The Question of Prayer
(Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 1 Kings 3:5-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52)
It is fairly common for people devoted to Our Lady of La Salette to say an Our Father and a Hail Mary because that is what Mary told Mélanie and Maximin to do. Her exact words, however, were: “Ah, my children, you should say your prayers well, at night and in the morning, even if you say only an Our Father and a Hail Mary when you can't do better. When you can do better, say more.”
That’s an important distinction. This is not an encouragement to settle for the minimum, which in ordinary circumstances could not be qualified as “praying well.”
Nor is it just a question of time. Solomon’s prayer is a excellent example. After acknowledging (in the omitted verse 6) God’s goodness to his father David and to himself, he then asks not for what anyone in his position might want, but for what he knows he will need to govern well his—and God’s—people. He has prayed well, and the Lord responds accordingly.
Discernment is essential when we come before God to ask for something. There is nothing wrong with wanting something for ourselves, but prayer must never be selfish. St. Paul writes, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” so we can place unfailing trust in him to meet our needs even as we pray for the needs of others. The important thing is to pray for what is… well… important!
Think of the treasure in the field, or the pearl of great price. Part of “selling all we have in order to buy it” is the willingness to place all we have and all we are in God’s hands, at God’s service.
Consider the magnificent prayer of St. Ignatius:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.
Think of that the next time you ponder the Beautiful Lady’s question: “Do you say your prayers well, my children?”