Now more than ever is the time to devote ourselves to prayer
April 18, 2019
The church is enduring rough times. People in the pews are shocked, grieved and anxious. How can we best respond to the present crisis? How can we respond to our personal crises or those of people around us? We can respond with prayer.
“All we can do is pray.” How often we say these words! When we are at a loss what to do, or when we’ve done everything we know how by way of action, we turn to prayer as a last resort. According to Jesus, however, prayer is not the last resort. It is “the one thing necessary” (Lk 10:42). Prayer should be our first resort. It should undergird our actions.
I am not voicing platitudes. Prayer is tough work, especially when we are anxious. In troubled times, distractions fill our minds when we meditate on Scripture. We question God’s providence. We pour out complaints instead of praises.
Remember these wise words of St. Paul: “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Prayer relieves our anxiety, if we are faithful to it.
Although some might scoff at the idea, prayer changes things. How many times in the Gospels does Jesus commend and reward those who persevere in prayer? How many times does he respond to those who cry out for help? Scripture tells us, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (Jas 5:16).
But what if we are still striving to be righteous without having advanced very far? Is our prayer powerless? Not at all. Prayer does not just change our circumstances. It changes us. Prayer gains us the righteousness before God that original sin and personal sin have destroyed. The more faithful we are in prayer – the deeper our communion with God through prayer – the more effective it is for ourselves and others.
Not only that, our continuing conversion accomplished through prayer works for the good of the whole church. The church is one body in Christ. The health or sickness of each part of the body mysteriously affects all the others (see 1 Cor 12). In times of crisis like the current one, becoming holy will help the church more than anything else we can do. The more the sins and failings of individual Christians come to light, the more we are called to unite with the holiness of Jesus, which makes the church holy. Holiness is the solution to sin.
Our sanctification through prayer also makes it possible for us to love our neighbor more truly and concretely. We can bring God’s compassion to those whom others have hurt. We can show true repentance and humility before those whom we have hurt. We can go on the offensive with love, being witnesses to the world that God still reigns and that he is good.
When we persevere in prayer in times of anxiety, we let God use painful circumstances for our good and the good of others. He brings good out of evil, as we submit our hearts to him. Now is the time, more than ever, to devote ourselves to prayer.
Connie Rossini is a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. She is co-author of “The Contemplative Rosary” just released by EWTN Publishing and author of four other books on Catholic spirituality.