As Catholics, we hear a lot about prayer. When someone is going through a difficult period in their lives, we might say something like, “I'll pray for you”. Every week, we gather to pray the ultimate prayer, Holy Mass. Sometimes we even have a prayer before and after our meals. While we might talk about prayer, there many who may not understand exactly what prayer is and why it's so important.
To give the simplest definition, prayer is opening our hearts to God and asking for good things from Him. When we pray, we express our desire to be in union with Him, and to do His will. Likewise,through prayer we approach Him with humility and ask what we need in our daily lives. In short, prayer is joining ourselves completely with the Triune God and His will.
Sadly, there are many Catholics who might talk about praying, but rarely, if ever, enter into prayer. Often, this may be caused by not knowing how to pray, or what to say or do when praying. Others may not realize how important prayer is to living a Christian life. For many, prayer only comes easily when facing a difficulty in their lives.
For those who don't know how to pray, it's important to realize that prayer does not need to be difficult or complex. In fact, Bartimaeus in today's Gospel passage is held up as an example of how to pray. He didn't enter into a grand discourse, using lots of words and actions, praising Jesus and asking for healing. Instead, he simply called out repeatedly, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”
This prayer of Bartimaeus is considered one of the simplest and most powerful prayers that we have. The Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” is one that can be said repeatedly throughout the day. Another, even simpler variation is to simply pray the name of Jesus repeatedly under your breath as you go about performing the tasks of your daily life.
This is an important aspect of any prayer. Prayer is not something that we do once in a while when we feel we need to pray, or only once a day. Because prayer is a desire for union with God, all Christians must be entering into prayer on a continual basis, not just priests and religious. We must constantly be finding opportunities for prayer. This is why the Jesus prayer is so powerful. It takes little time and very little concentration to silently repeat the name of Jesus. Even the longer form, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” takes just a few seconds to say on a regular basis. Of course, there are many other prayers that can be used as well, such as repeating “Jesus, I trust in you” from the Divine Mercy image. Longer prayers, like the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet, are also very beneficial.
Bartimaeus shows us the necessity for persisting in prayer. He didn't shout once, and give up. He kept repeating his request even while the crowd was telling him to be silent. He kept pleading for Jesus to grant his request even when he probably thought Our Lord might go by without stopping. Bartimaeus was persistent in his prayer, and Jesus granted his petition.
We too must persist in our prayer. This can be difficult, as the crowds around us might consider a prayerful life as foolish. Persistence in prayer can wane when we allow ourselves to become discouraged during those times that our prayers might not seem to be heard, much less receive an answer from God. Ironically, the most difficult time for perseverance in prayer is when our lives are going well and we can spend our time praising God for the good things we have, yet it is just as important to persist in praying during those times of our lives. Prayer is something that should be a joy during our good times, and a support during our lows.
May we be able to pray together the words of Bartimaeus, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”