In the wake of the recent church shooting in Texas, many people, including politicians, reporters, and other public figures, took to traditional and social media to share their opinions. Among the expected and reasonable comments about issues such as gun control and mental health, was a shocking dismissal of the value of prayer. Editor, D. Watkins wrote in Salon that victims of mass shootings “deserve justice and to be honored…Most of all, they deserve reform, not just tweets about prayer.” Comments like these sparked a debate on social media about the importance and role of prayer. “Just because you might not believe in prayer, doesn’t give you the right to publicly insult those who do,” responded Jeremy Hunt in an opinion piece.
The very idea of prayer is foreign to many people, including those who consider themselves to be practicing Catholics. For many prayer is a formality or merely a way of assuaging God or perhaps a way of leveraging divine favors – but not the lifeblood of discipleship or the path to that holiness and charity which should be the hallmark of every disciple and every worshipping assembly. Many people go through life without really developing a life of prayer. When they encounter life’s inevitable sorrows, its tragedies, and the assaults of temptation, they are without defense or consolation. How often do we find people questioning the goodness of God, if not his very existence, in time of trouble, such as the church shooting in Texas?
But it is in precisely such times that we are reminded of God’s mercy and love and it is through prayer that we draw ever closer to our Loving Father.
Prayer is the means by which we deepen our loving relationship and friendship with God, a relationship that begins on the day of our Baptism. Through sustained daily prayer, we come to know the Lord and develop the trust that is at the heart of a life of prayer. We trust in His love, in His plan for us.
When we pray, we simply follow the words our Savior taught us through his instructions to the first apostles (Luke 11:1):
* Lord, we give you our praise…in good times and bad.
* Thy will be done, not only in heaven but here on earth and in our day.
* Give us our daily need.
* Forgive us and help us to forgive others.
* Protect us from the evil that tries to convince us you do not care.
Ironically, at around the time of the church shooting in Texas, the woman who leads the prayer ministry of the Archdiocese of Baltimore experienced the sudden loss of her adult son. His death might have shaken the faith of the most ardent supplicant. Pat, however, turned immediately to her Heavenly Father for the strength to endure such sorrow. As she came to terms with her grief and reflected on the comfort she received from the Lord to who she so devotedly prays, she unselfishly decided to share the gift of God’s love with others. “I would not allow the pain and sorrow of the moment to keep me from sharing with others that closeness to Christ that is available to all,” she said.
Prayer is a gift. It is a gift we receive from God to better know him and his unending love for us. We need this gift in our lives, in good times and in bad.