The biblical passage: J 16, 23b-28, 33
Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Today’s Sunday treats with special emphasis of that delicate sphere in our spiritual life that is constituted by prayer, man’s dialogue with God. Let us note the words of Jesus, very encouraging and at the same time touching the very essence of prayer: “if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.” Let us consider what we expect from God. Naturally prayers we direct at Him reveal this. Most often we address Him with needs – our needs or needs of people who are close to us – and we expect Him to satisfy them. Is this right? Jesus in the Gospels does not only encourage us to address God with our needs, He also assures us: “Ask, and it will be given you; […] For every one who asks receives […]” (Mt 7, 7ff).
Why should prayer be so important? First of all, prayer reminds us clearly that we are not self-sufficient. Naturally, one may easily find people who take it as a point of honour not to ask anybody – either people or God – for anything. They want to achieve everything on their own, they limit themselves to what they can gain on their own. If we consider our insignificance or powerlessness in the face of various unfavourable circumstances, it becomes quite obvious that in spite of all our great wishes and sublime thoughts about man, we are not self-sufficient in our life. Likewise, our personal autonomy and civil freedom are not absolute. In terms of religion, prayer is important, which means we need it! Prayer makes sense because with its help man facing various perplexities of life is not condemned to spiritual isolation. In prayer we open ourselves to the Creator, who can understand everything that hurts us, everything that we need.
Hence, to pray means to stand disinterestedly in front of God the Father: „Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name” (Mt 6, 9). Prayer embraces all of our existence and conceives of it as dependent on the Creator. Everything that happens in our life, happens in front of God (irrespective of whether we want it or not, whether we accept it or not). There is no man who would be entirely closed within himself. Being a man of faith means living with God, with reference to God, without any props or allowances. In prayer we may also intercede on behalf of those we love, those who have been entrusted to our care (for whom we are responsible because we teach them or look after them). God knows them well, He is always able to protect and bless them. This in turn may fill us in our prayer with peace and trust.
Requests with which we address God may provide us also with an opportunity to become aware of aims we want to pursue. He not only expects us at the end of our earthly life, but wants us to become already in this life an image of Himself. He expects from us requests which will dare more than is conceivable within our limited possibilities. Jesus indicates a model of this attitude, when He says: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (J 15, 7).
Yet most important in our prayer is being with Jesus Christ, in Whom everything has its beginning. Next, in communion with Him, we are to dare express our expectations. The more we open onto Him, the more closely our requests will correspond with His will, in accordance with which they will be fulfilled. Let us bear in mind that God, about whom we attempt to speak, is God, who in Jesus Christ has come to know humanity, has experienced it in full. Meeting in prayer with Jesus, we actually meet with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
In conclusion, let us say explicitly that in prayer we come to know that God is not a pious thought or a holy mood – distant and evanescent. He is God alive, more real than things which surround us. Prayer provides us with possibly the only opportunity to realize that neither our thoughts, our emotions, our hearts, not even our memory can be the exclusive fundament of our relationship with God. This relationship is made possible only by Jesus Christ. He, then, is the fundament of our faith. It is His exclusive gift for us. We can even therefore say that it is Christ who believes in us. If that is so, then doubtless our life of faith and prayer is given out of God’s grace. It is, then, an undeserved gift which we should well look after, pray for it and remain endlessly grateful for it. Amen.
Rev. Dr Dariusz Chwastek, translated by Dr Joanna Teske