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Prayer and Purpose

Lenten Gospel Reflection for Tuesday, February 23rd. 2021 — Matthew 6:7-15

The heart of Catholic spirituality revolves around prayer. From our Sunday liturgies to our daily devotions, the Church purposefully and corporately comes together in prayer. Prayer should also become an important aspect or our individual spirituality as well.

From yesterday’s reflection we see that the the underlying assumptions throughout verses 1-18 seems to be the subjects of giving, prayer and fasting he begins each admonition with a phrase like this, “Thus, when you give to the needy” or “And when you pray” or “And when you fast”. Each of these phrases includes the word “when.”

The significance of this is that, Jesus simply assumes that his disciples will be regularly giving to the needy, that his disciples will be regularly engaging in prayer, and that his disciples will be regularly fasting. Therefore, the first and foremost admonition within these texts is this, as a follower of Christ you ought to be regularly practicing these things. You ought to be engaging in prayer, you ought to be giving and you ought to posses a life that consists of fasting.

Lent is a good time to consider and focus on how we incorporate these three things within our lives. Are we disciplining ourselves to make time for private prayer on a daily basis? Do we make it a priority to give to the needy? Are we doing that? Are we practicing that? Are we making a point to integrate fasting into our lives? Maybe you don’t even know what the point of fasting is.

If most of us in this room were to take a brief assessment of our lives we would find that our lives are largely devoid of most of these practices (or these disciplines). And as present day professing Catholics this ought to concern us, because the purpose of these spiritual disciplines is our own spiritual welfare. As children of God he has called us, ordinary, everyday folks to be his workers for for the spiritual health of others.

Therefore, though we ought to pursue these disciplines for ourselves, the benefit of pursuing a lifestyle that includes these practices, goes beyond our own lives. Our concern for God’s glory and for our very own souls ought to be enough to compel us to have compassion on others. So today as we look at Jesus’ teaching concerning prayer take the opportunity to be compelled anew to grow in this discipline of prayer. And take heart, because we’re not left to ourselves to know how we ought to pray, Jesus gives us instructions.

What Jesus is ultimately going to do here is compare the typical prayers of pagan Gentiles with how his disciples oughtpray to their heavenly Father. When Jesus says, “do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do” he’s referring to a combination of mindless babble and empty words typically offered up by the Gentiles to their god (or gods), and he’s telling his disciples that their prayers should not look like the mindless babble of the Gentiles who think that in order to garner the attention of their gods that they must in essence pester them with a multitude of words.

The prayers of the Church are anything but mindless. Whether in daily mass or our private intentions, we need to become purposeful and intentional. Prayer without being mindful and contemplative intention is virtually babbling mindless and without purpose.

The purpose of prayer is to guide us into relationship with the One, TRUE God. Purposeful and intentional prayer should become our love language. The more that we make this a purposeful spiritual practice, the closer our relationship to God will become.

GOSPEL — Matthew 6:7-15

Jesus said to his disciples:“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. “If you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

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