Alexander Pope, one of Britain’s Catholic poets, famously wrote, ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast.’ Although this is now an oft-repeated quote, how many realise that hope is sustained by prayer? Today’s Readings dwell on the need to pray at all times – a theme at the heart of Christian living and which has been treated at length by saints and spiritual masters down the ages.

The manner in which the First Reading (Ex 17: 8-13) describes the struggle between the Amalekites and the Israelites may lead some to think that prayer is a magical formula, or even that God has his favourites whom He grants all requests. It must therefore be noted that, while Moses directed Joshua, his successor, to engage Amalek in battle, he himself kept watch and prayed incessantly for the success of his nation’s efforts.

If we note the supernatural trust and confidence that Moses had in the Lord, and the fact that God does not save unless man partakes of his own salvation, we can draw a practical lesson for ourselves: that we must do what we can before we expect fellow humans and God to help us. And when we have done our best, God does the rest!

In the Gospel (Lk 18: 1-8) of the Unjust Judge, Jesus impresses on his disciples the need to pray always – and without becoming weary. This parable bears a close resemblance to that of the Friend at Night. Elsewhere, Jesus says, ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ (Lk 11: 9) Yet, we are not to take God for granted. We must ensure that our prayer is worthy and pleasing to God; we must pray in humility, faith and perseverance.

But that’s not all. Perhaps a key aspect of our prayer is to talk less and listen more; not try and bend God’s will to ours but ours to His. An indulgent parent may grant their child any kind of request; but not God, who will concede only what, in His omniscience, is in our interest and, thus, in keeping with His Will. No wonder St Augustine suggests that we pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on us. This wise counsel teaches us how to achieve peace of heart.

In a godless world, many may doubt the efficacy of prayer, but they are the poorer for it. It is pride that prevents them from acknowledging God’s presence and works; only a change of heart can save them. So, it is never a good idea to challenge God, Who has us in the palm of His hand. Thankfully, those open to His loving kindness will be able to stoutly say with Tennyson: ‘More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.’

It is absurd, then, to deny that we are beneficiaries of God’s loving kindness. It is equally absurd that few ever remember His deeds; instead, they wonder how corrupt men and women enjoy a great time on earth and demand that God shows His justice forthwith! He will, in His time. And, for His part, He never forgets the labour of love shown towards His Name. St Luke says, ‘He will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.’

In fact, the Evangelist makes a suitably cutting retort to ungrateful humans: ‘When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?’ These words are an eyeopener to the contemporary world, whose words and actions are often an affront to God’s Holy Name and so call for urgent reparation. Alas, in many, love for God has grown cold! St Paul in the Second Reading (2 Tim 3: 14 – 4: 2) therefore exhorts us to ‘remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it’ – a reference to Sacred Scripture and Tradition.

Indeed, the Scriptures are our rock, capable of giving us wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. We ought not to twist them and ingratiate ourselves with the New World Order; rather, we are to use them ‘for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ How aptly the Apostle of the Gentiles urges us to ‘proclaim the Word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching’! We are called to keep up the Tradition, the spiritual fervour of the Apostles and of our ancestors in the faith, and to serve the Lord – to be ‘joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’ (Rom 12: 12)

Banner: Five saints depicted in the Eglise du Sablon, Brussels