Taking Authority In Answering God's Call (Luke 11:1-13, Isaiah 6:1-9)

Sad to say, but in real life it seems that we do not often experience the fruits of prayer as Jesus explained them to us—that everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks the door will be opened (Luke 11:10). How long have I searched,we at times feel like saying, and have not yet found the answer to my vocational questions?

And still they tell us to pray about a vocation!

How come? And, how?

Prayer

Prayer is at the core of our relationship with Christ, and in some way it sums up and reflects the type of Christian life we are living. I mean, that by looking at the quality of our prayer we can tell what kind of Christians we are. We can also take from the ideals we have in the Christian life an example of how to pray.

That may sound abstract, so let us see an example, the best example possible. Let us take a look at how our Lord told us to pray, in order to learn once more some important things. You will find the Lord's prayer in Luke's gospel, at the beginning of chapter 11, and in Matthew's a little into chapter 6.

The Law of the Kingdom and the Law of the Prayer

But, just to confuse you, let us start somewhere else!—by stitching together several things Christ said and which you will recognize: if you try to save your own life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for the Kingdom you will find it; the first shall be last and the last first; he who humbles himself will be exalted and he who exalts himself will be humbled; seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all the rest will be given you.

There is an unusual lawat work in the Kingdom o{ Christ, a law that is diametrically opposed to the world and its ways, and which is incomprehensible to the world. It is the law that was summarized by Christ when he said that he came not to be served but to serve.

The Lord's Prayer

When the disciples wanted to pray but didn't know how,they asked Christ, and he gave them the Our Fatheras the model of all prayer. So, what answer does the Lord's Prayergive to our question as regards praying about a vocation?

In it Christ teaches that our first thoughts in prayer should be not for ourselves but for God himself and his things. So he opens with an invocation, Our Father who artin heaven, and a desire/petition in which the “beneficiary” is God himself, hallowed be thy name;followed by another, thy Kingdom come,and yet another, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,which are all centered on the Father.

Only then does he move on to things to ask for ourselves, give us this day our daily bread—note that it is something basic that is asked for, something simple, straightforward and necessary to life—which is followed by, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us— which commits us to behaving as we wish to be treated—and finally, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil ---which again is directed towards us doing God's will in our lives.

From our Lord's example and instruction we see that real prayer is truly a God-centered endeavor. It cannot be self-centered, any more than our faith can be self-centered rather than God-centered.

It is worth pausing and comparing how we pray with how Christ wishes and teaches us to pray The comparison may lead us to some very helpful discoveries about ourselves and our priorities. No doubt it will also shed some light on the reasons for the fruit or lack there of in our prayer.

Vocation and Prayer

I believe there are fundamentally two ways to pray about a vocation. One is good, the other is much better.

The first way is to ask God for light. Lord, show me what my vocation is.And then we go looking for signs. We do not want to make a mistake. And so there is also some worry as we pray Is this right? Is this the best for me?,etc. What we want to know, and basically what we search for through our prayer, is what God wants of and for us. There is a lot of merit to this. But while through this process, yes, we are going to God, there is still a lot of thought there for ourselves. To a great degree we are still the center of our thought and concerns.

The second way is to take the Our Father,Jesus’ advice for prayer, and make it our model even as we seek our vocation. The radical difference here is that the focus is no longer on ourselves. The center of consideration is entirely God, and entirely his Kingdom.

The Our Fatheris a tremendously committing prayer, and if we prayed it with utter sincerity it would unleash a spiritual power and fill our lives with God in such a way that the face of the earth would certainly he changed and renewed. The gospel would sweep through the world.

Following the Lord's Prayerand what we called the laws of the Kingdomabove, let us see how we can improve (and thus make more effective) our prayer regarding a vocation.

Real Prayer

Firstly let us not seek ourselves in prayer. Hallowed bethy name,Thy Kingdom come.But these are not passive petitions. We cannot pray them and then sit back waiting to see what happens.

So, secondly, we must pray withour loins girt,and ready to work. We cannot expect to say the words and then in some mysterious way think that the fruits are going to come down from heaven. Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, but those who do my Father's will … To pray those petitions of the Our Fatheris the same as to pledge to God, I am going to praise and honor your name. I am going to do all I can to make your Kingdom come.

St. James says something in his letter about works of charity that is applicable here. He was writing to some Christians who thought they had faith but who did not have works, and he said to them … “if a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to him, ‘go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself (fit has no works, is dead.”(James 2:15-17)

We could say that similarly, prayer without action is dead. Dead trees don't bear fruit. Neither does dead prayer.

Prayer without willingness to act is not much better than hypocrisy. There could be nothing emptier.

Willingness for action is the willingness to pay the price for the Kingdom to come. As someone has said, the only way to pray that part of the Our Fatheris with your sleeves-rolled up.

This means we must to be willing to share in Christ's cross, because it was through the cross that he inaugurated the Kingdom. Thomas the apostle sounds a little fatalistic to us when he says Let's go up to Jerusalem and die with him —that was when Jesus was not heeding their warnings and made it obvious he intended to go there despite the danger signs. However, his and the other apostles’ attitude towards the Cross changed with the experience of Christ's resurrection. Cur acceptance of the cross should not be fatalistic and mere resignation as St. Thomas’ first reaction was. It should be full of hope and enthusiasm. “Hail, oh Cross, our only hope.”

Our prayer should also be a pledge not to leave Christ alone in his love for humanity and in his work of salvation. This is not presumption. It is Christ himself who has asked for workers for the harvest, Christ himself who sent the apostles to preach and baptize. We do not go insteadof him, but with him and ashim, Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the One who sent me.Perhaps the ultimate mystery of Christ is his unselfishness in making us partakers of his work, of having us take part in the redemption of our brothers and sisters, making up for the part we often play in leading them astray. Christ's pardon not only forgives us this, but allows us humans to rebuild through him, with him and in him what we have destroyed.

Praying About a Vocation

The above leads us to see that while we should pray about a vocation we should make sure we do it well, by praying with the proper attitudes. We should seek the silence of prayer in order to sort out our impressions, to let them sink in, to give God a chance to really speak to our soul.

To pray about a vocation is not merely to think about it in the silence we associate with prayer. To pray about a vocation is to ask for light and to ask for understanding, certainly. But it is most important to pay attention to the attitude with which we pray, and we should also ask God to improve our attitude, so as to acquire complete willingness to accept whatever answer he gives us.

When we are ready to accept the answer we are most likely to see it when it comes. When we are still struggling with our attitudes we are inclined to ask God for more proofs than those he is already giving us.

Praying For a Vocation—Isaiah

This takes us one step further than praying about a vocation. Is it right to do this?

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who shall be our messenger?” I answered, “Here I am, send me.”(Isaiah 6:8)

You have to take this passage in its context in order to understand it:

Isaiah is in prayer. He isfavored with a vision of the Lord Yahweh seated on a throne in all his majesty, attended by angels. In the face of this majesty and power he experiences his own smallness and above all his own wretchedness and sinfulness, and when he cries out his confession an angel approaches and purifies him of his sin and iniquity. Thereupon he hears the Lord speaking, asking who could be his messenger. And Isaiah volunteers.

Several things you should note. Firstly, the prophet was in prayer. Secondly, his prayer was an extraordinary experience of God. Thirdly, his experience of God gave him a new, humbling experience of himself—he realized what a sinner he was and how unworthy he was to be in God's presence. Fourthly, this realization made him cry out, and God takes the initiative to purify him by sending him his angel to do so. Finally, once he is purified, he enters into a whole new dimension in his relationship with God.

In this new relationship he no longer feels the need to run away and hide from God. He is drawn into God's reflections and plan. He sees and hears what God wants. And he volunteers. Blindly. Note that is only afterhe has volunteered that he is told what God wants him to do and say. He had signed a blank check over to God.

He offered himself. He asked God to send him. This was much more than asking God if he was being called. It is very different to say, Lord, are you thinking of sending me?,than to say simply, Lord, send me.

Praying for Others

It is a good thing to pray for others. But sometimes we do a good thing badly,

There is the danger of praying with the spirit of the Pharisee who gave thanks to God because he was not like other men. We can pray for the needs of others with the detachment of someone who is asking for others what he does not need himself (in other words with a sense of superiority, forgetting that even the good attitudes we have are a gift from God). So we should pray with humility, recognizing that the first person to need what we are asking for others is ourself.

There is also the danger of praying without commitment—as if we had nothing to do with what we are praying for coming about. We ask God to help someone, and that's it. Contrast this with St. Francis’ prayer. Instead of praying just for peace to come he said:

“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is darkness let me bringyour light; where there is despair let me bringyour hope…”

We should pray with this same attitude. When a brother or sister has a need we should pray for them, but we should also pray that we will have the generosity to be part of the answer to that prayer if possible. There will, of course, still be things that it seems you can do nothing about beyond asking God to grant them. Nevertheless you should always say “If there is anything I can do, any sacrifice I can make to help this come about …”

Suggestions

Maybe you could shift the emphasis of your prayer.

Maybe what your prayer needs in order to be more generous is the purification that confession gives.

Maybe in your prayer you should take to God the needs and miseries you see in the world around you.

Maybe then in your soul you will hear him asking, Yes, they need to hear the gospel preached, they need to have their sins forgiven, they need to be nourished on the Eucharist, they need to have someone show them my love and charity, but how? Whom shall I send?

Maybe then the Holy Spirit will move you from a prayer of intercession to a prayer of offering, and you will find yourself saying Lord, send me.

Write by Anthony Bannon LC

Reprinted fromPeter on The Shore, Circle Media.