Jesus told a parable about the need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, 'Grant me justice against my opponent.' For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, 'Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
Why not use parts of the ‘Our Father’ as your mantra? “Father, may your kingdom come!” Keep on repeating it till you are like the nagging widow. (A Tibetan monk, incidentally, told me that many of their mantras have seven syllables. I immediately thought of “Father, holy be your name,” “Father, may your kingdom come,” “Father, may your will be done.”) If you keep saying one of them over and over, it is better than rattling off the whole ‘Our Father’ at breakneck speed. We have to learn proper nagging.
“She will wear me out!” said the judge in Jesus’ story. Or, as another translation has it, “she will pester me to death.”
Sometimes our prayer becomes so polite and tame that we can hardly believe in it ourselves. Prayer has been called “an hour of truth”, but it can become the place where we tell big lies even to ourselves. A good test of the truthfulness of your prayer is to put it in one word. We are too clever by half, too rational and too evasive.
I sometimes use clay when giving retreats. It is a wonderful substance for simplifying us. Try to express in clay your fears, your pain, your hopes, you joy.... You will find it impossible to put in any evasions, any conditions, any subordinate clauses of any kind. Clay is just a main clause. To say something in clay is to make a direct statement and to leave it there. In its simplicity it is like the cry of an animal. Would to God our prayer could always be so simple and truthful!
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