A few weeks ago at our annual meeting, I set out three goals for our growth as individuals and as a parish, commitment to the Gospel, commitment to prayer, and commitment to community. Last week I wrote about the first of these, our commitment to the Gospel. This week, we will explore our commitment to prayer.
As we have read through Mark during this season of Ordinary Time, we have see how Jesus called the twelve “to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). This central message of Mark’s Gospel also provides a way of understanding prayer as encountering God, being transformed, and being sent.
Committing to prayer is committing to encountering God. Just as Christ called the Twelve to “be with him,” He calls us as well to “be with him” in prayer. Jesus also tells us that He will send the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort (John 14:15-31; John 16:7-15). In the Spirit and the Son, we also encounter the Father. As we remember the accounts of Moses, Elijah, Isaiah and others encountering the glory of the Father, we can begin to understand the transforming power of prayer as encountering God.
Committing to prayer is committing to being transformed. Most of the Gospel of Mark is about the transformation of the Twelve in the presence of Christ. Their understanding of God, of themselves, of others, and of the Kingdom is challenged and transforming by seeing Jesus at work in the world, by hearing Jesus teach, and by yielding to the correction of Jesus. In prayer, our “eyes of our hearts” are enlightened as we encounter the power of Christ at work in the world, hear His teaching in Scripture, and yield to the ways in which He corrects and transforms us (Eph 1:15-23).
Committing to prayer is committing to others. Jesus calls the Twelve to transformation so that He can send them into the world to proclaim the Kingdom and bring healing to others. In our Gospel today, we see that true power in the Kingdom is not power over others as the world would see power but instead the power to serve others. By praying for others, we begin to learn the power of the Kingdom.
While it is tempting to set out lofty goals for a commitment to prayer in terms of number of hours each day or specific items, instead I invite you to set out your own commitments to pray. Consider first the times and places you already encounter God and cultivate these as times of prayer. Consider the ways in which God is already inviting you to be transformed by encountering His love and set a time each week to prayerfully listen and reflect on the ways that God has invited you to be transformed, the ways you have yielded, and the ways you have resisted. Consider the people already in your life and how you might pray for them and for your relationship with them.
Committing to prayer can be frightening for a number of reasons, but we can take comfort in Paul’s encouragement that “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. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
I pray that we will grow in our commitment to prayer. I pray that together we will pray for one another, our parish, our neighbors and I pray that we will grow in our ability to listen and experience God in our prayer.