Never Give Up on Praying – Ro Atilano, SJ

Matthew 15:21-28, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Praying

What have been your prayers lately? Have you ever prayed for something that was seemingly impossible and you felt you like needed to move mountains? Have you prayed for something over and over again and God was seemingly quiet? Have you experienced almost giving up, even giving up praying?

Since the first week of the lockdown, most of us have been wondering when or how this pandemic would end and hoping that the world could go back to the old normal. A lot of people have already lost their jobs and more and more are becoming desperate and even depressed. Businesses are permanently closing down. Some of us might have already lost someone we know or we love due to the virus and there was no proper burial and the usual rituals of goodbye.

As weeks turn into months, relief operation resources are being depleted while those in charge are running out of effective strategies to manage this crisis. More and more people now have nothing to put on their tables for their families to eat. During this crisis, with much anxiety and helplessness, we are brought to our knees to pray harder and beg God to answer our prayers. Yet there are those of us who feel that their prayers seem not to reach heaven.

Yes, we have prayers which God answered exactly as we prayed them to be. I am very sure we have many of these. Remember that day when you prayed for a miracle and God granted it exactly as you prayed for.

Yet there are also those prayers when God is seemingly quiet. Who among us have prayed for years and waited for the healing of our parents or grandparents of their sickness? Who among us have prayed unceasingly for a brother or a friend to completely overcome his or her recurring and seemingly incurable addiction? Who among us have begged God for peace in our country and in the world?

But if we look back to these seemingly unanswered prayers, these are the prayers that actually brought us down to our knees, made us seek God even more and taught us to trust in His divine will. The mystery is this: in the end, what we have received instead, or rather what we have become, is better than what we actually prayed for.

If we, human beings, weak, fragile, broken, wounded, and sinful, know how to love and desire good things for the people we love, Diyos pa kaya? Hindi tayo matitiis ng Panginoon. In the end, God grants our prayers only in His time and in the manner that is best for us. So for the meantime, we learn to wait; but we wait with hope. We don’t give up. We keep on praying.

My dear brothers and sisters, in our Gospel today, we heard the story of the Canaanite woman begging Jesus to heal her daughter. At the start, Jesus seemed not to be paying attention to her request. The disciples even wanted to send her away for she was a foreigner, an outsider, and a pagan. Despite this, the woman insisted and persistently asked Jesus. Even if she was not a Jew, she had faith in Jesus and she believed that Jesus would give in to her request as long she would not give up begging. We know, in the end, because of her persistence and faith, Jesus granted her request and even praised her, “O woman, great is your faith.”

My dear friends, is your faith also as great as this woman? What have been your prayers lately? Are you about to give up praying just because your prayers are seemingly unanswered? Or has your faith in God become greater and trust in His will even deeper because of these experiences? Has your unceasing praying transformed you into a better person? What person have you become as you continue to pray?

As we continue to face this crisis, let us never give up praying. We continue to wait with great faith and trust in God. Yes, we don’t know exactly how or when this pandemic will end. We don’t even have all the answers to many of our questions and anxiety. That is okay. And as we pray, as we ponder on God’s mysterious ways and wait for His answers to our prayers, let us continue to become aware of the person we have become in our waiting and thank God for the inner graces of strength, patience, and trust in God that we have received in the process. Because we know that we have a God who loves us so much and who desires the best for us, so we continue to hang on and pray.

We just keep on praying… until prayer transforms us… into persons of great faith.

Amen.

*image from the Internet

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