It is very interesting to know that prayer has been subjected to numerous scientific test and analysis in the recent past. This was actually triggered by debates centring on the efficacy of prayer in clinical recovery. Duke University researchers assessed 1,000 hospital patients from 1987 to 1989; patients who drew on religious practices, especially prayer, were found to cope far better than those who didn’t.
The power and efficacy of prayer cannot be denied. Any attending Christian can testify to the healing and revitalizing power of prayer at some needful points. Often in the midst of our fears and troubles, a good dose of prayer calms our nerves and raises our hopes. As a spiritual medication, no quantity of prayer can be considered as an overdose. No wonder our Lord asked us to pray always and never to lose heart (Luke 18:1). That means when we stop praying we start perishing.
A careful and committed attention to the readings of this Sunday, which is the last before the Pentecost Sunday, would clearly show that a lot of attention is being given to prayer. After the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, those who witnessed the divine flight into heaven came back with joy. And following the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ, they stayed back in Jerusalem and specifically at the Upper Room which had actually become a place of worship; if you like the first parish community.
Gathering at the Upper Room, they were not committed to idle talks, they were not leveraging on gossips, they were not planning evil, but they were tied together in deep prayer. Why were they praying? The answer to this can be found in the instruction given by our Lord Jesus: “Do not leave Jerusalem until you receive the Holy Spirit” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4). Hence, they were prayerfully waiting and not just waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This shows us that the Holy Spirit cannot actually come unless we pray Him in. The Holy Spirit can only come based on prayerful invitation.
The time within which the apostles and our Mother Mary waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit is the same duration we observe from the ascension to the Pentecost. Attentive to this we are being encouraged, like the apostles, to commit ourselves in prayers. Ordinarily there is always an unsettling tension that goes on within us when we look forward to anything. For some people, the period of waiting is consumed by worry or other forms of pessimism. For others it is a time of planning on what to do with what is being awaited. Others still do just nothing.
The best disposition to take while anticipating something or while being ready to undertake an on-coming event is simply to be attuned to prayers. This was the style and fashion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before his public ministry, he went into the wilderness to pray (Matt. 4:1-11). Before calling the twelves apostle he prayed; before his passion and death he prayed strongly at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46). Of course before most of his significant miracles our Lord retired to prayer (Matt. 14:22-32).
In the gospel reading today, we are presented with what is traditionally known as “the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ”. A careful reading of that passage shows our Lord’s deep seated concern about those he was leaving behind. From the prayer we are able to learn that eternal life consists in knowledge of God while glorifying God consists in doing His will. Beyond these, our Lord prayed for his followers and those of us who came to know him through them to be one; hence he prayed for unity: “Father may they all be one as we are one” (John 17:22). This prayer was not in any way accidental. It could actually be said to be highly needful given the fact that disunity has always being the bane of the human community starting with rift between Cain and Abel (Gen. 4). This ill-disposition still exists in families, communities, villages, towns, tribes, in nations and in the world; it is actually one of the lethal weapons of the devil. The devil breeds and supplants when we are not united.
The coming of the Holy Spirit is sure. Another truth is that not everyone will be able to receive Him. What this means is that the Holy Spirit can come only upon those who await him and who are also united in prayer; He does not come by mere accident! We are thus advised and prodded to prepare the ground for the out pouring of the Holy Spirit by our active tarrying in prayer and by dismantling the walls of disunity and building up the tower of unity. It is not in vain that it is said that “united we stand but divided we fall!” The coming of the Holy Spirit is thus a call for the inauguration of a formidable and prayerful team spirit. We need to remember this: “A PRAYER A DAY SECURES YOUR DAY!”
May we not be left out when the Holy Spirit the advocate comes to give us the impartation we need through His rare and wonderful gifts and fruits. Have a fulfilling novena to the Holy Spirit and may we continue to pray together as the out pouring cannot be a private affair.