Read 1 Samuel 4:1-11, Ps. 44:10-11,14-15,24-25, Mark 1:40-45

“So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. And the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.” (1 Samuel 4:10-11)

The Israelite nation was battling against the Philistines, who were gaining the upper arm. In just one day, the Philistines slew four thousand men. Out of desperation, the Israelite army “ordered” the Ark of God. Without prior acts of begging, they commanded God into the battleground. They forgot that prayer is not magic.

Mind you, the two sons of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas, who were directly responsible for the care of the Ark, did not respect God. We read in 1 Samuel 2:12, “The sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord or for the duties of the priests to the people…. Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord; for they treated the offerings of the Lord with contempt…” Even the women who served at the tent’s entrance were not spared of their gross immorality (1 Samuel 2:22).

Eli did his best to caution Hopni and Phineas, but they ignored him. They did not listen to the voice of their father, yet when it was time to carry the Ark to the battleground, they did not think twice.

Prayer is the opposite of Magic. While prayer requires the will of God to work, magic entirely depends on the magician. Magic is all about performance; it is a show for the glory of the magician. On the other hand, prayer requires prostrating ourselves before God; it involves bending the knee, bowing, and begging God, and it is always to the glory of God.

In today’s Gospel passage, a leper approached Jesus, beseeching him and kneeling, saying, “If you will, you can make me clean.” The leper displayed faith and humility before Jesus. He prayed for healing but was careful to add “If you will”, knowing that his healing depends entirely on God. The leper did not display a sense of entitlement; he did not shout or command God.

In teaching us to pray, Jesus deliberately added the phrase: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”, to clarify that prayer is not magic. After curing the leper, Jesus told him to “say nothing to people” because Jesus did not want attention on himself. Even when the leper disobeyed this instruction, Jesus went into hiding. “He could no longer openly enter a town but was out in the country.”

Jesus wanted all the glory to go to God and not himself. Today, it is rather disheartening to see our ministers act like magicians, boasting and doing everything to make themselves popular. Prayer is not magic; learn to give God the glory He deserves. Let it not be that you only remember God when you need something from Him. Worship God in and out of season; do not make the mistake of Hophni and Phineas.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me that there is something called humility. May I be poor in spirit. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Thursday of week 1 in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 1 Samuel 4:1-11, Ps. 44:10-11,14-15,24-25, Mark 1:40-45).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu