Draw Near To God And He Will Draw Near To You!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I hope you gave some thought to the STEPS that we announced last week and that you commit yourself in some way to one of them. Life in the church ought to have a purpose: to deepen my faith, to learn how to share it, to overcome certain bad habits or sins. We all need to aim for something in order for God to help us and this is part of our journey to him. In a parish we can stress many different things but what is essential is to grow in faith, to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s crucial to do this without a sense of obligation or duty, but as a call from the Lord.
The Christian life is a journey, one where we can never say that we have arrived. And it consists in steps, ways to make your life more simple, not to add things to an already impossible schedule. These steps are choices that you can make that are essential for growth in faith. To grow in faith certain steps are fundamental; you can take them in the order you wish, not to see them as obligations.
Briefly we mentioned last week the acronym of STEPS. The first being service because Christ came to serve, and all Christians need to learn how to do so. T is about tithing or giving. God is generous and is a giver and we need to be like him.
E is to engage in one of the groups of the parish: choir, Knights, Rosarians, upcoming catechesis, or small groups, in order to grow in faith. Engage because by ourselves it is nearly impossible to grow in faith. We need support. P is for prayer and sacraments, and S for sharing our faith. This week we will speak of the practice of prayer.
St. James says something shocking today (James 3:16 – 4:3): you may be praying wrongly. It may strike you as offensive. Is there a right way to pray? Absolutely, there is. James asks where do all the wars and conflicts come from? You can say the same thing about many families. It is not necessarily conflicts from miscommunication or lack of money. James says it comes from our passions. What does he mean by passions? Essentially it is the desire for more. All of us have this. We want what we want when we want it, and we want more. We ask selfishly.
There is conflict on the outside because there is war on the inside. And this is where prayer is fundamental. “You do not possess because you do not ask,” says James. We may worry or be anxious but often we do not ask for help, from God or from anyone. Or, we ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions. But God often answers our prayers with a “no.” Do you know why? Because we ask for the wrong things.
James goes on to say later in the same chapter that we must submit ourselves to God when we pray. It was originally a military term meaning to align ourselves with someone. Prayer is like that. Humbly asking him and knowing that he is incredibly greater than us. He is much wiser and stronger. He can help us in immeasurable ways.
The main point of praying is: draw near to God and he will draw near to you. It is a promise that God makes to us. The idea of prayer is not to convince God of our will but to hear his voice and do his will, not our own. We need to approach the Lord with a humble heart, submit to him. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
I know it is not easy to kneel in many places but it is a great posture for prayer. Kneeling helps me to lower myself, to submit to God, and to develop this virtue. With any habit the first thing we need to do is to practice it. It is like going to the gym, at first it is very uncomfortable, but after a while we get in better shape. How do you get good at this? First of all you need to do it, and do it regularly. We are all beginners and that is OK, but don’t think we can master this in a few weeks.
We also need content, something to pray with. There is a daily email that uses the readings of the day that can be sent to you automatically, some 500 people are getting it already. There is a brief comment about the reading that might help you to speak to the Lord.
Also it’s important to have a set time and a place that works best for you. For me, first thing in the morning is ideal or I never get to it. But for some the evening may be a better time. A quiet place in the house with a candle and crucifix can become sacred. It’s a place where you go in order to speak to the Lord.
Often we think of praying in emergencies and otherwise it is not important. But prayer is the one thing that can free you from anger, conflict, wars among the family. Submit to God and grow in your relationship with him. It is not about perfection but going in the right direction. Following the Lord, step by step, getting to know him and to know yourself.