top of page


Dear St. Martin’s Parishioners,

Prayer is often about repetition. By this I don’t primarily mean the repetition of formal prayers, such as the 50 Hail Mary’s that make up the rosary, although this is certainly an aspect of prayer. (In the East, some faithful pray The Jesus Prayer hundreds, if not thousands of times a day: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.”) Rather I am referring to the repetition of expressing the same desire to God over time. We see this exemplified in this Sunday’s gospel. A Canaanite, non Jewish woman, approaches Jesus with an urgent, heartfelt desire: that he cure her daughter, who is tormented by a demon. At first she begs him, and he gives her no response. How often we have felt like God is not listening to us in prayer! Jesus is certainly listening, but he wishes to draw out her faith more. She could even be tempted to discouragement and to cease her pleading. The apostles want Jesus to send her away. She’s a nuisance to them! She is undeterred, and she continually begs Jesus to intervene. Next, Jesus seems to reject her plea. Because she isn’t Jewish, Jesus tells her in pretty denigrating terms that he has been sent to the Jewish people first, not the Gentiles. Jesus’ strategy is not to discourage her, but to elicit a perfect and humble act of faith: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus is blown away by her humility and perseverance, and he responds, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Prayer that is persevering, humble and bold is that which is most pleasing to the Lord. St. Augustine has a beautiful reflection on this dynamic in our prayer lives:

Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it), but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers. The deeper our faith, the stronger our hope, the greater our desire, the larger will be our capacity to receive that gift, which is very great indeed. No eye has seen it; it has no color. No ear has heard it; it has no sound. It has not entered man’s heart; man’s heart must enter into it [I Cor. 2:9].

In this faith, hope and love we pray always with unwearied desire. However, at set times and seasons we also pray to God in words, so that by these signs we may instruct ourselves and mark the progress we have made in our desire, and spur ourselves on to deepen it. The more fervent the desire, the more worthy will be its fruit. When the Apostle tells us: Pray without ceasing [I Thes. 5:16], he means this: Desire unceasingly that life of happiness which is nothing if not eternal, and ask it of him who alone is able to give it.

In Christ,

Fr. Dave

133 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page