Prayer Beautifies – Bishop Ambo David

Luke 9:28b-36, Second Sunday of Lent

This story of Jesus transfigured before his disciples is also in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. But only Luke tells us that he was praying when it happened.

In another passage, in chapter 11, Luke tells us the disciples were spying on him as he went into solitude to pray. Afterwards, they ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. It means they knew that something wonderful happened to him when he prayed; and they wanted to experience it too. And it looks like Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, his core group within the core of the twelve, precisely to mentor them in prayer.

You see, prayer too is a discipline that has to be learned. And let’s admit it, we’re not always successful in it. One of the signs of success in prayer is what our Gospel today is about: it makes us beautiful, often without our knowing it. It gives us that glow, that dazzle that a lot of vain people try to have by buying a lot of skin whiteners and other Belo products.

How, indeed, is one supposed to pray? Let’s take it from Jesus:

1. First, by soaking in the Scriptures, and allowing God to speak to us through them. Luke says Moses and Elijah were conversing with Jesus. Moses, who represented the Torah (Law), and Elijah, who represented the Nebi’im, the prophets. In prayer, their words came alive like they had literally leaped out of the book. They spoke to him about his exodus, his own mission in Jerusalem. He was teaching his disciples that Jerusalem was not anything to be afraid of; it was in fact their route to their freedom to live as children of God.

2. Second, by being awakened from slumber. Prayer is what makes faith possible. Pope Benedict once defined faith as “the human response to the God who speaks to us; a response of love to the God who loved us first.” It is a response! How can we even know how to respond if we are not even aware that God is speaking to us? How can we even know how to love God if we have not, first of all, been awakened to the love of God? In fact, the experience of being loved by God can be so dazzling, we do not even know how to respond, like the disciples who awkwardly propose to build tents.

3. Third, by having the courage to enter into the dark clouds of doubts and uncertainties in order to learn how to be guided by God. That is not possible if we do not know how to listen. It was not while they were dazzled by the majestic sight but rather when they were overshadowed by the dark cloud that they heard the Father’s voice. No one, but the Father could reveal to them the beauty of Jesus’ person: as the Christ, the Son of God. This is my Son, my Beloved, listen to him! Analogously, I learned what it meant to listen to the Father’s voice when I was a child, wanting to win the “Hampas Palayok” (Hit the Pot) game. My father gave me the tip: “You will be blindfolded and confused. You will hear many voices telling you what to do. Some of them are deliberately misleading you so that their own children will win. Do not listen to them. You know my voice, don’t you? Concentrate. Sort out the voices and find out which one is mine. Listen only to me. Then I can guide you to hit the pot. You see, the discipline of prayer goes with the discipline of discernment. We tend to talk too much in prayer. Often, we don’t even make sense. There is a point in prayer when we must learn to shut up and just listen.

There you have them. Three important beauty tips for spiritual grooming. One, soak in the Scriptures. Two, be awakened from slumber. Three, shut up and listen. And how do you know you’re getting trasfigured? Not by looking at a mirror. That beauty will be reflected in the eyes of the beholder, those who are disposed to see the Glory of God in a person who is fully alive.

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