Prayer is everyone’s hotline to God. It is not something that one person has more of than another, nor are some people more readily listened to by God; God hears us all equally. While some people are rather eloquent, the best prayer does not require us to be so. It is the heartfelt and sincere prayer which is ‘best’, such as “God help me/us/them.” God is not judging the quality of our grammar or the poetry of our language, but rather He hears what is articulated and also what is beyond words. Prayer is not getting what we want when we want it, no matter how ‘great’ what we desire might be. If our prayer seems to go unanswered, it may be because there is too much complexity involved, all of which is beyond our understanding.
Through prayer, what we always receive from God is the power to endure, the power and grace to work for justice, and the power to affect the lives of others. Think about a time when someone told you they would pray for you. What was the effect of such a promise? I know that whenever someone says this to me I feel more confident regarding whatever my need might be. I also feel less alone and more empowered just by knowing that someone cares enough to enter into my mess, and that because of their prayer I have a deeper sense of God’s presence, of God holding me close, and of God giving me the strength to endure whatever it is I am facing. In short, when someone tells me they will pray for me it inflames my trust in God. That is how prayer works.
©Michele L. Catanese
* Here is the link to the passage from Matthew which I quoted: https://www.bible.com/bible/463/mat.10.16-25.nabre
I also encourage everyone to pick a Gospel and read it end to end. I would suggest Luke since his gospel has prayer and reaching out to the outcast as two of its main themes.
The photographs are all my own except this first one, which was taken by Mary Solcher. It is from the Mass of Thanksgiving presided over by newly ordained Fr. Roy Joseph, SJ. The deacon beside him was leading the congregation in the Prayers of the Faithful. I chose this because of the fervor of the prayer at this Mass and also because of the very moving homily which Fr. Roy gave which included the topic of mercy. (Thanks for letting me use this wonderful photo, Mary!)
Next is a photo I took in Salzburg, Austria. There was a display of stained glass inside our hotel which was actually a historic building. This glass depicts St. Christopher carrying Jesus across a river. According to legend, Christopher (from the Latin, Christophorus which translates to 'Christ-bearer') carried the Christ Child across a river, and when asked why He was so heavy, Jesus responded that He carried the weight of the world on His shoulders. I chose St. Christopher, though he is shrouded in legend, because when someone tells us they are praying for us, it is as if they have begun to carry us and our burdens. It is an act of love to pray for a friend and yes, even an enemy, as Jesus calls us to do. You can read about St. Christopher by clicking on this link: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=36
Next is a photo of a hang-glider which I took at the Zugspitze, the highest mountain in the German Alps. It takes a lot of courage and faith to hang-glide in a place like the Alps. I chose this photo because sometimes we have to do something that feels a little dangerous because of our commitment to prayer, and ultimately to Jesus Christ. It is dangerous to love, to offer mercy, and to live Christian values in a world which is often hostile to them. But it is what Jesus asks of His followers, and He sends the Holy Spirit for us to glide upon and to empower us. We are safe with the Spirit surrounding us.
Next is an icon called St. Joan of Arc with St. Michael the Archangel, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I love this icon because St. Joan is the patron I chose for my Confirmation and I am named for St. Michael, therefore it is incredible to have both my patrons in one icon. But I selected this because it depicts the terror of Joan as she endured the fire, yet St. Michael is separating the flames which are like sails on either side of her. He was with her in the flames, comforting her. For those who feel like they are in the flames right now, St. Michael will surround and comfort you, too. This icon can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-joan-of-arc-with-st-michael-the-archangel-042-william-hart-mcnichols.html. If you go to the site, you can purchase a copy of this icon, which is available in many different formats.
Information on St. Theophan the Recluse: http://oca.org/saints/lives/2016/01/10/100147-st-theophan-the-recluse-the-bishop-of-tambov
Finally, the last image is a painting by Caravaggio called The Seven Acts of Mercy. I chose it because Pope Francis referred to it as one of his favorite paintings and therefore it tied in with the theme of this post as well as the frequent repetition of the Pope's words: "That's how prayer works." It depicts the action to which prayer moves us. I am providing a link to an article about Caravaggio and this work: http://ncronline.org/news/art-media/caravaggio-masterpiece-mercy-calls-pope-francis-across-centuries