Print Version July 29th, 2001
Once upon a time—that’s just to let you know that this is one of those homilies—once upon a time, Jesus was sitting there praying, looking out from closed eyes over the sun-scorched hills of his homeland. The guys who followed him from place to place were all there watching him, impatiently, maybe wistfully. They could see the look that came upon his face. They could see … something in his aching body. And they looked at each other and they wanted what he had.
“I wish I could pray,” said Martha.
“I wish I could pray like that,” said her sister.
Peter, ever aware of being in charge, spoke up, “You know, I’ve read all the right books on prayer but I still don’t feel I know how to pray.”
“Not just books either,” added John, “I’ve sat at the feet of some of the best teachers but I still don’t know how to pray the way I’d like.”
“Well, don’t feel bad,” Matthew put in, “books and gurus are fine but even with the best workshops—and I’ve been to them—I still can’t pray properly.”
By now, Jesus was getting distracted by their wrangling so he got up from his prayer to face them. “What is it now?” he asked. Peter spoke up immediately, “Teach us to pray!” “Yes!” “Yes!” the others all echoed his words, “Teach us how to pray!”
“Oh, is that all? Good. Just say this … ‘Look God … these are the things we need … food, forgiveness, and a father … or a mother,” he added, catching a look from Martha.
Well, there was silence. There was embarrassment. They could hear themselves breathe. Until, finally Peter said, “Well, Lord, we already know about prayer of petition, of intercession—and I can see that’s important … but what about real prayer?”
“Yes,” John jumped in, “what comes after the kiddy stuff? Teach us that!”
And Matthew, trying to be helpful, prompted Jesus, “You know, Rabbi … meditation, contemplation, using scripture, centring … Teach us how to really pray?”
“Oh,” said Jesus understanding them at last, “you want the advanced prayer methods. Well that’s quite a lot harder to explain.”
Well, their eyes lit up at that. They licked their lips in anticipation. “But are you sure you are ready?”
“Yes, Lord, Yes!”
“OK! Where to begin … Well in 30 years of careful prayer and study I’ve developed the perfect technique. It can be learned if you have enough discipline and stamina—though, I have to warn you, not everyone has the necessary mental clarity and emotional purity to completely master my methodology. Do you still want to try?”
“OK, well sit down and make yourself comfortable. Ready?”
“Close your eyes. Breathe deeply, breathe easily. Be aware. Now say, ‘Look God … these are the things we need … food, forgiveness, and a father.’”
And Jesus turned and went back to his own prayer.