The Amalekites would have defeated Israel if Moses had not kept on praying and if those with him had not kept supporting him. Our real enemies are not flesh and blood, St. Paul tells us, but the spiritual forces of evil. We experience their power and onslaught every day. Jesus himself had to deal with them decisively and forcefully in His own ministry.
The weapon against them is prayer; our armour is faith and justice (understood as uprightness or holiness of life). But our prayer must be persevering, like that of Moses and of the widow. Our faithfulness to prayer must be the same as theirs. Like the widow, we must work for what is right and just, not in the eyes of incompetent judges, but in the eyes of our divine Judge.
Praying with perseverance and without losing heart is not just something we need to do, but is something which God commands us to do. It is his saving will or plan for us. We mustn’t take our eye off the ball, off God, but keep coming to him, keep calling on him. What God wants of us is to keep to the front of our mind that we belong to Him, we rely on Him, for everything. He alone is the source of our justice and the reward of our prayer. Jesus puts it beautifully when he says that God will listen to his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night.
The evil forces around and within us want us to fix our eyes elsewhere, on some other good, on some other god: either one we invent for ourselves or one which seduces our heart away from the Lord. I read a phrase from Chesterton recently which goes: ‘When man no longer believes in God, it’s not that he will believe in nothing. Rather, he will believe in anything.” And the concern of Jesus is that our faith in Him not be hijacked by that anything. When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? In other words, will people even expect Him any more? For if we end up believing in anything, we will be indifferent to him or even hostile when He comes as Judge.
It is prayer which keeps faith alive. Prayer means that we treat God as alive, not as a picture on the wall, an idea in our heads or even the sacrament locked in a box. Faith, of course, is not the same in everyone. If I were to ask you if you collect stamps, you might say yes and show me thousands of volumes of those you have collected. But you might also show me a few you keep in a small box. Faith is not a small collection of statements about God. It is a deep and absorbing relationship with Him which will make those statements, and so much more, come alive. Jesus speaks of faith as a mustard seed, but he would prefer it to be the great tree that comes from that small seed. To make it grow, we need to follow God’s plan for us to pray.
Prayer, too, is more than a few words aimed sporadically in God’s direction, good though that most certainly can be. Prayer is a whole world of the soul into which we were born when we came into this world. By the grace of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ we received in baptism and confirmation, and by the help and example of family, school and parish, not to mention the saints, we are led to become women and men of prayer. Prayer is a relationship with God which is His initiative and grace. As the relationship of child and parent is what gives a child its sense of identity, its sense of self and belonging in love and trust, so prayer is how we know who we are as sons and daughters of God. That’s why God wants us to be caught on prayer, to persevere in it, to bring to prayer all our joys and sorrows and needs, as a child to a loving Father or Mother.
So, when Jesus asks, will he find faith on earth when He comes, he is asking: will he find people who are or even want to be children of God, to live with God? Or as Esau did for a plate of soup, will we forfeit our birthright as children of God to be children of worldliness, by choice or by apathy?
Let’s renew our commitment to prayer today. To seek God, to desire God, to long for God, to spend time with God, to converse with God, to raise the mind and heart to God, to listen to God, to cry to God, to cry with God, to be silent with God, to love God. Prayer is not complicated. Look at any child in its rapport with a loving parent, and you will see in what prayer consists. Or look at the deep love between friends who spend time together, who share affections, sufferings, dreams and hopes: they teach us how to be with Christ and to pray to Him.
The Mass feeds all such prayer within us and to the Mass all such prayer leads us. For the Mass is the source and substance of all true prayer since it is the foretaste of the eternal communion between God, redeemed humanity and creation redeemed. Pray and you will come to know and love your true self and the God who in love created, redeemed and sanctified you. You are most yourself when you pray. To pray is the key to your destiny.