#DailyHomily: Prayer is Not a Matter of Command; It Requires Humility before God

Homily for January 11, 2018

“So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.” 1 Samuel 4:4.

Today’s readings juxtapose two examples of God’s intervention in human life. One in which God allowed the enemy to prevail over his children and the other in which God showed his power and might over nature by bringing healing to a leper.

The Israelite nation was in battle against the Philistines who were obviously gaining the upper arm, in one day alone, four thousand men were slain by the Philistines. Out of desperation, the Israelites ordered for the Ark of God to be brought into battle ground. Without any prior acts of begging, they COMMANDED God into battle ground.

Mind you, the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas who were directly responsible for the care of the ark did not show any respect at all for God. As we read in 1 Samuel 2:12 onwards: “The sons of Eli were scoundrels; they had no regard for the LORD or for the duties of the priests to the people…. Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD; for they treated the offerings of the LORD with contempt….”

In verse 22, we read: “Now Eli was very old. He heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people…. But they would not listen to the voice of their father…”

They did not listen to the voice of their father, yet when it was time to carry the Ark to battle ground, they did not think twice. When we treat God with contempt, when we behave as though he does not exist, isn’t it a contraction that we go back again to God and command him to act on our behalf? What even gives us ground for shouting at God when we pray?

My point of emphasis here is that it is the WILL of God that determines whether our prayers are answered or not. We are not in charge. No matter how holy we may be, we have NO RIGHTS whatsoever to give God commands at prayer. Even if we happen to raise our voice during prayer, let us remember that we are SIMPLY BEGGING.

Prayer demands a great deal of humility both in terms of physical prostration and humility of heart; the ability to acknowledge our emptiness and nothingness before God. As we see in today’s Gospel passage, a leper approached Jesus beseeching him and KNEELING said, “If you will, you can make me clean.” We are told that Jesus was even moved with pity for this man; indeed, we know the rest of the story.

Dear friends, despite God’s unalloyed love for us, there are times he allows us to suffer defeat, there are times he refuses to answer our prayers, it doesn’t mean he is weak, it simply means that that was his will, his own choice for us at that particular instance. Jesus taught us to pray in the Our Father, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Prayer is not a matter of command, let us have the attitude of the leper when we approach God for our needs and learn from Hophni and Phineas to give God his due in our manner of life.

Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, teach me that there is something called humility. May I be poor in spirit. Amen

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. (Thursday of the 1st Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 1 Samuel 4;1-11 and Mark 1:40-45).

Fr. Abu.


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