Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Of Faith and Prayer (Mk 9:14-29)

As I reflected on this morning’s gospel (Mk 9:14-29), I can’t help but go back to my own experience of prayer, specifically my own prayers of petition. As far as I could remember, prayers of petition have always been part of my prayers since I was very young, whether it be asking for high grades or asking for the healing of a loved one in pain. What is particularly striking to me now is how when I was younger, I guess when I was more innocent and less cynical, more childlike and less proud, my prayers were more passionate and desirous. Lately, I have noticed that my prayers are no longer as moving and as fervent.


It would have really been good if I could say plainly that the reason is that now I have become more spiritually indifferent than ever before. But honestly, this might not be entirely true. It seems that, as I have become older and “wiser”, I have also become too self reliant, too pragmatic, too hardheaded at times. In this way, faith has become superficial, and prayer, mechanical, worse, faith has become “prayer-less” and prayers “faith-less”.

Today’s gospel reminds us of how faith and prayer go hand in hand. They must never be divorced from one another, especially when we expect faith and prayer to strengthen and compliment each other. We see this, both in Jesus’ dismay with the disciples’ lack of faith and His concern to meet the need of this troubled epileptic boy and his anguished father. But, more clearly we see this in the Lord’s recognition of the fragility of the father’s faith and His challenge for him to pray boldly with expectant and hopeful faith. He says to him, “All things are possible to him who believes!” He says to us, "Pray and believe; believe and pray!"

That indeed was a wake up call. Not just to this father nor to the disciples who could not make the boy well. It was a wake up call for me, and I guess for everyone else slacking in prayerful faith and in faithful prayer. We simply cannot subsist with a faith that lacks prayer and a prayer that lacks faith. It leads nowhere. It brings no healing. It gives no life.

St Augustine rightfully reminds us then: “Where faith fails, prayer perishes. For who prays for that in which he does not believe? ...So then in order that we may pray, let us believe, and let us pray that this same faith by which we pray may not falter.”

Let us take this this reminder to heart as we continue with this morning’s celebration, especially as we move towards Lent. Let us approach the Lord and beg Him to help our unbelief. Let us plead to Him that he may increase our faith and trust in His saving power so that we may be given confidence and perseverance, especially in prayer, to bring His healing love and truth to those in need.


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