and a plan for evangelization.
We have campus missionaries working on our college campuses attempting to introduce students to the faith.
These are exciting times for us as a church. However, we must fight the tendency to become enamored and obsessed by our programs and their functional success. If we concentrate on developing and deepening our prayer life individually and collectively, then what we do for the good of the church, we do for Christ, and our success is measured in our faithfulness to the Lord. What profit a man who gains the whole world and loses his soul?
As your shepherd, permit me to offer a few suggestions. Prayer needs discipline and we must do it with a consistency. Commit yourself to a daily routine, even if it’s just five to 10 minutes, but make it a priority. Pray intentionally, asking God to use you as an instrument and strengthen you for the mission he sets before you.
Pray for forgiveness when we fail and trust in his mercy. Pray for the vision of his presence in the world and you will be amazed at the blessings that surround you. Don’t forget to thank God for the gift of faith and the realization that God loves you. Let us strive to be a praying community.