Not to long ago I had the opportunity to go to my first ever professional boxing match in which I had ring side seats. Since I have never been to a boxing match before, I decided that it would be ideal for me to wear my "clerical collar" and suit.
Immediately, as the first boxer entered the arena and scurried into the ring our eyes caught one another. He immediately made the sign of the cross and put his gloves together and gestured to me.
The people who were with me asked if the boxer making the sign of the cross "will help him?" "Yes" I replied, "if he knows how to box!"
Like everything else, prayer has certain ground rules.
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First, we need FAITH. There is hardly mcuh point in praying if we are at the same time programming what to do when our prayers are denied. It is not our prayers that God hears but our confidence.
If we are going to pray for sunny weather for our vaction this Spring Break, then we better pack sunscreen, sunglasses and shorts! We need to BELIEVE in what we pray.
Secondly, we have got to give God a helping hand when we pray. When we are praying to move those mountains of struggles and problems that we hear about in Matthew 17:20, we have got to remember also to bring a shovel. God expects us to come half way; to give some effort; to show some support. I have often heard the following: "The ideal is to pray as though everything depends on God and work as though everything depends on us."
Thirdly, it is not real of me to expect that I will get everything for which i pray. NOTHING IN LIFE WORKS THAT WAY. Furthermore, if I can turn down another parishioners request who comes to ask me for something, why cannot God do the same to me? God ALWAYS ANSWERS PRAYER, but sometimes HE IS GOING TO SAY NO! What did Theresa of Avila state: "There are more tears shed over ANSWERED PRAYER than unanswered ones." (PONDER IT!)
Fourth, prayer has to be on the level. It is not recommended to attempt to pull the wool over God. After all, it's GOD's territory we are working, not ours. When you pray, do not use qualifying clauses. Leave the "ifs, ands, buts" at home. There is no bargaining with God.
Finally, my favorite quality of a good prayer life: PERSEVERE! Whether we are up or down, successful or feeling like a failure, we must never give up. We must always believe in what we pray, even in the darkest of hours.
Please join me in prayer, as we enter this Holy of HOLY WEEKS!