On Being a Prayerful Control Freak
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Romans chapter 8 verse 26

When the Apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He could have answered in many different ways but He chose to give them a verbal example incorporating the principal elements of prayer: adoration, petition and thanksgiving. We call it the Lord's Prayer and it remains central to our liturgical expression. But, theologically complete though it is, this prayer does not always satisfy us.

We tend to have difficulty with prayers of petition, with asking God for something. Adoration and thanksgiving, though at best fleeting and often neglected, are, nonetheless, more clear-cut in their purpose and content.

Prayers of petition are another matter.

On the one hand we want God to understand where we are coming from, to be on our side and to accept that we really do want what is best. That we really do want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Particularly if it coincides with our will!

And so we bring our fear, our anger and resentment, our frustration and our sorrow to the Lord. We bring Him all the things we feel but find so hard, so awkward, to verbalize.

Paul tells us to relax. That when it comes to prayer, most of us are control freaks. We go to great lengths to describe in detail what is in our hearts and this to one who accurately reads our hearts without any help from us.

The truth of the matter is that much of the time we simply do not know what is best for ourselves, nor, for that matter, what is best for anyone else. God tells us that our finite minds cannot hope to grasp His will. Is it any wonder that we are frustrated and spend half our allotted time fighting that old bugaboo we call distractions?

And so Paul invites us to face the fact that our best prayer is an inarticulate sigh that the Holy Spirit translates for us. In other words, we do not really know how to pray but, because we are disposed to pray, the Holy Spirit takes over and we are incorporated, in spite of our limitations, into the realm of Godů.Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Listen again to Paul (Romans 8: 26).

"The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words."

You may recall how St. Augustine expressed it this way, "To talk at length in prayer is to perform a necessary action with an excess of words. To spend much time in prayer is to knock with a persistent and holy fervour at the door of one whom we beseech. This task is generally accomplished more through sighs than words, more through weeping than speech."


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