Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent. Bible Study: Isaiah 55:10-11, Psalm 34 and Matthew 6:7-15

“For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8) 

One of the three pillars of Lent is Prayer. In this season of Lent, we are called to deepen our prayer life, spend more time in prayer and grow in our understanding and appreciation of prayer.

Prayer is like medicine. When properly used, it brings us healing but when not properly used, it becomes mere “empty phrases”. If we must pray at all, it is very important that we pray well; that we do not simply talk to ourselves but our prayers draw God’s attention to us.

Once Jesus gave us the parable of the two men who went to pray; the Pharisee and the tax collector. At the end of their prayers, Jesus said, one prayed “only to himself” but the other one went home justified. (Cf. Luke 18:10-14). This teaches us that not all prayers get to heaven.

In our Gospel passage today, Jesus teaches us how not to pray (using the prayer of the Gentiles as an illustration) and then proceeds to show us how to pray. As Jesus explains, the effectiveness of prayer does not depend on the number of words used but on the faith behind each word. We will be heard not because of our many words but because God is a Father who never stops loving His children.

Whenever we approach God in prayer, we must first remind ourselves of what the prophet Isaiah says in today’s first reading: “As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth making it bring forth fruit, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth.” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Given that God’s words do not return to Him without first accomplishing their purpose on earth, it means that in prayer, we must utter God’s words as contained in the Bible. This is a secret that many do not know but one that the Catholic Church has always known. Pick up any Catholic prayer book (especially the breviary), you would discover that 99% of the contents are lifted from the Bible (Psalms) word for word. Anyone who says catholic prayers are boring is just being extremely ignorant.

In praying, we must always begin by placing ourselves in the presence of God bearing in mind that He is our Father. Your physical location may be anywhere but deep within your heart, your location must be inside your father’s house. This is why Jesus begins with the words: “Our Father who art in heaven.” Jesus teaches us to begin with praises before proceeding to ask for our needs.

Jesus also wants us to make a commitment to God when we pray. In this way, Jesus presents an important principle of life: You cannot take without giving. Prayer is not just about asking, it also involves giving. Jesus makes clear the point: “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my faith in you. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you.