”Prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.” ~ E.M. Bounds
A number of years ago, while living in Hoboken, New Jersey and attending the beautiful Church of Saint Ann a few blocks from my apartment building, I ran into my friend Al as we were both making our way to Eucharistic Adoration. Unlike many of the churches today that partake of perpetual adoration, Saint Ann would expose the Blessed Sacrament every Wednesday from 6:00pm-7:30pm. As a result, it was not uncommon to run into the same people regularly as it would be the only weekly opportunity to spend prayerful and contemplative time in the presence of Jesus by way of Adoration.
I knew Al fairly well. As I recall, the only thing we disagreed on was which baseball team to root for as he was a big New York Yankees fan whereas I backed the New York Mets. We were both RCIA Sponsors as well as avid walkers. I would seemingly bump into him 2 or 3 times a week on the streets of “New York’s 6th Borough” as Hoboken became affectionately known to those of us who lived there. A town of only 1.4 square miles but steeped in history, tradition, and saloons, it was the perfect walking town.
“Can I pray for any special intentions for you tonight Al?” I asked him as we made our way up the church steps and into the sanctuary. Without missing a beat he said “I’m here to pray that Rowe vs. Wade will be overturned. Please pray for that intention as well.” I said to him “I’ll be honest with you Al, I’d just be happy if the abortion rate would decrease... not increase even. Especially given public sentiment regarding abortion nowadays.” What was once a 50/50 issue was swiftly approaching 60/40 pro-choice according to the polls that were circulating at the time. Al looked at me and said “Nah...when you pray, pray BIG.”
I’ll always remember that encounter and those simple yet profound words . It speaks to one’s faith in God’s love for us, God’s desire to lavish great things upon us. If only we would have the courage to ask. If only we could rid ourselves of the folly of selling God short. It speaks to the wisdom of a man who knew that God’s divine will and desire to hear and answer our prayers was far more powerful than the prevailing but fickle social and moral attitudes of these times or any other.
Pray with full and total confidence. Pray with persistence. Pray big.
Whenever I hear someone say in exasperated fashion “I’m just praying that the Lord can get me through this day!” I can’t help but think to myself “That’s all you think God is capable of? That’s all you think God wants to do for you? Get you through the day? We worship the maker of the Heavens and the Earth, the giver of all good things, a God who gave us that which He loved the most ~ His very Son ~ so that we may dwell with Him in the Heavenly Kingdom for eternity ....and we ask him to help us to barely scrape by?”
Elkanah’s wife Hannah certainly understood the notion of praying big in today’s 1st Reading (1 Samuel 1:9-20). Her story began yesterday (1 Samuel 1:1-8) wherein Scripture tells us she would often weep bitterly and refuse to eat due to her relentless sorrow over her inability to conceive a child. Today we find her in deep prayer, “pouring out her troubles to Lord,” (1:15) an apt metaphor given the fact that Eli accused Hannah of drunkenness upon finding her. Eli, a prodigious albeit aging and rather cantankerous prophet at this stage in his life, responded to her plight by offering a prayer of his own. “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” A simple prayer offered by a very holy man.
Those of you familiar with the story know that Hannah would indeed go on to bear a son, but not only a son, a great evangelist in his own right, of course I speak of the prophet Samuel. What might’ve happened had Hannah lost faith in God, had she given up hope, stopped having relations with Elkanah? The world would never have had the benefit of Samuel’s presence within it, his wisdom and knowledge, his evangelical fortitude.
When you pray big, God oftentimes answers big.
“No man is greater than his prayer life.“ These are the words of the great English Christian evangelist and author Leonard Ravenhill. Prayer is the key to all the treasures of this life and the hereafter. It is man’s greatest power, for when we pray with ardor, fervor, and regularity, we have as our intercessors the entire celestial court. Through prayer, God can handle your doubt, anger, fear, grief, confusion, and questions. You can bring everything to him in prayer. Prayers have no expiration date. You never know when, where or how God will answer them. With regard to the latter, you can be sure that there are but three answers that God offers his beloved children in response to our prayers: yes, not now, or I have a better idea. Prayer is the greatest wireless connection.
We must strive to weave prayer into the fabric of our entire being. It should become so commonplace that it literally becomes our very breath. In doing so, we will have chosen “the better part.” (Luke 10:38-42). For if you only devote time to prayer when you’re in trouble. . . . . you’re in trouble.
“Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you.” ~ Matthew 7:7