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Homily for 1/27/08 - P35 - Lord have mercy

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 15:21-28 Hopefully we pray all the time. We all try to keep a daily prayer rule; we all try to remember the presence of God with us throughout the day; we
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 27, 2008
      Matt 15:21-28

      Hopefully we pray all the time. We all try to keep a daily prayer rule;
      we all try to remember the presence of God with us throughout the day;
      we all try to remember to ask for God’s help in everything that we do.
      We all try to give thanks to God for His gifts to us. In times of
      difficulty or danger or personal struggle, we seem to be more willing to
      reach out to God in prayer, asking Him to get us out of or through
      particularly rough patch. When the circumstances of our life emphasize
      for us our own limitations and powerlessness, then it is only natural to
      reach out to One who is greater and more powerful than we ourselves.
      Prayer is a natural desire that lives within us all.

      However, even though prayer is a natural inclination, we do not
      naturally know how to pray effectively. In the same manner, hunger is a
      natural desire that we have, however, we must learn to eat the things
      that are nutritious and good for us which can effectively satisfy that
      desire. So also we must learn to pray in an effective manner which is
      beneficial for our well being and salvation. The account of this woman
      who approached our Lord in the Gospel we heard today, gives us a number
      of wonderful lessons about prayer. From this account we can learn much
      about prayer.

      First there is the wording of prayer itself. Often it is difficult to
      find just the right words for prayer. Our holy mother Church teaches us
      to pray by giving us numerous examples and standard prayers that we
      learn to adopt as our own. The simplest of these prayers is the one that
      the woman in the Gospel said: “Have mercy on me” This is the most basic
      and effective of prayers – to ask for mercy from God. When we ask for
      mercy, we put ourselves and our lives totally in the hands of God
      trusting Him to work things out according to His love for us. This is
      the best prayer that there is. Look closer at the woman’s prayer; she
      described her situation – her daughter was “grievously vexed by a devil”
      and she herself was without hope. Then she did not ask Him to deliver or
      heal her daughter, nor did she ask for any specific outcome for herself
      – she simply put the whole matter in Jesus hands, simply saying, “Lord
      have mercy.” This is a wonderful example for us to learn how to pray. We
      describe to God our situation; we pour out our heart to Him – our pain,
      our sorrows, our hopes, our joys, our dreams – and then when we have
      laid everything out, we put it all in his hands and say simply, “Lord
      have mercy”. Is this not the way we pray in Church, in the litanies
      where we bring to mind all our requests, praying for peace for the world
      and for good weather, for health, for those who are sick and imprisoned
      and traveling and in need – and then we all put these things into Gods
      hands, saying together, “Lord have mercy”

      When we put our lives in God’s hands and say simply, “Lord have mercy”
      then He hears and answers our prayers not according to our limited ideas
      of what “should” be – but rather according to His infinite wisdom and
      love for us. He sees our desires, our sorrows, our joys, our needs, our
      trials and our hopes and then gives us what is necessary within that
      context so that we might most effectively acquire His grace and be
      transformed into His image and likeness. He gives us every good thing
      that is beneficial to our salvation.

      Returning now to the woman in the Gospel, as we read on, we note a
      second lesson in prayer. Her own petition was joined by the entreaty of
      the disciples. Blessed Theophylact in his commentary on the Gospels,
      tells us that the comments of the disciples to our Lord “Send her away”
      were not meant as a rebuke but rather were designed to move Him to pity
      and answer her prayer. When we pray, we do not pray alone but our
      prayers are joined by the prayers of the whole Church. We should be
      praying for one another as a matter of course for in this way we act out
      our love for our neighbor as for ourselves. And knowing that we pray one
      for another, we should all be bold to ask our brothers and sisters in
      Christ to pray for us. Not only that, but we should also turn to our
      friends and elder brethren, the saints, and ask for their prayers as
      well. The scripture tells us that “the prayer of a righteous man
      availeth much” and God Himself has revealed the saints to us as
      “righteous men”. It is natural and expected that we should ask them to
      join their prayers to ours. Every prayer we say is not a “solo” but
      rather ascends to God as beautiful chorus of prayers all in harmony
      designed to move Him to have mercy on us.

      The third thing we see from the Gospel is the persistence of the woman
      who prayed. She was not daunted by the seeming indifference of Christ,
      nor was she turned away by the rebuke that He was sent first to the
      house of Israel – but she persisted in her prayer, humbling herself to
      become no more than the dog who takes not the finest food, but only the
      crumbs from the master’s table. To persist in prayer can be a humbling
      experience, for we approach our Lord over and over again with the same
      difficulty. This is not evidence of His lack of provision or His
      indifference to us, rather it is the evidence of our own sinfulness that
      we cannot see or sense the abundance of His grace that is poured out
      upon us and so we come back asking for more, until the grace of God is
      so great that even in our blindness, we too can sense its presence and
      begin to see the compassionate and loving provision of God for us. God
      is our patient and ever loving Father. He lovingly hears our prayers
      over and over again and His hand is never empty of mercy for us. He
      gladly listens to us as we describe again and again the difficulties of
      our situation and as we confess our own weakness and inadequacy. He does
      not turn away from us, nor does He become angry at us, but rather this
      perseverance in prayer moves Him to ever greater compassion, ever
      greater love for us and ever greater mercy. He gently guides the eyes of
      our heart so that eventually, as we persist in prayer we begin to see
      our situation with His eyes and understand as He does and then we see
      the abundance of grace that He gives and the answer to our prayer is
      obvious to us.

      We have before us a lesson in prayer. The simple, most basic prayer,
      “Lord have mercy” is a model and foundation for all our other prayers.
      If we only had this one prayer, “Lord have mercy” it would be sufficient
      – and even more than sufficient it would be abundant for us. It is no
      coincidence that the archetypal prayer – the Jesus prayer – has as an
      integral part of it the petition, “Lord … have mercy …”. This is the
      core of all our prayers.

      And it is also good to recall that we do not pray alone. We pray for one
      another, we intercede for one another, we lift up our brothers and
      sisters to the throne of God in prayer. Not only this, but the saints
      also pray for us and join their prayers to ours so that our Lord hears
      not just a single voice – but a whole chorus of prayers moving Him to
      have compassion and mercy upon us.

      Finally, be persistent in your prayer. The holy Apostle Paul reminds us
      that we should “pray without ceasing” and that we should always lift up
      our hearts in prayer. Cry out to God constantly saying “Lord have mercy
      on me” so that as you call out to God, He also reaches out to you and
      you begin to see and understand not with your limited reason and
      perception, but you see and understand with the eyes of God.

      This is how we are instructed to pray: simply, together and
      persistently. In this way we learn to fulfill that natural inclination
      to prayer in such a way that it is effective, helpful and beneficial to
      our salvation.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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