Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time of Year C

Posté par diaconos le 20 juillet 2022

Prayer: Insights from an LDS Mormon Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. -  YouTube

The efficacy of prayer has been studied since at least 1872, generally through experiments to determine whether prayer or intercessory prayer has a measurable effect on the health of the person for whom prayer is offered. Empirical research indicates that prayer and intercessory prayer have no discernible effects. While some religious groups argue that the power of prayer is obvious, others question whether it is possible to measure its effect Dr. Fred Rosner, an authority on Jewish medical ethics, has expressed doubt that prayer could ever be subject to empirical analysis.

Basic philosophical questions bear upon the question of the efficacy of prayer – for example, whether statistical inference and falsifiability are sufficient to « prove » or to « disprove » anything, and whether the topic is even within the realm of science. According to The Washington Post, « …prayer is the most common complement to mainstream medicine, far outpacing acupuncture, herbs, vitamins and other alternative remedies. » In comparison to other fields that have been scientifically studied, carefully monitored studies of prayer are relatively few. The field remains tiny, with about $5 million spent worldwide on such research each year.

Studies can verify that those who pray are affected by the experience, including certain physiological outcomes. An example of a study on meditative prayer was the Bernardi study in the British Medical Journal in 2001. It reported that by praying the rosary or reciting yoga mantras at specific rates, baroreflex sensitivity increased significantly in cardiovascular patients.[ A study published in 2008 used Eysenck’s dimensional model of personality based on neuroticism and psychoticism to assess the mental health of high school students based on their self-reported frequency of prayer. For students both in Catholic and Protestant schools, higher levels of prayer were associated with better mental health as measured by lower psychoticism scores. However, among pupils attending Catholic schools, higher levels of prayer were also associated with higher neuroticism scores.

Lourdes: hoping for a miracle : It has also been suggested that if a person knows that he or she is being prayed for it can be uplifting and increase morale, thus aiding recovery. (See Subject-expectancy effect.) Studies have suggested that prayer can reduce psychological stress, regardless of the god or gods a person prays to, a result that is consistent with a variety of hypotheses as to what may cause such an effect. According to a study by CentraState Healthcare System, « the psychological benefits of prayer may help reduce stress and anxiety, promote a more positive outlook, and strengthen the will to live. »[ Other practices such as Yoga, T’ai chi, and meditation may also have a positive impact on physical and psychological health.

Jesus taught the efficacy of prayer

# Christian prayer is a biblical exchange with God. According to the New Testament, the believer can speak to God as to a father, « in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ ». Christian prayer can be done alone, in a group, in any place and at any time. It takes different forms in different churches. The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer common to all Christians, taken directly from the Gospels (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4) and taught by Jesus to his first disciples. Prayer based on the promises of the Bible is a fundamental act of the Christian faith, experienced as an action of grace and communion with God, a communion of spirits between God and His1.

It is God the Father whom the believer prays « in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ ». In the Bible, Jesus sometimes combined prayer with meditation, Bible readings, fasting and vigils. It is done individually or in common, anywhere and in church, sitting, standing, lying down or kneeling. In the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, prayer is addressed to God the Father, to Jesus Christ his Son, and to the Holy Spirit, and prayers addressed to the Saints and to the Virgin Mary5 are called prayers of intercession.

The community of saints or the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, is asked to pray to the Holy Trinity for those who ask for her intercession. Catholics and Orthodox do not pray to God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit in the same way as the saints or the Virgin Mary. They pray to the Father, Jesus or the Holy Spirit as God, and to the saints or the Blessed Virgin as a person who, being close to God, can intercede.

This distinction is not always visible or understandable at first sight. Prayer to the communion of saints is a specificity of the Catholic and Orthodox Christian faith. The use of objects of worship (crucifixes, icons, rosaries, statues, etc.) is common but not obligatory. Cultures and social contexts also have a great influence on ways of praying. They are based on specific liturgies and according to particular rites (sign of the cross with the hands, genuflection, prostration…).

In Protestantism, prayer is addressed only to God, in the name of Jesus. In the Anglican Communion and some Methodist churches, the Book of Common Prayer is used as a guide to prayer. In Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches, monks can dedicate their lives exclusively to prayer. In evangelical Christianity, miracles and faith healings are possible through faith and prayer, through the Holy Spirit18. Biblicism ensures that the miracles described in the Bible are still relevant and can be present in the believer’s life.

From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Luke

It happened that Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of his disciples asked him : « Lord, teach us to pray, as John the Baptist also taught his disciples. »  He answered them : « When you pray, say: ‘Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us the bread we need every day. Forgive us our sins, that we ourselves may forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation. « Jesus said to them : « , ‘Imagine that one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night and asks : ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has come home from a journey and I have nothing to offer him.

And if, from within.  » The other replies : ‘Do not disturb me ! «  The door is already closed; my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything. Well, I tell you that even if he does not get up to give out of friendship, he will get up because of his friend’s cheekiness and give him whatever he needs. I say unto you : ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For he who asks receives  ; he who seeks finds ; to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, when his son asks for a fish, gives him a snake instead of a fish ?

Or when he asks for an egg, does he give him a scorpion? If therefore you, who are evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will the Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him ! (Lk 11,1-13).

Jesus taught the efficacy of prayer

Luke gave the Lord’s prayer a completely different setting from that of Matthew. According to Matthew, it is part of the Sermon on the Mount, while according to Luke it was taught later at the explicit request of a disciple. Many excellent exegetes (Calvin, Ebrard, de Wette, Olshausen, Neander, Godet) have concluded that Matthew, according to his habit of grouping together some homogeneous teachings of Jesus, introduced this prayer into the Sermon on the Mount. In these instructions on the various manifestations of piety, almsgiving, prayer, fasting, after condemning hypocritical prayers, made with ostentation and vain repetition, Jesus adds.

And in the midst of the crowd that surrounded him, with his eyes raised to heaven, he uttered in a penetrating tone this prayer, so profound in its simplicity, so rich in its brevity : « You, my disciples, pray this way: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name« .

Tholuck, Meyer, Stier, Gess and others saw a confirmation of their opinion in the fact that only Matthew preserved this model of prayer in its entirety. Jesus taught the efficacy of prayer, both by analogy and by contrast, as in the parable. This parable contains both a promise and an exhortation. The promise could be translated as follows : « If a man, out of pure selfishness and in order to free himself from a lawyer, grants his request, even at the most inopportune hour (midnight), how much more God, who knows all your needs and is love! « 

As for the exhortation, it was the lawyer himself who clarified it with his example: « Since, in the most unfavourable circumstances, but pressed by your needs, you do not fear to importune with insistence a man whom you know to be so ungenerous, why do you not do the same towards God, who, in his infinite mercy, is always ready to grant you more than any prayer of yours ? « . Ask, seek, knock, this is what the man in the parable did; it will be given to you, you will find, it will be opened to you, this was his experience; how much more certainly will it be yours with God !

God answers prayers. Of the gifts that the child asked his father for, Matthew pointed only to a loaf of bread and a fish: these were the provisions usually brought for the journey. Opposed to these three foods was a stone, cruel irony; a snake, very dangerous; a scorpion, even more harmful. Who is the father who will respond to his son’s request with such gifts? The question becomes even more surprising when, instead of any father, Jesus names the heavenly Father. What a contrast to the goodness and love of the Father in heaven !

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊  Notre Dame -Newman :  click here to read the post →  Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – C 

◊ Father Hanly    click here to read the post →  17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

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