Praying Community

Antonio P. Pueyo
September 4, 2005
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Reproduced with Permission

One of our deeper human needs is to belong. We want to feel accepted and welcomed by a close-knit group. In rural societies this need is filled in naturally by family, relatives, and neighbors. Relationships are defined by blood affiliations and extended by various forms of affinities. In rural communities people know most everybody in the village. In the village where I grew up people would know one another by their nicknames or by a particular trait (Pedro who owns the white buffalo). In this kind of setting, gathering people into praying communities is not so difficult. One can at least start with the natural closeness of people who usually are already members of a chapel group.

In the cities and big towns, there is less of the personal groups. People who live in apartments may not even know their next door neighbors. Communities are more intentional than natural. Community is not the natural result of geographical closeness or blood affiliations but rather is intentionally entered into with groups of people who may be friends, officemates, or colleagues in the profession. Praying communities that arise from this setting may not be geographically-based. They are more of covenant faith communities. These are groups of people who though far from one another have entered a covenant to support one another as a praying community, and who meet at designated times and places.

Today's gospel speaks of the praying community. "Where two or three are gathered together, there am I in their midst" (Mt.18:20). Jesus is not just present in each one of us by virtue of our being temples of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is present in the community, especially a community that prays. Jesus prays with us. The prayer of the community is powerful, "Again I tell you, if two of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted you by my Father in heaven ." (Mt.18:19)

Action starter: In your prayer group, be in solidarity with peoples in difficult situations around the globe. Know more about them and pray for them.

As communities of faith, whatever ethnic or national affiliations we belong to, what do we pray for during these times? We have our own personal and individual concerns but given our global situation, we should also pray for nations at war and nations in crises, including ours. The Lord has promised Solomon, "If my people, upon whom my name had been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land" (2Chron. 7:14).

This promise contains certain elements: On our side, there is the call 1) to humble ourselves and pray—it is not enough to rely on our own powers, God is the God of history and holds events in His hands, 2) to seek God's presence— this is what we ask for when we say "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth", 3) to turn from our evil ways—conversion is necessary from mindsets that have become inured to violence, injustice, lies, and selfishness. If we do all these, then on His side God will 1)hear our prayers, 2) forgive our sins, and 3) heal our land.

How exactly, God will do this, we leave to God. What is clear is our own duty to pray as community and to turn from evil ways. This certainly calls for faith on our part.

If we need assurance of the efficacy of the prayer of a united community, we can look back to darker days in the history of some peoples. In times of violent conflict, people have prayed for justice and peace. In times of oppression and abuse of human rights, people have prayed for freedom and liberation. In times of disaster, people have prayed for help and the strength to rebuild. Through peoples and events, God had responded in various ways. He will continue to do so in the future. And we shall continue to pray.