Reflection & Dialogue: Recall to Prayer in a Secular Age
Today’s Gospel reading presents an occasion to reflect on the place of prayer in our own age, mainly in secular surroundings. Changed practice has not come about merely from secular conviction. It has partly been from a changed religiously neutral mindset. In the not too recent past vocal prayer was very much part of the daily routine. There was prayer both in Irish and English for most new encounters: God bless the work, on meeting people at work; God bless all here, on entering a house. These died out rather easily, but grace before and after meals continued in many quarters. Greater knowledge of weather forecasts and climate movements brought an end to prayer for fine weather, or even rain. Prayer for success in an interview with a job prospect seemed natural enough, but even here occasionally eminent Catholics would object, since it implied asking God to favour against other applicants! But this is to forget that it is the all-seeing good God who sees sides who answers prayers.
The secular viewpoint very naturally militates against prayer even for believers, who must take stock of the situation. Both the practice of Jesus and his frequent prayer together with his explicit teaching on the subject call for a renewal of prayer life, especially for a fuller understanding of the mystery of Christ and the Church, for the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us, and protect us in temptation. Recall to prayer needs to take account of changed situations, the difficulties of family prayer, finding ways in which believers who no longer frequent the sacraments can keep in contact with God and Christ. Reflection is called for on so many issues. But for all Christ’s call for prayer in any occasion remains valid, constant, persevering prayer. See also Reflection for 12th Sunday this year.