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Father Muench Says...

Praying to the Lord from the heart

Sept. 8, 2021

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

A few weeks ago, I planned my Sunday homily around the Gospel reading from Mark 7, in which Jesus quotes Isaiah who speaks in prophecy as from God: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vail do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.”

Praying to the Lord from the heart. In my homily, I wanted the people to realize how important and necessary it is to pray to God from the heart. As an introduction to my homily, I decided to use as an example of what it is like to live or play from the heart. I had been watching the Little League Baseball World Series that day. So, I began the homily speaking of how impressed I was with the enthusiasm and spirit these 12 year olds displayed playing for their teams. In baseball parlance, this is called playing with heart.

Jesus asks that our hearts are not far from him in prayer and dedication as his disciples. Often, our prayers can be much too wordy. We know the words of so many prayers; we’ve learned them by heart since we were children. We know the words, but often we do not know what they should mean to us. We really don’t realize how our words should make us act. Praying from the heart – we mean to act as we pray – our actions bear witness to what our prayers are saying.

I am often asked how we know that we are truly praying from the heart. Let me say, first of all, that I believe that each of us should truly realize immediately just how meaningful are prayers are meant to be. Prayers should transform our lives. We have to ask ourselves, do my prayers truly transform my life? My prayers should establish for me a good relationship with the Lord, a relationship that will make me a different person, a person that is more alive to the Lord, a person truly living in love with my God.

I have stood with families in hospitals praying with them for a loved one, who is a patient. I am certain that they were all praying from the heart. I have counseled many who have been in crisis, and we have prayed together. I have no doubt that they were praying from the heart. I have officiated at many weddings and have prayed with each couple. I would like to believe that each couple prayed from the heart, praying about their future with hope and confidence.

So, what about you and me? As we go through life living out our various vocations – often rather ordinary vocations – praying and worshiping the Lord, can we honestly say that we are praying from the heart? I believe that it begins with our relationship with the Lord Jesus. You see, if the Lord is our friend, if Jesus is truly a part of our lives, if the presence of the Our Lord is a powerful part of our life, I am certain that our prayers will unite us in a most perfect way with the Lord from our hearts.

Why do we pray? As Catholics and followers of the Lord Jesus, in faith we have made a decision, a decision for Jesus. We have made a decision that we want Jesus to be part of all that we do. We want Jesus to be our friend. We want Jesus to be our Savior. To make this possible, our prayers must be more than lip service to the Lord. We must truly pray from the heart. In this morning’s Morning Prayer, the antiphon for the Canticle from Samuel says: “My heart leaps up with joy to the Lord, for he humbles only to exalt us.”

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