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Personal Prayer Nourishes Faith
Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, and John and approached the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed. They ran up to him and greeted him. He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.” He said to them in reply, “O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.” They brought the boy to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions. As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around and foam at the mouth. Then he questioned his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.” Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering, rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: come out of him and never enter him again!” Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out. He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!” But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, “Why could we not drive the spirit out?” He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
Opening Prayer: My Jesus, I come before you in this time of prayer to reflect on your word and what it means for me personally. As I spend this time of prayer with you, I bring to you all those areas of my life that need your healing touch because it is you in whom I believe. It is you in whom I hope. It is you whom I love. Lord. Jesus, I ask you to deepen my faith in your presence in my life and my belief in all you teach through your holy Church. Help me grow in trust where I struggle to surrender to your love, and deepen my trust in your loving providence for every circumstance in my life. Lord, I ask to know your love for me experientially as well as intellectually so that my love for you may grow stronger and deeper.
- Teacher, I Brought You My Son: As Jesus, Peter, James, and John returned from the Transfiguration, they found the other disciples arguing with some scribes. When Jesus asked what they were discussing, a man answered that he had brought his son in order that Jesus might cast out an evil spirit. In his absence, the disciples tried to cast it out, but they were unsuccessful. This man had expected that Jesus’ disciples would be able to act in Jesus’ name, despite his absence. While people may not expect us to cast out demons, each of us is called to make Christ present in the world. Consider the example of the Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus at the well; she immediately went into town and told the people there of her experience, and “Many…began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me everything I have done’” (John 4:39). The testimony of our lives should impact others; they should expect us to help them encounter Jesus. If we are not asked challenging questions, or asked to assist or intercede for those in need, we can wonder whether the faith we profess is a living faith, visible to those around us.
- If You Are Able: We don’t know where or how the man heard of Jesus and the miracles he had wrought, but he brought his son to Jesus. When Jesus was not available, he was willing to let the disciples try to cast out the evil spirit, and was perhaps disheartened by their failure. It is possible that some of his enthusiasm had waned and that perhaps his confidence had been affected as well. He asked Jesus for his help somewhat tentatively, “…if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus focused on the “if,” and the father responded both with faith and the knowledge that he needs a deeper faith: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” While each of us is given the gift of faith in baptism, it is our responsibility to nurture that gift. The cry, “Lord, help my unbelief!” indicates an interior disposition to desire to grow in faith—to believe more deeply and to yearn for God himself. This desire for God “is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself” (CCC 27). Through prayer, we can respond to God’s invitation to a relationship of love.
- Only through Prayer: When the disciples asked Jesus why they failed in their attempt to cast out the evil spirit, he answered bluntly that prayer was required. Seemingly the disciples were relying on their own knowledge and strength rather than prayer. Our Christian life requires prayer. It is the connection between Jesus the vine and us the branches, and it is essential to bearing fruit: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Whether we seek our own growth in virtue; a resolution to a situation with one of our children, a friend, or our spouse; help in making a decision; or the success of an apostolate in which we serve, God wants our prayer. The Catechism instructs, “Jesus teaches his disciples to pray with a purified heart, with lively and persevering faith, and with filial boldness. He calls them to vigilance and invites them to present their petitions to God in his name. Jesus Christ himself answers prayers addressed to him” (CCC 2621).
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I want to believe in you more deeply. I know that faith grows through personal prayer. Why, then, do I skimp on my prayer time—or skip it altogether? Lord, if I want you to be my best friend, my greatest love, I need to prioritize my time with you. I need to protect it as the most important time of my day. And in that time, I need to bring to you all of the realities of my life—my real struggles and joys, all that I am feeling, my questions and concerns, the decisions I am struggling to make. Help me remember that prayer is listening as well as speaking and open my ears to your words. Help me to recognize your voice above all others and say yes to whatever you ask.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will spend five minutes in extemporaneous personal prayer, asking you to increase my faith.
For Further Reflection: The Mystery and Power of Personal Prayer by Dr. Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.