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Thoughts for the Week
 
 

 

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Thoughts for the Week - Fr R Taouk 
5th October 2014

Bishop Fulton Sheen on Prayer and Meditation

One of the most powerful means of overcoming the externalisation of life is to find support in prayer and meditation. But as soon as prayer is suggested, there are those who will immediately retort: "Praying does no good". This statement has an element of truth in certain cases: not theological truth, but psychological. When it is said by those who are unwilling to curb their promiscuous habits or to tame their carnality, then the statement, "It does no good to pray", is true - but only of themselves. Their prayers are ineffective, not because God refuses to hear them, but because they refuse to fulfil the first condition of prayer, namely a longing to revise their natures to accordance with God's laws. To have any effectiveness, a prayer for help must express an honest desire to be changed, and that desire must be without reservation or conditions on our part. If we pray to be delivered from alcoholism, and yet refuse to stop drinking, that fact is an acknowledgment that we did not really pray. In like manner, the man who prays to be delivered from sexual perversions and excesses - and that very day deliberately exposes himself to such pleasures - has destroyed the efficacy of the prayer by a reservation. All prayer implies an act of the will, a desire for growth, a willingness to sacrifice on our own part; for prayer is not passive, but is a very active collaboration between the soul and God. If the will is inoperative, our prayers are merely a list of the things we would like God to give us, without ever asking us to pay the price they cost in effort and a willingness to change. Prayer is dynamic, but only when we cooperate with God through surrender. The man who decides to pray for release from the slavery of carnal pleasures must be prepared, in every part of his being, to utilise the strength which God will give him and to work unreservedly for a complete freedom from the sin. In dealing with other men it is possible to have one's cake and eat it, but with God that is impossible.

It is not difficult to understand why many people do not pray, at all. As a workman can become so interested in what he is doing as not to hear the noonday whistle, so the egotist can become so self-infatuated as to be unconscious of anything outside of himself. The suggestion that there is a reality beyond him, a power and an energy that can transform and elevate him, strikes him as absurd. Just as there are tone-deaf men who are dead to music and colour-blind men who are dead to art, so the egotists are Deity-blind, that is, dead to the vision of God. They say they cannot pray, and they are right, they cannot. Their self-centredness has paralysed them. There is also some truth in their statement that they "do not need prayer", because they do not want to be any better than they are - their purpose is to remain unchanged, and this stultification can be accomplished by themselves alone. Animals do not need prayer, either, for none of them has a capacity for self-transcendence, which man has. A man is the only creature in the world who can become more than he is, if he freely wills to grow. The man who boasts that he is his own creator need never acknowledge dependence on God; he who affirms that he has never done anything wrong has no need of a Saviour. Before such egotists can pray, their selfishness must be corrected. Many refuse to correct it - not because they fear what they will become if they do, but because they cannot face the surrenders they would have to make before they could be elevated to a higher level of peace and joy.

There must always be a relationship between the gift and the recipient - there is no point in giving anyone a treasure he cannot use. A father would not give a boy with no talent for music a Stradivarius violin. Neither will God give to egocentrics those gifts and powers and energies which they never propose to put to work in the transformation of their lives and souls.