Jesus Spent the Night In Prayer. Maybe We Should Follow His Example
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What jumped off the page as I proclaimed the Gospel is the importance and priority of prayer. Before Jesus made this historic and eternal decision he spent the entire night in prayer. I know that in His Sacred humanity he shows us the pattern for our own lives. So, I asked myself, "How many nights have I spent in prayer making the important decisions of my life?" I will not embarrass myself further by putting the answer in writing.
Prayer is the most effective form of action for a Christian.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - I have a friend of many decades who regularly tells me I write too much about prayer. He also is fond of dividing prayer from action. Lately he tries crediting Pope Francis with supporting his claim that we need more action and prayer will not be enough.
I think he means well. I know does not understand that prayer IS action. I also know he does not understand Pope Francis. Francis is a man of deep prayer. In fact, his supernaturally natural way of living, in a continual dialogue with the Lord, is a beautiful example of how prayer is to become like our very breath.
In fact, prayer is the most effective form of action for a Christian.
In Luke 6:12-19 we read this account of the call of the twelve apostles by Jesus:
"Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve. And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground.
"A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all."
What jumped off the page as I proclaimed the Gospel is the importance and priority of prayer.
Before Jesus made this historic and eternal decision he spent the entire night in prayer. I know that in His Sacred humanity he shows us the pattern for our own lives. So, I asked myself, "How many nights have I spent in prayer making the important decisions of my life?" I will not embarrass myself further by putting the answer in writing.
One of my heroes is Opus Dei Bishop Bishop Alvaro del Portillo. His cause for canonization is underway, and rightly so. He once wrote these insightful words:
"The so-called "practical people" are not really the most useful in the service of Christ's Church, nor are those who merely expound theories. Rather it is the true contemplatives who best serve her; those with the steady, generous and passionate desire of transfiguring and divinizing all creation with Christ and in Christ. It may sound paradoxical, but in the Church of Jesus Christ, the mystic is the only practical person"
I am frequently asked what I think is the greatest need in the Church today. Because of my work, people presume how I will answer the question. They expect me to be "practical", or, perhaps, "action oriented."
After all, I am a lawyer who has been actively involved at the intersections of faith and culture for decades. I am a husband, father of five and grandfather to six. I writing a dissertation for a PhD degree in moral theology and I am serving the Church in ordained ministry. I am engaged in policy activism.
So, in light of all of this they figure I will say something like "action" because my life sounds so "busy". However, my answer is simple. "The greatest need in the Church today is people who pray", I respond. I know it is only prayer which makes any of this possible and it is only because of prayer I have even embraced it.
Throughout the biblical accounts of the earthly ministry of Jesus we read many accounts like the ones with which I began this reflection. Jesus, fully God and fully man, was regularly in prayer and lived in a continual communion with the Father. In his sacred humanity he reveals for each one of us who have been baptized into Him how we are to live our lives, now, in the real world. We are invited to be naturally supernatural. We are called into communion with God and prayer is the way.
The prayer of Jesus prayer opened the heavens, brought provision to the hungry, gave him clarity for making decisions and brought the glory of heaven to earth. Prayer still does all of this, and more, for those who will learn to live their lives immersed in God.
Through prayer we recover the capacity for a continual communion of love with the living God and plunge ourselves into its embrace. Prayer is a process of Love exchanged for love. In its classroom we learn how to live in this communion; to be contemplatives in the midst of the world of action.
Jesus was, in the words of the ancient creed, "true God and true man". Sometimes we may think that He could pray - and live - this way "because He was Divine." However, we need to remember that in his sacred humanity he also prayed. He shows us the fullness of humanity and the way to become what spiritual writers have long called "sons (and daughters) in the Son."
Through prayer we can cry out with Him, "Abba Father." No longer alienated from God, we can actually participate in the very life of the Trinity, the inner life of God. God dwells in us and we dwell in Him through His Spirit. This is the heart of true prayer.
Prayer is not about doing or getting but rather about being, receiving, giving, and loving. Prayer is the path to communion through Jesus Christ with the Father, and in Jesus Christ with one another, and in the Trinitarian God, with the world which He created and is recreating and redeeming in Christ.
All of this is made possible through the Holy Spirit who invites us now into to the very inner life of the Trinity, through prayer. The world is desperately in need of Christians who pray. I want to be one of them. I hope you do as well.
Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate.
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