Three Steps of Prayer

(August 16, 2020)

Bottom line: The beautiful Canaanite woman models prayer. It has three steps: trust, perseverance and humility.

Last week we heard about the privileged place of the Jewish people. As St. Paul says, "They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever."

Today he says that even though some Jews rejected Jesus, still "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

In today's Gospel we see Jesus' focus on the Jewish people. "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." However, because of the Caananite woman's plea, Jesus frees her daughter from a demon. This exorcism indicates that Jesus will take in Gentiles. As we heard last week, we non-Jews are like wild olive branches that Jesus grafts on to the Jewish tree.

How does Jesus do this? Like the Canaanite woman demonstrates, the key is prayer. She shows the three steps of prayer.

First, prayer begins with trust. The woman faces a desperate situation. She's tried everything to help her daughter. Finally, she tries Jesus. "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." She makes an act of trust.

So far so good, but sometimes we need more than a one-time petition. Prayer requires perseverance. That's the second step. Trust, then perseverance. That woman cries out so much that the disciples want to send her away. So don't give up. Formulate your prayer and keep at. I'm sinking into debt; Jesus help me. My grandchild has broken my heart. Please help him. Trust in Jesus and persevere in prayer.

Along with trust and persistence, prayer requires humility. That's the toughest step. Jesus says something that seems offensive, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." Many people would storm away, maybe respond with an insult of their own. She keeps her focus, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table..."

There's a huge lesson for us here. I wish Jesus would do things my way, on my timeline, never let me experience humiliation, but that's not the way he works. Jesus wants humility. Brothers and sisters, there is nothing more beautiful than humility.

Jesus hears the prayer of a humble heart. We need prayer more than ever. During this coronavirus crisis, some people have grown in prayer. Others not so much. If we as a church and as a parish are going to recover from our current devastation, we have to return to prayer.

The beautiful Canaanite woman models prayer. It has three steps: trust, perseverance and humility. Amen.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (for Twentieth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2017: Spiritual Warfare Week 8: Strategy of God & the Enemy
2014: Finding Your Place Week 2
2011: Deep vs. Superficial Faith
2008: Help Me, Lord
2005: Culture Shock
2002: God's Favoritism
1996: Woman, How great is your faith!

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

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