Prayer: A Key Component of Stewardship

01-13-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Robert Aliunzi

Dear Friends,

Prayer is essentially our communication with God. The more we communicate with God, the deeper our relationship grows as it does in ordinary relationships and the more, we are blessed. This communication in the case of fostering our relationship with God, can take various forms. The most common and basic forms include prayers of praise, of petition, of gratitude, and of intercession. Whichever form it takes however, it is all meant to foster a deeper relationship between us and God.

Of these, prayer of petition is perhaps the most familiar and common form of prayer we are accustomed to. We are often encouraged to ask God for the things we need, but asking and praying for them are not necessarily the same thing. In our prayer of petitions, we normally ask God, who we know loves us very much, for something that we believe is good, for ourselves or for others. Through this form of prayer, we present to God the needs of others as well as our own needs, aware that He will always hear and answer those prayers. Unfortunately, in this form of prayer, we often expect God to answer our prayers instantly and in the way we want. However, that is not how God operates. God may answer our prayers in a different way and in a different time-frame than we are seeking but what is sure is that He will always give us what we need and not necessarily what we want. All that is required of us is to have faith in Him and in His timing and never get discouraged even if He may seem to delay or even if others may try to discourage and ridicule us.

This reminds me of the story of an atheist which brings this reality to light. The story goes that an atheist, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a cruise heard an announcement from the captain of the ship that a Mass was to be celebrated in a few moments. He saw many passengers heading that direction and so he decided also to come and just hear what the priest would say since he had nothing better to do. He never believed in God and always regarded prayer as a superstitious waste of time. Christians engage in as they babbled to a non-existent being. We are told that the atheist put two oranges in his pocket while on his way to the service. On the way he passed by an elderly woman sitting in her deck chair fast asleep. Her hands were open. In the spirit of fun, he put the two oranges in her outstretched palms. After the service, he saw the old lady happily eating one of the oranges. “You seem to be enjoying that orange,” he said with a smile. “Yes, sir,” she replied, “My Father is very good to me.” “Your father surely can’t be still alive?!” “Praise God,” she replied, “He is very much alive.” “What do you mean?” pressed the atheist. She explained, “I’ll tell you, sir. I have been seasick for days. I was asking God somehow to send me an orange. I suppose I fell asleep while I was praying. When I awoke, I found He had not only sent me one orange but two!” The atheist was speechless. Later we are told, he was converted to Christ. Yes, whenever we pray, God will always answer.

Yes, as good stewards, prayer should always occupy the first spot in our array of activities. In our case however, the highest form of prayer, should be the prayer of gratitude expressed in and through the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we encounter Christ Himself body, spirit, soul, and divinity. For this greatest of all gifts and treasures, we should as stewards, give thanks to God, recognizing that this and all the things we have are nothing but a gratuitous gift from Him.

Dear friends, there is nothing that we have which is not from God. So, when we come to Mass, we come firstly to give thanks to God and leave Mass empowered to share all those gifts He has given us with others and with our parish community. If we indeed embrace this attitude as a parish, we become transformed into the hands, the feet, and mouth of Christ to our brothers and sisters. Our parish will not only become what we want it to become but what Christ wants it to become. Our parish will become and be defined by the manner in which we embrace prayer and make it the preeminent center of our daily activities. That is why, to me, starting the Mass each time with our parish stewardship prayer always sets the tone for experiencing Christ through each other throughout the celebration of the Mass and throughout the week. That prayer calls upon us and reminds us to be indeed a stewardship parish and to gratefully share our time, talent and treasures with others. So whenever we pray our parish stewardship prayer, let us truly mean every single word we say in that prayer. With that in mind, I now invite you to prayerfully say with me this prayer:

My Parish is composed of people like me. It will be friendly if I am. It will be holy if I am. Its pews will be filled if I help fill them. It will do great work if I work. It will be prayerful if I pray. It will make generous gifts to many causes if I am a generous giver. It will bring others into worship if I invite and bring them in. It will be a place of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, compassion, charity, and mercy, if I, who make it what it is, am filled with these same things. Therefore, with the help of God, I will dedicate myself to the task of being all the things that I want my parish to be. Amen.

I love you!