Genesis 32: 22-30
2 Timothy 3: 14-4: 5
Luke 18: 1-8a
Jesus told His disciples a parable to show that they should pray at all times and not lose heart. Always have faith and confidence in God who answers our prayers. Faith is not magic or applying a formula and getting a result. Faith is not mind over matter or telekinis. Faith is not merely positive thinking and the gauge of faith is not a positive or negative result. What we are encouraged to do is to be persistent in prayer.
Sometimes, we have this formula to be so positive in our thinking and we equate it to faith such that if what we prayed for happens, then, we do have faith. If it doesn’t happen, then, we lack faith. This brought condemnation to people because Christians see other Christians getting their prayers answered and so those who do not get their prayers answered are considered lacking in faith. Sometimes, there are things we experience that we don’t understand. We praise God for answered prayers, but sometimes, we don’t get what we think we need maybe because we don’t fully understand God’s will. It is not a lack of faith to be uncertain. It is not a lack of faith to wrestle with God and to want to find out what His will is. It is not a lack of faith to walk through the valley of the death. It is not a lack of faith to struggle sometimes.
A prayer that is prayed in the Funeral Mass goes, “Help us, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and to trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.” In other words, we pray, “Help us to be steadfast in our faith,” which we pray in the Creed. Hebrews says that faith is the substance of things we hoped for and the evidence of things not yet seen. Faith is giving substance to that we hope for, although faith is not blind. Faith is having a vision in our minds and in our hearts. We hold on to this, we are motivated by it, and we act accordingly. Faith is envisioning God's will and moving in that direction.
Our steadfastness and joy are proportional to the intensity of vision in our heart and mind. We want to keep it alive. In the Creed, we say, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of world to come.” This is what we picture in our minds and so we act accordingly. If we believe in this, then, we walk toward this. We believe for a world that is perfect, free from sin and immorality, so this is our direction and this is what faith is. Hence, faith without works is incomplete. The evidence of faith is zeal and intensity of effort toward fulfillment of the vision and remaining steadfast no matter what.
St. Paul said to Timothy, “Continue in the things which you have learned, which you picture in your mind, which you store in your heart and that you have been convinced of.” In the story of the three Hebrew children, they did not want to bow to the image of the emperor so they were thrown to the fiery furnace. They had faith that God will deliver them so they said, “Even if He doesn’t deliver us, we will still obey Him. We will still only serve Him.” There was uncertainty, but no wavering of faith. There may be uncertainty, but there is certainty in believing and in being steadfast. Do we know that we will always get results when we pray? Ultimately, we know that it will all come out in the will of God.
James 4:13 says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’” James continues, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow…Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this and that.’” In verse 17, James says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.’”
In another letter, St. Paul says, “Anything done without faith is sin.” Faith is having the vision of God’s will, and the zeal to act upon it. “I don’t need to know the outcome to have faith; I just need vision so that I can run with it.” In fact, not seeing it manifest yet is what faith is. It's precisely faith to press on even if we don’t see yet.
In James 5:16, he says, “The effective prayer of a righteous man accomplish much.” Whether we see the effect or not, we push by faith, and we press on because no prayer, no effort is ever wasted. If it according to the will of God and it comes from your heart, it is never wasted.
When I was younger, I used to a go a gym and with few repetitions of an exercise, I would gain muscles. Now, I work out a lot harder than I used to when I was younger, but I get less result. But even then, I know that exercise is good and right for me, and therefore, it is not wasted.
1Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, (after learning the hope of the resurrection and that day when we will all be given eternal life and imperishable bodies), be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in work of Lord, knowing your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” Every effort, every offering, every service, every prayer and every ministry matters and they are not in vain. It goes to the building up of the kingdom of God.