By Ben Gerigk,
Saint Brendan Catechist &
Aspirant to the Priesthood
Each week, we summarize a specific style, form, or approach to prayer, using the highly-acclaimed book by Robert J. Wicks, Prayer in the Catholic Tradition: A Handbook of Practical Approaches (Franciscan Media 2006). In this article, you’ll learn more about using the Gospel of Mark as a basis for prayer.
The Gospel of Mark can be challenging because it presents Jesus as a somewhat mysterious figure. The Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is portrayed as a mighty healer and exorcist who warns his disciples not to tell others about his power. Three times he warns them that he must suffer and die and then be raised from the dead, but they never seem to understand.
Despite this enigmatic element, the Gospel of Mark effectively presents Jesus both as a “pray-er” and a model of prayer. From his baptism (1:9-13) to his final words on the cross (15:34), we see this suggestion that Jesus’ fidelity to prayer helps him to discern God’s will and strengthens him to act upon it. In this depiction, Mark calls upon us to emulate Jesus and invites us as his disciples to become part of a “house of prayer.” In one of the stories told about him in the gospel, for instance, Jesus says that his family is “whoever does the will of God” (3:35).
In fact, it is in the act of doing the will of God that our prayers are answered. In Mark 11:24, Jesus assures his disciples that they will receive “all that [they] ask for in prayer.” Yet, this is easily misunderstood. Most of us, at one time or another, have prayed from our hearts but believed that our prayers were not answered. That’s because the essence of prayer is aligning ourselves with the will of God. When what we ask for in prayer is to do the will of God, then our prayers always will be answered.
First and foremost, prayer should be about listening to Jesus’ words and allowing them to penetrate into our very being in order to transform us. When we begin to listen rather than speak, we experience a kind of “transformation-unto-obedience.” It is a slow process and at times difficult, but when we begin to remove the spiritual blindness from our hearts, we will more readily be able to appreciate what we are called to do. Only then will we be able to pray with integrity the petition, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” because we will be able to know and enact God’s will in our lives.
Practicing prayer is a step in the right direction to deepen our identity as disciples of Christ. It enables us to be with Jesus, listen to him, and through a transformation-unto-obedience be drawn into a new family gathered around him. Through this family of faith that hears and obeys the will of God, a new temple is constructed, a true house of prayer, where faith can be lived out in love and mutual forgiveness.