HOW OFTEN DO YOU PRAY?...OR... DO YOU PRAY LIKE THE WOODCUTTER?
day a woodcutter climbed a tree to cut firewood. He went on
climbing and cutting branches until finally he reached the top of
the tall tree. When he looked down he saw to his horror that he
had cut away all the branches below him. He could not get down and
he was terrified.
God,” he prayed, “if you help me get down safely, I’ll give my cow
to the temple.” While he was praying he slipped a little way down
the trunk. Seeing that he was not as high as he was a moment ago,
he felt a little bolder. “Not the cow Lord,” he corrected himself,
“I’ll give you my goat.” By then he had slipped down some more.
“Not the goat Lord,” he said, “I’ll give a chicken.” When he
looked down, he saw that he had slipped even more. “Not a chicken
Lord,” he said, I’ll give an egg.” By now he was only a few feet
above the ground. “Oh never mind Lord,” he said, “I’ll get down by
myself.” He jumped down, gathered up the firewood he had cut and
walked away whistling a merry tune.
many of us, to just sit and pray is the most difficult job in the
world. We experience a great many distractions when we pray. One
obstacle after another hits us, and we wonder if trying to pray is
even worth it. We may begin to see prayer as something only for
mystics or monks, not for us.
Prayer is communication. Without communication we can loose touch
with our dear ones, our friends, and even our God. So, on our good
days and even bad days we need to communicate and the way we
communicate with God is through prayer.
Some of us think of prayer as repeating someone else’s words. We
recite sentences like, “do with me what you will, and never let me
be separated from you.” But actually we want God to do what we
want. We may plead for this and that and then enter into a bargain
with God if He grants our request, like lighting a candle or
donating money to the church or temple just like in the prayer of
reason why we have so many bad prayer days is because we do not
pray or talk to God in our own words. We need to throw away the
written words and talk to God, person to person. It’s OK to tell
God that we are angry at our sister or brother, or that we are
worried about how rapidly our parents are aging. It’s OK to tell
God we are running out of money and don’t know how we are going to
pay our bills. It’s OK to remind God about our children’s
problems. As we read in the Bible; “Come to me all you who are
burdened and I will refresh you. Cast your worries and problems
upon my shoulders, I will carry it for you because I am meek and
humble of heart.”
Real communication requires that we listen as well as speak.
Prayer needs to be a dialogue, and listening is the most important
part. Sometimes prayer at its best involves just sitting silently
in God’s presence. We don’t need to be in a church or temple to do
this. We can pray sitting in our favorite chair, in our room, or
in the yard. Remember, the distractions during our silent prayer
are part of our life. It’s as if the mind is like a movie
projector parading pictures, people, and places constantly across
When the apostles asked Jesus how to pray, He told them to ask, to
seek, and to knock. He also taught them the simple prayer of “Our
Father” which we recite almost everyday. Rabindranath Tagore, one
of the brilliant scholars and freedom fighters of
India, often joined Mahatma Gandhi in prayer for inspiration and
strength as they struggled to obtain freedom for India in 1947.
Here is the simple prayer they often prayed:
after day, O Lord of my life, shall I stand before thee face to
face with folded hands, O Lord of the universe shall I stand
before thee face to face..... And when my work shall be
done in the world, Kind of Kings, alone and speechless shall I
stand before thee face to face.
Just pray! Don’t wait ‘til next Sunday. Don’t put it off ‘til
vacation is over. Don’t wait until you are sick, preparing for a
test, or getting ready for a job interview. Don’t wait until after
the parish retreat. Do it now. Do it today!
Fr. Tony Andrade.