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A reflection for the seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Kate Oxsen reflects on the readings for July 24, 2022.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year C):

Genesis 18:20 – 32
Psalms 138:1 – 2, 2 – 3, 6 – 7, 7 – 8
Colossians 2:12 – 14
Luke 11:1-13

Reflection: Showing up for God in prayer

I have always been drawn to meditative forms of prayer. I prayed the Rosary every night when I was going through the RCIA program in my early twenties. And when I discovered the Angelus prayer, I began to pray it in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I continued to explore the forms of meditative prayer our tradition offers, but over time, I grew tired of these prayers. I lost that feeling of connectedness to God—that feeling of knowing that God is there and listening. I kept trying to do something to get that feeling back. Eventually, it seemed there was nothing I could do, so I stopped trying.

Even though I stopped trying to reach God, God did not stop trying to reach me. At times I would feel a sudden and strong urge to pray. But I either ignored it or put it off until I did not feel it anymore. This tug-of-war with the Holy Spirit continued for a few years until my friend recommended me to a spiritual director, who helped me understand that I did not grow tired of prayer because God was not meeting me anymore; I grew tired of it because it was time to engage with God in prayer in a different way. Instead of choosing to grow in my prayer life, I gave up on it because I could not control it anymore. Perhaps if I had remained persistent in prayer, I would have realized that all I needed to do was to show up consistently and let God guide me.

Today’s readings highlight the importance of persistent prayer. Although Abraham is depicted as having a direct conversation with God, the story can be thought of as a lesson on prayer. Abraham is hesitant to confront God repeatedly but chooses to do so anyway. He remains persistent in his desire to reach God and ends up successful in his mission. In the Gospel, Jesus gives the disciples a set prayer for when they are at a loss for words. He then follows with a parable demonstrating the importance of perseverance in prayer. In this parable, Jesus does not delineate any special action or words that need to be recited when praying. What he highlights is the man’s persistence, even when his friend was stubborn.

We may not always feel “in the mood” to pray. The desire to pray will come and go, as will our awareness of God’s presence with us. But God is consistently at our sides whether we feel it or not. And remaining persistent in our prayer lives helps us to remember God’s presence in our lives and keeps us open to seeing it. There are many ways to pray, but there is nothing special we really need to do to pray. Praying is about listening and giving up control to God. God is always waiting for us to come to him. All we need to do is show up—and show up consistently.

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About the author

Kate Oxsen

Kate Oxsen is an assistant professor of Old Testament studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

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