Persistence in prayer

16 October 2022 29th Sunday Year C

The Amalekites were a fierce desert tribe, unhappy about strangers coming into their territory and they became one of Israel’s enemies in the early periods of their history. After the lengthy Israelite Exodus from Egypt, and as they prepared to enter the promised land the Amalekites attacked Israel, but Israel repulsed the attack. The battle took place at Rephidim – the last stopping-place of the Israelites on the Exodus from Egypt before they reached Mt Sinai.

As the leader of the people, Moses asks Joshua, who will be his successor, to engage the Amalekites in battle while he went with Aaron, his brother, and Hur, a co-leader of the people, to a hill where they could see the progress of the battle. The prayer of Moses ensures victory, but when he became tired, they gave him a rock to sit on and then held up his arms in prayer until Joshua achieved victory.

It is a memorable story of the power of prayer, although one feels sorry for the Amalekites who were one of the inhabitants of the land the Israelites were to occupy. However, the message of the story is that God looked after the chosen people whom God delivered from exile in Egypt.

Persistence in prayer is also the theme of the gospel with the widow gradually winning over the judge, not by argumentation, but by the consistency of her request for justice against her adversary.

Do these two stories mean that we can get God to give us what we want if we just persist in making our request?

The answer is no for a God whom we can manipulate is not the God in whom we believe. We pray to God in hope for the outcomes we desire but we cannot presume that God will give us what we want. We pray in hopeful expectation but not with presumption and God gives us what we need even if it is not what we hoped for.

We may not always receive that for which we pray; instead, something entirely different may come our way. Some people deal with this by saying, “I asked something of God, and God’s answer was no.” Our prayers of petition are an acknowledgment of our dependence on God, and we must never stop turning to God in our need, but we patiently await God’s response.

We should also remember that petition is only one form of prayer. There are prayers of praise, thanksgiving, contrition and worship. These prayers are our response to God, who has spoken to us before we even think to pray. God speaks through creation, and we respond in praise; God speaks through people and events of our lives, and we express our gratitude; when we have been unfaithful to our commitments, God calls us back, and we repent; God’s past goodness speaks to us, and we worship the one who cares for us.

Michael A Kelly CSsR

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