Jesus' Prayer is a Model for our Prayer

Homily for Wednesday Week 15 of Year 2

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We are privileged to listen in on Jesus praying to his Father in today’s Gospel (Matt 11:25-27). It is in a section of the Gospel where there is much rejection of Jesus. After the public warning to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum that we heard yesterday (Matt 11:20-24), Jesus withdraws to pray to his Father and we are able to listen to his prayer. It is not the only time we are privileged to listen in on Jesus praying to his Father. We can listen in on Jesus praying to his Father before Jesus raises Lazarus as commences his prayer, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.” (John 11:41) The entirety of John 17 is Jesus praying to his Father in what we often call his high priestly prayer. We hear Jesus praying to his Father during his agony in Gethsemane at first asking the Father to spare him from the cup of suffering but then accepting it and finally we hear Jesus praying to his Father when he is on the cross.

In today’s Gospel (Matt 11:25-27), the rejection Jesus is experiencing seems to be the catalyst to bring Jesus to pray to his Father. Jesus brings his rejection in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum to his Father in prayer. His first words in prayer are, “I give praise to you Father.” (Matt 11:25) We might have expected otherwise. It is a reminder to us when we experience what looks like apparent failure in ministry not to give way to any doubts or any other kind of negativity. We are to give glory to God and we can and should praise God whatever response our ministry receives. Jesus was never overcome by rejection of his ministry. We can see him disappointed certainly sometimes, but he is always confident as we see in today’s prayer, “I give praise to you Father.” Jesus’ prayer is a model for our prayer.

When Jesus prays, we see that he brings his ministry into his prayer. “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Matt 11:25) There was no disconnect between what happens outside of Jesus’ prayer and what happens during Jesus’ prayer. We see the same elsewhere in the Scriptures. The prophets were constantly challenging their listeners that they had to live according to the covenant; otherwise no matter how many animals they sacrificed, those sacrifices would be useless. We see the Psalms very much in touch with daily life. And now just after Jesus’ rejection in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matt 11:20-24 yesterday’s Gospel), he praises his Father for revealing “these things” to the childlike and hiding them from the wise and learned. Again we see in Jesus’ prayer a model for our prayer in that good prayer is always connected with our daily lives and ministry just as we bring the intentions of others into every celebration of Mass.

We can presume that “these things” revealed to the childlike are the significance of Jesus’ miracles. The childlike understand the significance of Jesus’ miracles but the wise and clever don’t understand. The wise and clever include the scribes and Pharisees. Something happened to them that closed their minds to receive Jesus. Yet it is the Father who hid his revelation from the wise and learned and revealed it to the childlike. Could we not perhaps see this as the Father co-operating with their decisions, in that the wise and clever had closed their minds to Jesus and so the Father honored their decision by not revealing Jesus to them, while the childlike had opened their minds to Jesus and so the Father honored their open minds by revealing Jesus to them? All down through the centuries we have many beautiful examples of what the Father can do when the childlike open their minds to Jesus. We could think of the Curé of Ars, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernadette of Lourdes, St. Therese of Lisieux and so many others too numerous to mention. Thinking of these and so many other childlike and what God was able to accomplish through them, encourages us to continue to be docile to the will of God in our lives and continue to open our minds to God. Look at what just one childlike soul open to God, such as the Curé of Ars, can do.

It requires an enormous act of childlike trust to accept that God can sometimes tap those who do not seem childlike on occasion to accomplish his will. An example of this is Assyria in the first reading (Year 2: Isa 10:5-7, 13b-16). Assyria, became the means by which God punished the northern kingdom of Israel. As we heard in that reading, Assyria was the rod of God’s anger. It can be difficult for us to grasp how God can sometimes simply allow human forces to continue on their way but in some mysterious way, those human forces unknown to themselves, are instruments of God’s will. But then Assyria itself became proud because it thought it carried out its conquering campaigns by its own strength and even boasted that its campaign was as easy as simply plucking birds’ eggs out of a nest!

By my own power I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I am shrewd.
I have moved the boundaries of peoples, (Isa 10:13)

Therefore the Lord promises that Assyria itself will also learn to be humble which of course happened when they later became part of the Babylonian kingdom. So when Assyria became the complete opposite of childlike, that was the end of its kingdom.

The childlike receive the revelation of the Father and in prayer Jesus praises his Father for that. Jesus’ prayer teaches us how to pray. As Jesus prays, he brings his ministry into his prayer so there is no disconnect between his ministry and his prayer. Even when Jesus experienced rejection, his response in prayer was, “I give praise to you Father.” It is good for us also at all times to be able to say, “I give praise to you Father.” (Matt 11:25)

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2018

This homily was delivered during the St. Paul Center Priest Conference in West Virginia