Prayer, Faith & Conversion
May 26, 1996
Brother John Raymond
Jesus has given us much explicit teaching on prayer. Let's start
with conversion of heart. Jesus insisted on this from the time of
His Sermon on the Mount.
What does conversion have to do with prayer? Spiritual writers
tell us that what we do outside prayer time effects what happens
during prayer. There are examples in the Old Testament of God
telling people who pray first to redress their injustices to widows,
the poor and orphans, then He would hear their prayer. (Cf. Jer.
7,1ff) We know in the New Testament Jesus told us not to bring our
gift to the altar until we are reconciled with our brother. (Cf. Mt.
5:23-24) The reverse is also true. What we do outside prayer is a
sign of what happens during prayer. Jesus' "words and works are the
visible manifestation of His prayer in secret." (#2602) Our life and
our prayer cannot be separated.
What does Jesus teach about conversion of heart? We must be
reconciled with our brothers, love our enemies, pray for
persecutors, forgive others prayerfully from the depths of the
heart, pray to the Father in secret and not for ostentation, not
heap up empty words, practice purity of heart and seeking God's
Kingdom before all else. (Cf. #2608) That's all we have to do! It
may seem like a lot, but God will help us. The Catechism tells us
that this conversion is directed to the Father. This is how we grow
in a filial way with Him. What Father would be happy if his baby son
or daughter never developed, never grew up?
The Catechism tells us that once we are committed to conversion
(notice the word "committed") our hearts will learn to pray in
faith. (Cf. #2609) Why faith? Because filial adherence to the Father
goes beyond what we feel and understand. The Father cannot be
totally grasped by either of these. Nor can they sustain our filial
relationship with Him. Only in faith, our pilgrimage of faith as
Pope John Paul II so often calls it, can we cling to our Heavenly
Father. This is only possible because Jesus has opened up the way to
the Father. "He can ask us to 'seek' and to 'knock,' since He
Himself is the door and the way." (Ibid.)
Jesus teaches us to have a filial boldness in our prayer of
faith. He tells us to believe that we will receive whatever we ask
for in prayer and we will receive it. (Cf. Mk. 11,24) Further, He
tells us that all things are possible to those who believe. (Cf. Mk.
9,23) Jesus admires the great faith of both the Roman centurion and
the Canaanite woman. (Cf. Mt. 8,10;15,28) On the other hand, Jesus
could not perform many miracles in His hometown because of their
"little faith." Even His own disciples are corrected on this point.
(Cf. Mk. 6,6; Mt. 8,26) Some of the faithful today just can't
believe that laymen or priests with healing ministries actually heal
people. Others are skeptical of anything supernatural to the point
of denying all miracles, even those in the Bible.
As we mentioned already, our lives and our prayer must go
together. Conversion and prayer are two sides of the same coin. Just
calling out to God is not enough. We have to dispose our heart to do
the will of the Father. (Cf. Mt. 7,21) "Jesus calls His disciples to
bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine
plan. (#2611) Through conversion, faith and prayer we can achieve
what mystical writers tell us, that our lives and our prayer must
fuse together until they become one.