Ilona Budzbon/CAN

To Pray … What Does That Mean?

Lectio Divina: XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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Roman rite
XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – July 24, 2016
Gen 18.20 to 32; Ps 138; Col. 2.12 to 14; Lk 11,1-13
Ambrosian Rite
X Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 3.5 to 15; Ps 71; 1 Cor 3.18 to 23; Lk 18,24b -30
Etymologically to pray means to ask, to ask for help and to express the desire to get something and, above all, turning to God to receive life.
Among the many definition of «prayer» I’d like to propose the followings: Prayer is «elevation of the mind in God» (St. John Damascene) and «request to God for honest things (Id.), “impulse of the heart” (Santa Teresa of the Child Jesus), the gift of self. It is also the request to be helped to fulfill the purpose of life.
As St. Thomas says, prayer is the expression “of the desire that man has of God.» This attraction to God, that God himself has placed in man, is the soul of prayer, which is expressed in many forms and ways according to times and history.
Every human being carries the desire for God. We all carry in us a thirst for the infinite, a longing for eternity, a quest for beauty, a desire for love and a need for light and truth that pushes us towards the Absolute. To this Absolute we turn in prayer, which is the most realistic and true attitude of man before God, the Meaning of life that we want to know and see.
This desire has been always in the human being as it is demonstrated by the prayer of a blind Egyptian who lived thousands of years ago, and that attests something universally human, the pure and simple prayer of those who are suffering. This man prays «My heart desires to see you … you, who have made me see darkness, create light for me.  That I see you!  Bend over me your beloved face. «
«That I see you, O God» is the heart of prayer, because «the desire to know God, indeed to see the face of God, is innate in every man, even in the atheists» (Benedict XVI)
2) Praying with life.
 This desire to see God is achieved by following Christ and begging him not only when we are in need or when there is time in our daily occupations, but with the whole of our existence. It is our whole life that must be oriented to the encounter with Him, to the love for Him and to the love of Him.
In this love has its place the love for the neighbor which, in the light of the Cross, enables us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering. This is possible only if the true face of Jesus has become familiar to us in the listening to his Word, and of course in the Mystery of the Eucharist that is the great school in which we learn to see the face of God, and where we enter into intimate relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters in humanity.
There is an anecdote that may help us understand this. It is said that a nun, a Daughter of Charity, wrote to the Founder, asking, «What should I do if, while I am doing the adoration, a poor man knocks on the door of the convent.» St. Vincent de Paul said: «You do not leave God, if you leave God for God.» This Law of charity requires the listening of the heart, a listening done through an obedience not as slaves but as children, confident and aware of being loved by the Father. Listening to the Word is a personal encounter with the Lord of life, an encounter that must be translated into concrete choices and become journey and discipleship. When asked what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus shows the way of the observance of the law and tells how to bring it to completeness: «One thing you lack, ‘Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come! Follow me «(Mk 10:21 and similar). To fulfill the law is to follow Jesus, to go on the road of Jesus, in the company of Jesus, who in today’s Gospel teaches us to pray, saying to the disciples of then and now: «When you pray, say ‘Father'». A word to pronounce not only with the mouth but with our entire life.
3) To pray with Christ and in Christ.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church recommends «To seek to understand his prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus as Moses approached the burning bush: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to know how he hears our prayer «(n. 2598). We can find a clear answer to how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: «When Jesus prays he teaches us not only the Our Father but is already teaching us how to pray.  In this way, in addition to the content, he shows us the attitudes necessary for every true prayer:  purity of heart that seeks the Kingdom and forgives his enemies; bold and filial faith that goes beyond what we feel and understand; and watchfulness that protects the disciple from temptation «(n. 544).
From the Gospel it emerges that Jesus is partner, friend, witness and teacher for our prayer.
In him is revealed the novelty of our dialogue with God: the filial prayer that the Father expects from his children.
From him we learn how constant prayer helps us to interpret our lives, to operate our choices, to recognize and welcome our vocation, to discover the gifts God has given us, and to do every day His will of loving Father, the only way to realize the truth of our existence.
With Him let us say the Lord’s Prayer, which is a prayer of communion not only because we pray with the others, but especially with Him who is the brother who gave his life for us. If we say: «Father» with our lives, more and more we will be true sons in the Son: true Christians.
With St. Francis, who followed Christ so deeply as to deserve to physically resemble Him thanks to the gift of the stigmata, let us pray:
«O Most Holy Our Father: Creator, Redeemer, Consoler and Savior.
Who art in Heaven: in the angels and in the saints, enlightening them to the knowledge, because you, Lord, are light, inflaming them in love because you, Lord, are love, placing your dwelling in them and filling them with happiness for you, Lord, are the supreme eternal good from whom all good comes and without which there is no good.
Hallowed be thy name: let become luminous in us the knowledge of you so that we may know the breadth of your benefits, the extent of your promises, the sublimity of Thy Majesty and the depth of your judgments.
Thy kingdom come: that thou may reign in us by grace and make us come unto Thy Kingdom, where the vision of yourself is unveiled, the love of you is perfect, the communion of Thee blessed, and enjoyment of Thee endless.
Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth: to love you with all our hearts, always thinking of you; with all our souls, always desiring You; with all our minds, orienting all our intentions to you and seeking Your glory in all things; and with all our strength, spending all our energy and sensitivity of the soul and of the body in the service of your love and of nothing else; so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves, dragging everyone with all our power to your love, enjoying the good of others as ours, suffering together with them and not bringing any offense to anyone.
Give us this day our daily bread: give us today Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in memory, understanding and reverence of the love he had for us and of everything that He said, did and suffered for us.
And forgive us our trespasses: for your ineffable mercy, through the power of the passion of Your beloved Son and through the merits and intercession of the Blessed Virgin and all your saints.
As we forgive our debtors: what we do not know fully forgive, Lord, makes us fully forgive,  so that for love,  we truly love our enemies and devoutly intercede with you, not returning evil for evil to anyone and committing ourselves in you to be beneficial to all
And lead us not into temptation: hidden or obvious, sudden or persistent.
But deliver us from evil: past, present and future. Amen«.
4) The fruitfulness of Consecrated Virgins of prayer in the world.
To the women who give themselves to Christ through consecrated virginity, it is asked, as a primary and fundamental duty, to engage into prayer (see Rite of Consecration of Virgins, Introduction, n. 2). In giving the book of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Bishop will appeal to the consecrated woman with these words: May the prayer of the Church resound continuously in your heart and on your lips as constant praise to the Father and live intercession for the salvation of the world ‘ «(RCV, n. 48)
To the prayer of the consecrated women it is well appropriate what St. Cyprian wrote saying that prayer must be peaceful, simple and spiritual (De Oratione, I, 4, CC I, 541B)
Peaceful in the sense of «expression of peace» and «request for peace.» Prayer must on the one hand express and manifest our being at peace with everyone and on the other must ask to beg for being at peace with God (Ibid 538AB)
Spiritual because it is the expression of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity, harmony and peace.
These women are called to pray with Jesus, their Bridegroom, through a » prayer peaceful, simple and spiritual» that can in no way be a sterile prayer but a fruitful one (Pope Francis).

Patristic Reading
Golden Chain
Catena aurea
On Luke 11, 1-4
BEDE; After the account of the sisters, who signified the two lives of the Church, our Lord is not without reason related to have both Himself prayed, and taught His disciples to pray, seeing that the prayer which He taught contains in itself the mystery of each life, and the perfection of the lives themselves is to be obtained not by our own strengt, but by prayer. Hence it is said, And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place.
CYRIL; Now whereas He possesses every good in abundance, why does He pray, since He is full, and has altogether need of nothing? To this we answer, that it befits Him, according to the manner of His dispensation in the flesh, to follow human observances at the time convenient for them. For if He eats and drinks, He rightly was used to pray, that He might teach us not to be lukewarm in this duty, but to be the more diligent and earnest in our prayers.
TIT. BOST. The disciples having seen a new way of life, desire a new form of prayer, since there were several prayers to be found in the Old Testament. Hence it follows, When he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, in order that we might not sin against God in asking for one thing instead of another, or by approaching God in prayer in a manner that we ought not.
ORIGEN; And that he might point out the kind of teaching, the disciple proceeds, as John also taught his disciples. Of whom in truth you have told us, that among them that are born of women there had arisen none greater than he. And because you have commanded us to seek things that are great and eternal, whence shall we arrive at the knowledge of these but from You, our God and Savior?
GREG. NYSS.. He unfolds the teaching of prayer to His disciples, who wisely desire the knowledge of prayer, directing them how they ought to beseech God to hear them.
BASIL; There are two kinds of prayer, one composed of praise with humiliation, the other of petitions, and more subdued. Whenever then you pray, do not first break forth into petition; but if you condemn your inclination, supplicate God as if of necessity forced thereto. And when you begin to pray, forget all visible and invisible creatures, but commence with the praise of Him who created all things. Hence it is added, And he says to them, When you pray, say, Our Father.
PSEUDO-AUG. The first word, how gracious is it? You durst not raise your face to heaven, and suddenly you receive the grace of Christ. From an evil servant you are made a good son. Boast not then of your working, but of the grace of Christ; for therein is no arrogance, but faith. To proclaim what you have received is not pride, but devotion. Therefore raise your eyes to your Father, who begot you by Baptism, redeemed you by His Son. Say Father as a son, but claim no especial favor to t yourself. Of Christ alone is He the especial Father, of us the common Father. For Christ alone He begot, but us he created. And therefore according to Matthew when it is said, Our Father, it is added, which art in heaven, that is, in those heavens of which it was said, The heavens declare the glory of God. Heaven is where sin has ceased, and where there is no sting of death.
THEOPHYL. But He says not, which art in heaven, as though He were confined to that place, but to raise the hearer up to heaven, and draw him away from earthly things.
GREG. NYSS.. See how great a preparation you need, to be able to say boldly to God, O Father, for if you have your eyes fixed on worldly things, or court the praise of men, or are a slave to your passions, and utter this prayer, I seem to hear God saying, ‘Whereas you that are of a corrupt life call the Author of the incorruptible your Father, you pollute with your defiled lips an incorruptible name. For He who commanded you to call Him Father, gave you not leave to utter lies. But the highest of e all good things is to glorify God’s name in our lives. Hence He adds, Hallowed be thy name. For who is there so debased, as when He sees the pure life of those who believe, does not glorify the name invoked in such a life. He then who says in his prayer, Be thy name, which I call upon, hallowed in me, prays this, «May I through Your concurring aid be made just, abstaining from all evil.»
CHRYS. For as when a man gazes upon the beauty of the heavens, he says, Glory be you, O God; so likewise when He beholds a man’s virtuous actions, seeing that the virtue of man glorifies God much more than the heavens.
PSEUDO-AUG. Or it is said, Hallowed be thy name; that is, let Your holiness be known to all the world, and let it worthily praise You. For praise becomes the upright, and therefore He bids them pray for the cleansing of the whole world.
CYRIL; Since among those to whom the faith has not yet come, the name of God is still despised. But when the rays of truth shall have shined upon them, they will confess the Holy of Holies.
TIT. BOST. And because in the name of Jesus is the glory of God the Father, the name of the Father will be hallowed whenever Christ shall be known.
ORIGEN; Or, because the name of God is given by idolaters, and those who are in error, to idols and creatures, it has not as yet been so made holy, as to be separated from those things from which it ought to be. He teaches us therefore to pray that the name of God may be appropriated to the only true God; to whom alone belongs what follow, Thy kingdom come, to the end that may be put down all the rule, authority, and power, and kingdom of the world, together with sin which reigns in our mortal bodies.
GREG. NYSS.. We beseech also to be delivered by the Lord from corruption, to be taken out of death. Or, according to some, Thy kingdom come, that is, May Your Holy Spirit come upon us to purify us.
PSEUDO-AUG. For then comes the kingdom of God, when we have obtained His grace. For He Himself says, The kingdom of God is within you.
CYRIL; Or they who say this seem to wish to have the Savior of all again illuminating the world. But He has commanded us to desire in prayer that truly awful time, in order that men might know that it behoves them to live not in sloth and backwardness, lest that time bring upon them the fiery punishment, but rather honestly and according to His will, that that time may weave crowns for them. Hence it follows, according to Matthew, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.
CHRYS. As if He says, Enable us, O Lord, to follow the heavenly life, that whatever You will, we may will in also.
GREG. NYSS.. For sin since He says that the life of man after the resurrection will be like to that of Angels, it follows, that our life in this world should be so ordered with respect to that which we hope for hereafter, that living in the flesh we may not live according to the flesh. But hereby the true Physician of the souls destroys the nature of the disease, that those who have been seized with sickness, whereby they have departed from the Divine will, may forthwith be released from the disease by being joined to the Divine will. For the health of the soul is the due fulfillment of the will of God.
AUG. It seems according to the Evangelist Matthew, that the Lord’s prayer contains seven petitions, but Luke has comprehended it in five. Nor in truth does the one disagree from the other, but the latter has suggested by his brevity how those seven are to be understood. For the name of God is hallowed in the spirit, but the kingdom of God is about to come at the resurrection of the body. Luke then, showing that the third petition is in a manner a repetition of the two former, wished to make it so understood by omitting it. He then added three others. And first, of daily bread, saying, Give us day by day our daily bread.
PSEUDO-AUG. In the Greek the word is that is, something added to the substance. It is not that bread which goes into the body, but that bread of everlasting life, which supports the substance of our soul. But the Latins call this «daily» bread, which the Greeks call «coming to.» If it is daily bread, why is it eaten a year old, as is the custom with the Greeks in the east? Take daily what profits you for the day; so live that you may daily be thought worthy to receive. The death of our Lord is signified thereby, and the remission of sins, and cost you not daily partake of that bread of life? He who has a wound seeks to be cured; the wound is that we are under sin, the cure is the heavenly and dreadful Sacrament. If you receive daily, daily does «Today» come to you. Christ is to you Today; Christ rises to thee daily.
TIT. BOST. Or the bread of souls is the Divine power, bringing the everlasting life which is to come, as the bread which comes out of the earth preserves the temporal life. But by saying «daily,» He signifies the Divine bread which comes and is to come, which we seek to be given to us daily, requiring a certain earnest and taste of it, seeing that the Spirit which dwells in us has wrought a virtue surpassing all human virtues, as chastity, humility, and the rest.
CYRIL; Now perhaps some think it unfit for saints to seek from God bodily goods, and for this reason assign to these words a spiritual sense. But granting that the chief concern of the saints should be to obtain spiritual gifts, still it becomes them to see that they seek without blame, according to our Lord’s command, their common bread. For from the fact that He bids them ask for bread, that is daily food, it seems that He implies that they should possess nothing, but rather practice an honorable poverty. For it is not the part of those who have bread to seek it, but rather of those who are oppressed with want.
BASIL; As if He said, For your daily bread, namely, that which serves for our daily wants, trust not to yourself, but fly to God for it, making known to Him the necessities of your nature.
CHRYS. We must then require of God the necessities of life; not varieties of meats, and spiced wines, and the other things which please the palate, while they load your stomach and disturb your mind, but bread which is able to support the bodily substance, that is to say, which is sufficient only for the day, that we may take no thought of the morrow. But we make only one petition about things of sense, that the present life may not trouble us.
GREG. NYSS.. Having taught us to take confidence through good works, He next teaches us to implore the remission of our offenses, for it follows, And forgive us our sins.
TIT. BOST. This also was necessarily added, for no one is found without sin, that we should not be hindered from the holy participation on account of man’s guilt. For whereas we are bound to render to Christ all manner of holiness, who makes His Spirit to dwell in us, we are to be blamed if we keep not our temples clean for Him. But this defect is supplied by the goodness of God, remitting to human frailty the severe punishment of sin. And this act is done justly by the just God, when we forgive as it were our debtors, those, namely, who have injured us, and have not restored what was due. Hence it follows, For we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.
CYRIL; For He wishes, if I may so speak, to make God the imitator of the patience which men practice, that the kindness which they have shown to their fellow servants, they should in like manner seek to receive in equal balance from God, who recompenses to each man justly, and knows how to have mercy upon all men.
CHRYS. Considering then these things, we ought to show mercy to our debtors. For they are to us if we are wise the cause of our greatest pardon; and though we perform only a few things, we shall find many. For we owe many and great debts to the Lord, of which if the least part should be exacted from us, we should soon perish.
PSEUDO-AUG. But what is the debt except sin? If you had not received, you would not owe money to another. And therefore sin is imputed to you. For you had money with which you were born rich, and made after the likeness and image of God, but you have lost what you then had. As when you put on pride you lose the gold of humility, you have receipted the devil’s debt which was not necessary; the enemy held the bond, but the Lord crucified it, and canceled it with His blood. But the Lord is able, who has taken away our sins and forgiven our debts, to guard us against the snares of the devil, who is wont to produce sin in us. Hence it follows, And lead us not into temptation, such as we are not able to bear, but like the wrestler we wish only such temptation as the condition of man can sustain.
TIT. BOST. For it is impossible not to be tempted by the devil, but we make this prayer that we may not be abandoned to our temptations. Now that which happens by Divine permission, God is sometimes in Scripture said to do. And in this way by hindering not the increase of temptation which is above our strength, he leads us into temptation.
MAX. Or, the Lord commands us to pray, Lead us not into temptation, that is, let us not have experience of lustful and self-induced temptations. But James teaches those who contend only for the truth, not to be unnerved by involuntary and troublesome temptations, saying, lily brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.
BASIL; It does not however become us to seek by our prayers bodily afflictions. For Christ has universally commanded men every where to pray that they enter not into temptation. But when one has already entered, it is fitting to ask from the Lord the power of enduring, that we may have fulfilled in us those words, He that endures to the end shall be saved.
AUG. But what Matthew has placed at the end, But deliver us from evil, Luke has not mentioned, that we might understand it belongs to the former, which was spoken of temptation. He therefore says, But deliver us, not, «And deliver us,» clearly proving this to be but one petition, «Do not this, but this.» But let every one know that he is therein delivered from evil, when he is not brought into temptation.
PSEUDO-AUG. For each man seeks to be delivered from evil, that is, from his enemies and sin, but he who gives himself up to God, fears not the devil, for if God is for us, who he can be against us?

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Mgr Francesco Follo

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