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Beacon Of Light… Jesus’ Longest Prayer

August 16, 2022 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn.)

  • + + Today we continue our discussion on prayer in the life of the Christian. In particular we are going to focus on the battle of prayer followed by what it means when we say prayer at the hour of Jesus.
    If we remember from our previous articles, prayer is very important in our lives. It is considered a gift of grace and requires determination. This determination requires a response from us. Living a life of prayer takes effort, in fact, we can look at the many Old Testament figures as well as the Blessed Mother and Jesus Himself, where each of them teaches us that prayer is a battle. With whom are we battling? Usually this battle includes two, us and the Tempter. Just like in life we encounter a “spiritual battle” where the forces of good and evil collide, so in the life of prayer we are always battling.
    The first obstacles we must overcome in the battle of prayer are the objections surrounding it. So often the erroneous notions of prayer that exist around us can cause us to see prayer in a distorted way. Oftentimes, people see prayer as mere psychological activity, others as a lesson in concentration that leads to a mental void. Some reduce it to just the ritual words and postures of the Mass or other liturgical activities. Even more disturbing is the idea that prayer is no longer compatible with the life they live because there just isn’t enough time. For those who subscribe to these objections, they find themselves very discouraged and prayer seems like a chore rather than a joy.
    Today’s cultural climate has also impacted the life of prayer by presenting competing attitudes. Today’s culture is pushing for a “verified” kind of prayer. This kind of prayer would require verification by reason and scientific study. The problem with this approach is that it removes the mysterious aspect of prayer. Prayer is a mystery, united in the Trinity, that overflows into our conscience and unconscious. For others, production or profit must be seen as a way of assessing its effectiveness. If prayer doesn’t produce tangible profits, then it is useless. Still others see the effectiveness of prayer based on the sensual and comfort of the truth. For Catholic Christians, prayer is the “love of beauty” which is caught up in the belief of a living and true God.
    In another way, objections we experience in this ongoing battle of prayer are often the result of our failed prayer attempts. These failures can include experiences of dryness and discouragement; sadness because we lack the ability to do away with possessions; disappointment that the Lord is not hearing our prayers according to our own will, rather than God’s will. All of these are linked to one thing, our sinfulness. Our objections to prayer always have the same reaction and often cause us to ask the same question over and over again; what good does it to do pray? Overcoming these obstacles requires humility, trust, and perseverance.
    Facing difficulties in prayer may seem insurmountable, but God has given us all we need to succeed in our prayer. Throughout Jesus’ time on Earth He was often referred to as the Light. Indeed, He is the Light, and it is He who will dispel the difficulties in our prayer. In order for this to happen, however, we need to remain connected with “Christ the Light” within. What do I mean by this? On the day of our Baptism, the Light of Christ illuminated our hearts and souls to show us the way to the heavenly Kingdom.
    This light within is where we find the vigilance needed to ward off the battle experienced in prayer. Keeping this light illuminating brightly requires us to make frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament all the distractions and temptations of prayer are subdued by the grace we receive in being cleansed of our sins.
    The battle of prayer requires of us what we call filial trust. Filial trust is the idea that as sons and daughters of Christ, we need Him. We place our trust in God’s ability to provide for us, in the same way, we expect our earthly parents to provide for our daily needs. The difference is, God provides not only for our daily needs, but He has provided for our eternal needs as well. Often, we find ourselves doubting the efficacy of our prayers. We also fall into the trap of mistrust because our prayers are often not answered within our timeframe. Ultimately, our prayers rest on the revelation that God always hears our prayers.
    The life of prayer, along with the difficulties, includes an awareness of persevering in love. Our prayers are the way we reciprocate toward all God’s blessings. It must include an act of thanksgiving. St. Paul reminds us so often to pray continuously, because through this constancy, we become closer to God. Anytime is a good time to pray. God is always ready to hear our prayers. We never have to delay because we always have access to the “divine ear of God.”
    Similarly, there can be nothing equal to prayer because what is impossible, prayer makes possible, what is difficult becomes easier. Those who pray are certainly saved; those who don’t pray are damned. The Catechism reiterates the importance of prayer in jn. 2745:
    “Prayer and Christian life are inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love; the same filial and loving conformity with the Father’s plan of love; the same transforming union in the Holy Spirit who conforms us more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love with which Jesus has loved us. “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, He [will] give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.”

The Best Example

In the end, there can be no other example of perfection in prayer than that of Our Lord Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate embodiment of true Christian prayer. On that first Holy Thursday night, having eaten the Passover with His disciples, Jesus readies Himself to pray the longest prayer of His life. We call this prayer the Prayer of the Hour of Jesus, or more commonly the “priestly prayer of Jesus.” We find this prayer in the Gospel of St. John chapter 17. This prayer will always remain the best example of how to pray. Here is the prayer in its entirety:
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
“Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Next week, following the example of Jesus, we will begin our study of the Our Father.

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