October 16, 2016 — Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Why do we pray? There are, of course, myriad reasons and motivations. Jesus spoke of prayer, and He certainly does pointedly in today’s Gospel Reading from Luke. In Luke, Chapter 11, Jesus gives us our most common and familiar prayer, the Our Father. However, shortly after that, after speaking to his followers about the power of prayer, Jesus said, “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11: 9-10)
That theme of prayer is continued throughout our readings for this 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Our First Reading from the Book of Genesis relates a well known instance of Moses praying. When Moses says that he will stand “on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand” he is speaking of praying. It tells of how when Moses prayed by holding up his hand the Israelites prevail, but when he ceased praying, Amalek prevailed. Holding up a hand to pray was the custom then, not bowing heads or folding hands together. Another point we must consider is that it is Joshua for whom Moses is praying. “Joshua” is how the Greeks say Jesus. The connection is obvious.
Also, Moses becomes weary in praying. Prayer is sometimes easy, but it is often hard work, especially when one prays as intensely as Moses was. St. Paul once described someone “as always laboring fervently for you in prayers.” Paul knew how important deep and passionate prayer is. Another important message about prayer in the reading from Genesis is that prayer with others is even more powerful. Aaron and Hur were there to pray with Moses, to support him and strengthen him. Their assistance made Moses’s prayer more effective. The same is true for us; we need to pray as individuals, but we also need to pray with others.
The Second Reading is a continuation of St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. Recall that Timothy was a pastor and a leader in the Church, and Paul has definite thoughts about how he should approach that responsibility. Paul says in effect “Do what I have taught you.” Paul’s point is that for someone to be a leader and for someone to live out their faith, they need more than just an understanding of Holy Scripture, and the importance of sharing that Good News with others. In addition, they need to bring the same sense of urgency and intensity to it that Moses shows in the First Reading. Their prayer, too, must be consistent and constant.
St. Paul exhorts Timothy to “proclaim the Word.” This proclaiming involves more than just saying things that explain the Word. It also means living the Word in all you do and to all you may meet. That is why we often describe stewardship as a “way of life.” In our prayers and in our very lives we must live out the Word in such a way that all who know us will understand what it means to be a disciple and a follower of Jesus.
Our holy Gospel Reading from St. Luke opens with these words: “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” Recall Moses becoming tired and weary while praying, but he is able to continue with God’s help and those around him. Jesus’ message to us through this parable has everything to do with prayer, humility, and discipleship.
The Lord’s intent is not to indicate that God is a “reluctant” judge. What He is trying to tell us is that God is a loving judge Who wants to respond to our prayers, but we must first of all be persistent in prayer. Then we have to have the humility to be patient and to perhaps even repeat those prayers. And finally, praying and having a consistent and regulated prayer life is a sign of discipleship. It is a part of being a good steward; it is an indication that we understand the need to be grateful to God.