One of the most profound expressions of faith is when we pray. The act of prayer shows to others who we believe in and what we believe in.
So coming for Mass in worship and prayer shows who we truly are as Church.
At the same time, it is also in prayer that we tell ourselves who we truly believe in and what we believe in. However a cheeky question has been asked: Who prays more fervently – the one in Church or the one in the casino?
But as much as prayer is a profound expression of faith, it is also a critical examination of faith. Because it is in prayer that our faith is put to the test.
So it is obvious that prayer is not just some kind of spiritual activity of the mystics. No doubt some mystics experience some kind of ecstasy in prayer, like levitation, as if they are rising up to heaven.
But some mystics are also really down to earth and their prayer seems like some kind of confrontation with God. Like St. Teresa of Avila, who reformed the Carmelite Order but had to suffer much persecution. She also felt that Jesus didn’t care about her
So she complained to Jesus as she said to Him: You know why you have so few friends. It’s because You treat those who love You so badly!
So prayer can be a profound expression of faith, and at the same time it is also a critical examination of faith.
More so when we come face to face with suffering and pain and illnesses. It is in times like these that we will see for ourselves who we believe in and what we believe in.
In the gospel, we come across two stories of suffering and pain and also death. One was a woman who suffered haemorrhage for 12 years. Another was a 12-year-old girl who was desperately sick and eventually died from her illness.
In both cases, life was draining out, one was slowly draining out, and the other desperately draining out. Both were not getting any better. And with that, both, as well as their loved ones were getting bitter as their faith was put to the test and their prayer were not getting anywhere.
But here is where prayer is also the profound expression of faith. Jairus, the father of the 12-year-old girl, being a synagogue official would have prayed desperately for his daughter.
That prayer led him to seek out Jesus for help, which was a rather unexpected and surprising move. Some may even ask as to why would a synagogue official turn to an unofficial street-preacher. But as it is, desperate situations will look for desperate options.
That can also be said of the woman suffering from haemorrhage. Her desperate prayer produced one last option of a desperate action, and that is to touch the clothes of Jesus. With nothing more to lose, she was prepared to do it despite all the risks.
There was only one thing left in her mind as she said to herself: If I can touch even his clothes, I shall be well again.
And there was also one thing left in the mind of Jairus as he said to Jesus: My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.
They had no guarantees, not even any probabilities, but they had one thing that Jesus also affirmed them of – they had faith in Jesus. To the woman, Jesus said “Your faith has restored you to health”. To Jairus, Jesus said “Do not be afraid; only have faith”.
Like Jairus and the woman in the gospel, our experiences in life also have many desperate situations that make us pray desperately.
Besides pain and suffering and sickness, there are also financial difficulties, relationship tensions, work problems, marital problems, family problems and a whole lot of other desperate problems.
Oh, certainly we prayed and we will pray, but after a while we begin to ask questions like “Why is God not answering my prayer?” or “What’s the point of praying if God is not listening to my prayer?” And of course, we get angry and we get bitter with God.
And here Jesus tells us not to give up but to have faith in Him. To have faith also means to be prepared to make a desperate act of faith like what Jairus and the woman with the haemorrhage did.
But it need not be some kind of unusual or strange act of faith. Rather it can be as simple as writing a petition to the Sacred Heart or praying in front of the statue of the Sacred Heart or touching the pictures of Mary and Jesus.
It is a simple act of faith but it takes a lot of humility and trust in God to do it and not think about what people might say about it.
Because in our desperate prayer, we believe what the 1st reading tells us – Death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living. God did make man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature.
That’s the God that we believe in – that He loves us and cares for us, and no prayer will ever go unanswered, especially a desperate prayer.
We only need to hold on the faith that in within us, the same faith that Jairus and the woman with the haemorrhage had in Jesus.