The Art Of Prayer

It is easy to believe in God in the good times. It is when the difficulties of the world are hard upon us that our faith meets its most difficult tests.

I am convinced! This verse, which ends chapter 8 of Romans, is as clear a statement of faith as you can find anywhere. It is a statement based on evidence and on consent. The word convince comes from the Latin, vincere, to overcome, to be victorious. Paul’s faith statement comes from his own experience. He has overcome all of the threats that the world could bring against him. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, encouraged by his own experiences in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, he can make this statement boldly, without fear. And this is the faith that we are called to by Christ Jesus as well.

The evidence for our faith abounds in the scriptures and in the history of the Church. When we look at the lives of the saints, we see that when Christians walk in the ways of the Lord faithfully, only goodness and kindness follow all their actions in the world. Why? Because when we live in obedience to God’s law, in imitation of Christ Jesus, God’s grace is both the cause and the effect of our obedience. When we willingly choose to walk in his ways, he generously increases our faith through grace, and through our words and deeds, spoken and done in his name, his grace enters the world. Paul writes earlier in the chapter, “If God is for us, who can be against us? (verse 31) This is truth in its fullest sense. It is absolute and incontrovertible. Knowing this, we have absolutely nothing to fear. Our faith in God in Christ Jesus is both reasonable and sure.

In all honesty, though, we know that we fall short of this all too often. The world is too much with us at times. It presses in on us, sometimes crushes us with its temptations, or with its threats. Fear is a very real thing for us. Our faith is the only real, true antidote to these things. It is easy to believe in God in the good times. It is when the difficulties of the world are hard upon us that our faith meets its most difficult tests. How do we train ourselves to believe what Paul is writing here in the hard times when everything seems to overwhelm us with fear and doubt? When we find ourselves caught up in these difficult times, we need to practice a particular kind of prayer. Rather than desperate prayers of petition, which come to us so readily in times like these, we need to practice the finer arts of prayer, that is, listening and reflection. When we are in the midst of difficult times, we must sit still, be quiet, and listen to God’s voice whispering within us. In our humble, attentive and prayerful reflection God will reveal his will for us in that particular situation and he will give us the graces we need to accept and to do his will. He will make us victorious internally in our faith and externally in our outward responses to life’s trials and tribulations. Thanks be to God!

Lord, we are weak but we believe that in our weakness you can make us strong. Increase our faith so that we, like Paul, may say with conviction: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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