PRAYER PLUS PATIENCE MULTIPLIED BY PERSISTENCE (P+P×P): HOMLY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR (C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

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Larry graduated from one of the academically vibrant universities in Nigeria with a first class degree in Industrial Chemistry. This feat made him a figure of both admiration and envy to his friends and associates. However three years after graduation Larry was still searching for a job and none came; not even a menial one. Life became unbearable and miserable for him and everyone around him got tired of his situation. There were suggestions from friends and relations to seek for solution from some witch-doctors and palm readers but he rather found solace in prayers and kept fasting and seeking after divine assistance.

After ten good years of unsuccessful attempts at getting a job and being a burden to his parents, Larry got a letter from one Oil Servicing Company in Port Harcourt Nigeria inviting him for an interview for a technical position in the company (with a fat salary). It was prayer answered! Larry was extremely happy and thankful to God. He left Lagos to Port Harcourt with a night bus to meet up with the interview the next day at 2.00pm. The bus had not left Lagos when the engine caught fire! The driver discovered this in time and ordered all the passengers to evacuate and all did. The bus company acted promptly by sending for another bus and the journey commenced again. Larry was relieved and happy that they could still travel and that he could still meet up with the interview appointment. As the bus made its way through the moonless chilly night Larry slept off but that was after having a great conversation with God in prayers.

A very hard and punitive slap on Larry’s face made him jump out of his skin. Looking around he saw that there was a kind of hostility in the bus. It was then that it dawned on him that they were being attacked by armed robbers. In fact there had been shootings and the men of the underworld overpowered the security escort with the bus and gained entrance into the bus and started robbery on the passengers and taking away valuable things they could get; even women were raped. It was Larry’s turn to face the daredevils but he was asleep; hence the historic slap on his face!

After the robbery, Larry and the other passengers were left in the middle of nowhere and without their valuables as their phones, money and other things were taken away from them. With them also was the corpse of a man who had a bit of struggle with the armed robbers before they shot him and left him to die on the pool of his own blood. Larry became restless and confused as he had no means of getting into Port Harcourt and it was already early in the morning. The bus company later sent one of their buses from Port Harcourt to assist the passengers who were still determined to go to Port Harcourt as some of them dismissed the idea of continuing with the ill-fated journey to Port Harcourt.

Larry arrived into the city about 11.00am after series of traffic jam on the way. He was sure he could still make it to the interview. Penniless, he turned into a beggar of some sort and got some patronage from few people who believed his story. He got to the venue of the interview after washing up by the roadside only to be told that text messages were sent telling the people who were invited for the job about the change of time and venue. With this information Larry was devastated. The message could have come to his phone which the armed robbers took and it was obvious that he lost the chance of attending the interview since it was rescheduled for 12.noon that day.

Angry, hungry, penniless and disappointed Larry left without having anywhere in mind. One thing came to his mind; suicide. He just kept wandering looking for a nearby bush where he could end it all. He saw what appeared to be a forest outside the city. He went in and continued moving until he was comfortable with an area. He climbed a tree and removed his shirt and singlet and used them to form a rope. He was about putting his neck when we heard a faint voice from under him. He looked around and saw a crippled young man lying down and facing up with a protruding stomach. It was then that he realized that the smell he perceived came from the man.

The crippled man asked Larry what he wanted to do and he told him his story. The man told Larry that himself with bad legs could not go to school, and had neither brothers nor sisters, no parents. He went further to say that when he became very sick his relations gave up on him and brought him to the forest to die. He also said that he had been there for more than a week without food and in pain. He told Larry that if he was educated and fit like him he would not kill himself because of not getting a job or missing one, that he would rather PRAY, BE PATIENT and CONTINUE TO TRY. After saying these things he breathed heavily and died. Larry came down from the tree, got something to open the ground and buried the man and left the forest.

He managed to get to Lagos with the words of encouragement from the deceased crippled man: PRAYER, PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE. When he recovered his phone line he got a message from the Oil Company telling him to come for his own interview that they were still searching for the BEST for that position. He went for the interview and you know what? HE GOT THE JOB with fat benefits.

Larry could have thought that he was alone in the experience of series of failures but he was not. Thomas Edison was told in school that he was too stupid to learn and as an inventor he tried about 1000 times before he invented a bulb that could light. Oprah Winfrey one of the most successful and influential women in the world was fired from her job as she was seen as “unfit for television” but she did not give up. Walt Disney the great cartoonist and movie maker was fired by a newspaper editor with the idea that “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas”; he later went bankrupt and even ate cheap dog food to survive. Albert Einstein the ever relevant physicist could not speak until he was four and he could not read until he was seven. His parents and teachers thought he was mentally handicapped and slow. Abraham Lincoln one of the past and most influential American Presidents went to war as an Army Captain and came back as a Private Soldier, he failed in many ventures including elections. In all these instances we discover that those who were involved never gave up; they remained in the game!

Today the first reading and the gospel seem to echo these words PRAYER, PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE. Prayer is a disposition as well as a form of life which actively connects us with God. Because God’s ways is different from our ways (Is. 55:8) we need to be connected to God in His own way not our own way. This means that we have to wait on God (Is.40:31) and we also have to be patient (Psalm 37:7) and persistent (Eph.6:18).

In the first reading (Gen.18:20-32) Abraham had a very special in encounter with God. In this encounter, he was allowed to prayerfully reason alongside God’s destructive plan against the sinful city of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham prayed to God to spare the city from destruction if per adventure fifty individuals were to be found to be righteous in the city. But that number could not be found. Abraham prayed again to God to spare the city on account of forty-five righteous people, but this number could not be found. Abraham did not stop there, he went further to ask God to spare the city on account of forty righteous people, but that number could not also be found. Abraham once again did not stop at that number. He went further to pray to God to spare the city on account of thirty individuals; this also could not be found. His persistence led him to ask if twenty or ten could be found but that was impossible.

If we take an active look into the encounter between Abraham and God we will discover that it was not just an ordinary dialogue. Abraham was actually praying with patience and persistence. Our Lord Jesus Christ would tell us in Luke (18:1-8) how important it is for us to pray with persistence using the parable of the persistent widow. By his prayer, patience and persistence Abraham showed how faithful he was to God. Through his fervent supplication God’s anger was justified and his Nephew lot and the family were saved (apart from the wife who looked back and became a pillar of salt).

In the gospel periscope (Luke 11:1-13) we are told that Jesus was PRAYING and after that one of his disciples approached him and requested “LORD TEACH US HOW TO PRAY AS JOHN TAUGHT HIS DISCIPLES”. And following this he taught them the “Our Father”. It is a handy fact that the Lord’s Prayer is s simple that a child can conveniently learn it and at the same time it is so deep in meaning that it is yet to be exhausted.

The disciple who made the request was not named and so he could represent any of us. He had seen Jesus praying at various times and places and he had also being praying but he discovered that something was special and attractive about the way and manner Jesus Christ prayed. There was also this attitude of comparing what was happening in the ministry of Jesus and that of John or elsewhere. We remember when someone asked why   the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast and his disciples do not fast (Mark 2:18).

The answer our Lord Jesus Christ gave with the Lord’s Prayer and the instructions that followed it forms the basis of Christian spirituality. The prayer is more than a model it is a practical template. Firstly we are shown the importance of prayer. The fact that our Lord Jesus Christ spent most of his private time in prayers is a big indication that prayer is fundamentally important in our lives. In fact the only way through which our humanity can rise above itself is through prayers. According to a recent research, Jesus prayed up to 2360 times. This is confirmed by the letter to the Hebrews (5:7) which tells us that when Jesus Christ was on earth he offered up prayer and entreaty with loud cries and with tears to him who is capable of saving him from death.

A closer look at the Lord’s Prayer gives us an indication that God appreciates selflessness and community in prayers. In fact the one who asked the question made it a community request when he said “TEACH US” not “TEACH ME”. God is a Trinity of Persons and that is the most efficient way of coming to him. We remember our Lord Jesus Christ saying that when two or more people are gathered in his name he is in their midst (Matt.18:19-20). For this reason still our Lord Jesus Christ began the formulation of the prayer by saying “OUR FATHER” not “MY FATHER”.

Going through the words of the Lord’s Prayer we discover that God wants us to appreciate and glorify his name for whatever situation in our lives; good or bad. He also wants us to allow his will to be done not our own will because he knows the best things for us. Larry in our story may have wanted his will to be done but God had a greater plan for him. Like the people of Israel he needed to pass through the wilderness before entering the Promised Land thereafter the wilderness will become a story. The will of God is what takes place in heaven but on earth we rather want our own will to be done. The prayer also encourages us to take each day as it comes because God will supply all our needs for each day (Phil.4:19). It is very unfortunate that in our day and age people are more anxious about tomorrow than today.

The last part of the prayer talks about forgiveness and temptation. The word “trespass”, in tort law and generally means going beyond one’s limit into another’s space. In the prayer God is asked to forgive our going beyond the limits He had given to us much as we are also called upon to forgive other who  wander into our spaces. God is asked not to lead us into temptation. This means giving us the grace in the face of temptations that may face us and finally to deliver us from all evil. That is from the evil one and his false promises.

One would have expected our Lord Jesus Christ to end with the formular for prayer, but he went further to indicate that there should be a lot of importunity in prayer; put in another way he encouraged us to be very persistent in our prayer. With some clear examples he made us to understand that God really entertain disturbances from us. Hence we should be unrelenting when knocking on God’s door. There is a natural tendency to give up when we have tried and tried without success. But the secret to success is to REMAIN IN THE GAME. There is no situation in our lives that God cannot handle if we remain connected with him in prayers. PERSISTENCE has a very close partner and that is PATIENCE.

There are still many Larrys out there who have given up because their answers are not coming as they wanted it. There are still many Larrys who are besieged by several “NOs”. Do not give up try again, keep praying with patience and persistence you will get the answer; remain in the GAME! Our Lord Jesus Christ was not joking or guessing when he said “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you. Remember he did not say ask, seek, knock only once or just twice. It should be an on-going attitude. We can now conclude with the mathematics

PRAYER + PATIENCE × PERSISTENCE = SUCCESS

           (P + P × P = s)

Have a wonderful Sunday and a blessed week ahead…..Fr.Bonnie.

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