Prayer that Pierces the Clouds
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

We come to prayer for many reasons. Most often we pray because we have something to ask from God. We want healing, a solution to our problems, or an answer to some petition. This is the beginning of prayer. It is also a humble prayer. We know that we are not the source of blessings or favors. It is the stance of a child asking for something from her father.

At other times we come to prayer because we know we have sinned. We have acted in ways that were not pleasing to God. We have missed the mark. We have not been our best self. And so we approach God to say, “I’m sorry.” This too is a humble kind of prayer. It is the prayer of the tax collector in today’s gospel reading, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Lk. 18:13). Nothing more is said. We come to God with the awareness that we need forgiveness. We accept our sinfulness. This too is a humble kind of prayer.

Action starter: What brings you to prayer?

There are also times we find ourselves praying out of pure joy. We are so happy that we have to thank somebody. I remember one writer commenting about the problem of atheists. Whom do they thank when they are so happy with life? When there is no God to thank we eventually end up as the song goes, “thanking the stars above.” The prayer of thanksgiving is also a humble prayer. We know we are at the receiving end and we are grateful

When we clearly acknowledge our dependence on God and His greatness, our being creatures of God the Creator, then we come to the prayer of adoration. We worship the Lord. We bend our knees or prostrate ourselves before God. We say, “Father, hallowed be Thy name.” The focus of our prayer is no longer ourselves but the Divine Majesty. This is an expression of humility. God is great, we are small.

Finally there is this longing to be closer to God. There is this wanting to be a friend of God, not for anything else but for God’s sake. This is the prayer of love. We long to be intimate with God . We want to be with God as a lover seeks the presence of the beloved. This too is a humble prayer because we are preoccupied with God, and no longer with our self. Regarding this kind of prayer, an unknown mystical writer says,

“Let your longing relentlessly beat upon the cloud of unknowing that lies between you and your God. Pierce that cloud with the keen shaft of your love, spurn the thought of anything less than God, and do not give up this work for anything .” (The Cloud of Unknowing)

As we can see, the different kinds of prayer we have outlined have a common denominator. This is aptly expressed in the first reading, “The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds” (Sirach 35:17).

This is the big difference between the prayer of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee was reporting his accomplishments. He was the source of his own “spiritual success”. He justified himself. On the other hand, the Publican acknowledged his need for God. And the Gospel says, “This man I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not.” (Lk. 18:14).

There are many occasions that bring us to prayer. There are many ways of praying. There is however one common denominator of prayer that is pleasing to God. We approach God humbly and lovingly.