Praying like Jesus, to become like Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 24 July 2022
Genesis 18:20-32 ><}}}*> Colossians 2:12-14 ><}}}*> Luke 11:1-13
Photo by author, “Our Father” Church, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Jesus today wraps up the three consecutive Sundays of his “to do” instructions every disciple must do to inherit eternal life while on his way to Jerusalem. The other week he taught us through the parable of the good Samaritan that “what we must do to inherit eternal life” is to be a neighbor to everyone especially those in need; last Sunday while visiting the sisters Martha and Mary, Jesus clarified there is “need of only one thing” for every disciple which is to listen to his Word.

Simply put, Jesus tells this Sunday that a disciple must always pray to gain eternal life. It is a deepening of his lesson last week to Martha and Mary of listening and meditating on his words, of praying following a request by one of his disciples to teach them to pray.

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…”

Luke 11:1-2
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, Germany, 2018.

Of the four evangelists, Luke is the one who presents Jesus always at prayer. In fact, Luke shows us how prayer precedes every major event in the life of Jesus like when he asked his disciples who they think he is when Simon answered “you are the Messiah”(Lk.9:18). Moreover, there were some events that were actually prayer moments of Christ like his transfiguration witnessed by Peter, James, and John.

This is very essential in fully appreciating our gospel today on the teaching of Jesus of the “Our Father” in Luke’s gospel. Matthew has a longer version of Jesus teaching the “Our Father” during his sermon on the mount where he taught it in the context of a catechesis of avoiding using repetitious words like the hypocrites (Mt.6:5ff).

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus taught the “Our Father” for us to know what to pray while in Luke’s gospel, it is how to pray as requested by his disciple upon seeing him in prayer.

Notice how Luke punctuated this whole journey of Jesus to Jerusalem with “prayer stops” like this Sunday without even telling us his exact location in order to invite us to enter into His very heart and person whenever we would pray.

For Luke, prayer is entering the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ, of being one in him, with him and through him. To be able to do his works, we have to be like him first of all in order to become like him, that is, one with the Father.

In teaching us to pray “Our Father”, Luke presents to us how Jesus did not just give us a prayer to recite but also the chance and opportunity to share in his inner attitude and disposition to imitate the Father.

Photo by author, garden at the “Our Father” Church, the Holy Land, 2019.

The Our Father is rightly called the Lord’s prayer because more than being the very prayer of Jesus Christ, it is his disposition of communion and inner attitude, of unity and obedience to the Father that he wants us all to emulate. More than the letters of the Our Father uttered by our lips, Jesus wants our hearts to be involved in his self totally, in his life, in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

When we meditate on each line of the Lord’s prayer, when we claim it and own it as our prayer too, that is when we are formed into Christ’s being. Thus, on this third consecutive Sunday, we are taught not only with a specific prayer called the Lord’s Prayer but of prayer itself as our foundation in life so that we may become like Jesus Christ.

See how right at the very start when we address God as “Father” we discover the basic truth of prayer which is communing or communion with God, of submission to him. Next is our being linked together with God and with others because as Father, God is not a distant stranger detached from us but very personal, relating like our own dad.

Photo by author, wailing wall of Jerusalem, 2017.

In teaching us the Our Father, we find there is more to what’s in our hearts and soul than in our mouth. Like Jesus, we get rooted in God as our Father that the more we experience peace within which is the only valuable every disciple must have because our names are written in heaven (14th Sunday, July 03). The more we open ourselves to God our Father, the more we open ourselves to others as neighbors that we become good Samaritans. And the more we love God, the more we also pray like what Jesus told Martha last Sunday.

Here we find the essential function of prayer: it is not to change the mind of God nor change situations but to change our very person. Calamities will keep on happening, we all get old and sick and die. Prayers do not prevent these from happening but prepare us to accept and live with them.

This is the meaning of the story of Abraham “bargaining” with God for Sodom after their meal at Mamre last week. The point of the story is not that Abraham or prayers could change God’s mind but the fact that for as long as there are a few good men who pray and try their best to avoid and shun evil, there is always redemption.

Recall that this scene comes immediately after the meal at Mamre where God announced to Abraham the birth of his son in the following year, the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to him to be the father of all nations that would reach its highest point in the coming of Jesus Christ. But, if we continue to read on this scene in Genesis, we find that God eventually destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because there was not one good man or woman left in those cities. And that is the point of the story: redemption comes from God if we also do our part by becoming better persons. When we have a prayer life, we become aware of the evils in us and around us – then we change! As we have mentioned earlier, prayers do not change situations but change persons.

Photo by author, Holy Family Chapel, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

It is very difficult to be good and holy, being the face of mercy of God to people who have done evil especially to us. But when we do things in the name of Jesus, praying without ceasing, we are able to achieve so many things beyond our wildest dreams!

The late Mother Angelica who founded EWTN without any knowledge nor money in broadcasting said that “unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous.”

The power of prayer is not really on what we say but on how we say, when we allow “Jesus to take over us in our baptism when He raised us up in life after being dead to sins” (Col. 12:12) as Paul explained today in the second reading.

When we pray like Jesus, surrendering everything to the Father, then we become like him – so complete, never wanting anything except to do his will with joy and dedication. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Losing one’s head in prayer. Photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA7 News at UP Diliman, QC, May 2019.

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