Do you hear what Paul is saying here? “We have never stopped praying for you…” We are to hear these words in two ways, as always. First, we are to hear a holy truth here, that is, that the community of saints is always praying to God on our behalf. This is a comforting thought, is it not? The other way we need to hear this verse is to recognize that it is OUR DUTY and OUR JOY to pray always for our brothers and sisters in the faith, and even for those beyond it.
Prayer is purposeful and effective, if it is rooted in a trust in God’s love and in an ever deepening love for others. Sometimes we need to be reminded about the very real power of prayer. If you remember, Jesus told the Apostles on one occasion, “There are some things which can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.” That was true then and there are still things in this world that are still far beyond our capacity to understand or control, and there always will be. As Christians, this is not a cause for fear, or doubt, or despair, though. We know, in faith, that we have an Advocate who is there for us in those situations that are beyond our control. We believe that God’s love for us is pure and undivided, and that his grace is always given for our benefit. More importantly, we believe that he will never abandon us. When we pray, we do not do so for the power to control the uncontrollable, rather, we pray to know and understanding God’s will for us in all things, in all situations.
We pray, too, for a deepening understanding of God and our relationship with him. All of this is true, of course, but we are also called here to another level of prayer here. We are called to pray selflessly, out of loving concern for pray for the other, not just for ourselves. That is, we are called to develop the habits of “self-giving,” even in our prayer lives. In praying in this way, we are learning to pray as Jesus prayed. The prayer he gave us, The Lord’s Prayer, is a good example of this. In it we pray first honoring God’s most holy name, then for the coming of his Kingdom, not ours; then for the humility to do his will here on earth, as it is done by the saints and angels in Heaven.
When we ask for our daily bread, we are praying for the collective “we,” as well as for our personal selves. When we pray for forgiveness in this prayer we pray that we be forgiven of our sins in the same manner and depth as we have learned to forgive those who have sinned against us. Finally, we ask that we all be protected from temptation and from the Evil One. This is a truly communal prayer. That’s is why, in many of our traditions, it is said in the midst of our communal services or liturgies while holding hands with one another. Certainly, prayer has its personal and private dimensions. The prayer done in silence and solitude, in communion with God alone, is as important to us as breathing. But, we are also called to pray on behalf of others; for their healing, that in their suffering they might be given the graces to endure, or that they might be given the grace to see God’s will in all things.
We pray often, too, for justice in many things, for an end to violence and wars, and so on. These, too, are our duty to our fellow human beings, even those countless people we will never know, or ever meet. Why? Because we are all God’s children. We are in reality, not just in some poetic sense, one family in God. It is our privilege and our duty to pray for the whole Christian community then. And when we pray, we do not do so in order that OUR will be done, or to impose OUR answers on God. No. We pray always in humble submission to the will of God, knowing that his will and his answers will always be good and true.
Lord, we pray your graces upon all those who gather in your name, both close to home and far away. We ask that you bring your graces to bear in their individual lives, to heal their deepest personal wounds, to relieve their greatest personal fears, and to strengthen them where they are weak. We pray also for those Christian communities that are suffering real and immediate persecution for their faith at this time. We pray for the conversion of sinners and for unity within the Church. We pray all of these things in your name, Jesus. Amen!