August 16, 2023
Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings for Today
“Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:19–20
This is a bold and awe-inspiring promise from our Lord. This passage reveals Jesus’ desire that we pray with others, uniting our prayer as one and offering it to the Father. Jesus says that when we do this in union with His prayer, our prayer will be answered.
The first thing to note is that this passage could easily be misunderstood. For example, is Jesus telling us that if two or more people get together and pray that it rains, then it will happen? Certainly not. The key to understanding this passage is found in the last line: “…there am I in the midst of them.” This means that the goal of gathering together with two or more people in prayer is to unite our unified prayer to the prayer of Jesus. The Father always hears and answers the prayer of the Son. No matter what the Son asks the Father, it is granted. Thus, this passage tells us that the goal of gathering together in prayer with others, that is, with the Church, is to unite ourselves with the one and eternal prayer of God the Son. This is first and foremost fulfilled within the Sacred Liturgy.
When we come together in the Liturgy, our prayer is always heard. Why? Because the Liturgy is first an action of God the Son in which He invites us, the Church, to share. And the prayer that is offered is the one and eternal prayer by which God the Son asks the Father to bring salvation to all those who accept the saving action of His sacrifice on the Cross. When we join in this prayer, it is granted.
What type of prayer is not answered? First, God does not grant that which fails to serve His mission. Second, if we pray for God’s will but fail to do our part, then our prayer cannot be answered. For example, if you pray that you overcome a particular sin but then fail to respond to the grace God gives, then this is not the fault of God. Third, praying for vengeance on those who have hurt us is ineffective. And fourth, praying for the conversion of one who refuses to repent will also be unable to be fulfilled, unless they ultimately repent. These are but a few examples.
What type of prayer is effective? As already mentioned, the prayer of the Liturgy as the one Sacrifice of Christ is always heard when we participate in it. But there are other ways that our united prayer will be fulfilled with certainty. For example, if you gather with others and together pray for the grace of deeper conversion, you can be certain that the grace will be offered. It is then up to you to open your heart to that grace so that it is effective. Or if you pray that God offers His mercy to someone caught in sin, you can be certain that that grace will be offered, even if the person refuses to accept it. And the list could go on. Simply put, if we gather with others and seek to unite our prayer to the one and perfect prayer of God the Son as it is offered to the Father in Heaven, then that prayer of the Son in which we share will be answered. Perhaps the best way to pray together in this way is to pray the “Our Father” prayer with another. This prayer is always heard and answered by the Father since it is the prayer given to us by the Son.
Reflect, today, upon God the Son praying to the Father. What is His perfect prayer? What does He ask the Father? Look for ways in which you can join with others to unite your own prayer to this prayer of the Son of God. Do this first and foremost in the Sacred Liturgy, but look for other ways in which you can practice this form of prayer. Praying together with others in union with the one prayer of Jesus will always be answered by the Father in Heaven.
My perfect Lord, all that You ask of the Father is granted to You. Please draw me and all the members of Your Church into Your perfect prayer to the Father. May we participate in this prayer especially through the Sacred Liturgy, and also as we gather as two or more. May we pray only with You and in accord with Your perfect will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saint of the Day – Saint Stephen of Hungary