I use the parable of the Good Samaritan to discuss how often God calls us to prayer.
This past Sunday’s Gospel was the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s a story that I’m sure many of us have heard dozens of times about a man who was beaten and robbed. A priest and a Levite avoided the man while a Samaritan helped him and took care of him (Jews and Samaritans did not get along). And we probably all know the teachings behind that parable. We have heard about how God calls us to help one another. We know that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ from our best friend to our worst enemies. We reflect on how we often make excuses for not helping one another such as we’re too busy or it’s too much of an inconvenience. But sitting in my pew last Sunday listening to the homily made me think about another angle of this parable. I asked myself, “how often does God want us to pray?”
At first glance the parable of the Good Samaritan does not seem to be about prayer. But I started to reflect on what exactly is the purpose of prayer. The basic definition of prayer is the act of communicating with God. So how often should we communicate with God through prayer? The Third Commandment says to keep holy the Sabbath which occurs once a week. As Christians, we reserve Sunday as our holy day of prayer. But instead of a day, many of us only give an hour by going to Mass and “getting it out of the way.” I defer to Homer Simpson as an example of how many of us think of Sunday Mass:
So what is a realistic amount of time to pray? A day, an hour, what? I arrived at the answer listening to the story of the Good Samaritan. We are called to prayer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In other words, God calls us to perpetually be in a state of prayer. Think about that basic definition of prayer which is communication with God. By living a life of prayer we live in constant communication with God. He guides us through life’s obstacles, gives us strength for the rough times, and offers us many blessings. Another way to put this is that living in prayer leads to living in God’s grace. But to receive these gifts of guidance, strength, and faith we have to always present our joys, worries, and concerns to God and listen to what He says to us. Through this communication we prepare ourselves for whatever challenges come our way.
The Good Samaritan was living in prayer when he helped the robbed and beaten man. Like Mary in the Annunciation or Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Samaritan said through his actions, “thy will be done Lord.” That is much more than what the priest or the Levite did in that parable when they were too busy to help the poor man. They represent our tendency to think of prayer as something we separate from our normal lives. For the priest and the Levite, the man on the side of the road needed help outside of the time they reserved for prayer. Basically, the poor man needed help when the priest and Levite weren’t in a prayerful mood. But could you imagine trying to explain to God a good reason not to be in a prayerful mood? When we are like the Samaritan who integrated prayer into his life, not separated it, we are always ready and willing to do God’s will. We don’t see helping others as an inconvenience, but as an opportunity to further our relationship with God and live in a deeper form of grace.
So let us not be like the priest or Levite in the parable or Homer Simpson in the video clip. We are not called to partition our lives into two categories — one where we live in prayer and acknowledge God’s will and one where we do not. There isn’t a time limit to prayer or an expiration date for acting holy. Of course there are different forms of prayer. Prayer means silent meditation, reading the Bible, reciting the rosary, or acting with good will. For some it might mean religious life as a priest or nun while others it means marriage. Regardless of who you are and what you do, God calls us to a life of prayer because He greatly desires a dialog with each one of us. Now ask yourself, do your actions reflect a desire to live in God’s graces?
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