Dear Parishioners,

Normally we are quite respectful when we speak to God. Controlled and subservient we place our needs before the Lord. “Dear Jesus, help my son be accepted into the college he prefers.” “Gracious God you know I’ve lost my job, help me to find a new one.” Now there’s nothing wrong with speaking respectfully to God. But one of the things that today’s Gospel shows us is that this kind of respectful prayer is not the only kind of prayer; nor is it necessarily the best.

Jesus and the disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee, and a huge storm comes up. The boat is tossed from one wave to another, and the waves are breaking over the side. It has become apparent to the apostles that this boat is going down with everyone in it. Jesus, however, is asleep in the stern on a cushion. What do the apostles do? Do they quietly walk to the back and tap Jesus on the shoulder and say, “Lord I know you’re sleeping, but we have a problem?” Do they gently shake him and say, “Master sorry to disturb you but the waves are getting a little rough?” No. They cry out with accusation. “Master, do you not care we’re going to die?” Now Jesus gets up and stills the storm of course. But I do not intend today to reflect on Jesus’ actions but rather the apostles’ prayer, because this prayer can be a model for us.

Sometimes the best prayers are those which are blunt and seemingly irreverent. The best prayers are those that express what we really feel, and sometimes what we feel is not polite. We have many examples of this kind of prayer in the Old Testament. The Book of Psalms is the prayer book of the Jewish people. Time and again the psalms attack God for a seeming lack of care. The psalmist yells out, “Why Oh Lord do you stand so far away from me?” “How long, Lord, will you ignore my prayer?” Or the famous psalm that Jesus prays on the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” (One of my personal favorites is “Lord remember your servant David and all his anxious care, Psalm 131) When the Jewish people prayed, they asked for what they needed. They were not afraid to demand from God an answer when it seemed what they needed was being forgotten.

You and I need to be able to pray in this manner. We can pray with this kind of strength and emotion because we must pray as the people we really are. If we are angry, it is valid to express anger when we address the Lord. If we are fearful, that fear should not be held back from what we say. If we are disappointed with what God is doing in our life, it is beneficial to express that disappointment when we address Him. We need to be the people that we are. It might seem to be preferable to put our best foot forward when we speak to God, but it is more important to be real then to be polite. The only person God can love, the only person God can answer, is the real person that we are. Therefore, it is much better to pray as a real sinner then a fake saint.

Although we might think that emotion and accusation are out of order when we address the creator of the universe, such emotion and honesty is not a sign of disrespect. It is a sign of intimacy. We are polite to strangers. We are brutally honest with the people closest to us, with the people with whom we live. Just remember for a moment the kind of language we use with one another in our own homes: “You did what? Where the # %$ were you? Don’t you ever try that again!” We can speak with that kind of honesty because we are close. We don’t waste our emotions on people we consider unimportant. But we are painfully honest with the people on whom our survival depends. We speak to them as family. God wants us to speak in prayer as family. God wants us to speak what we truly feel because it is a sign of being connected. We should pray not with politeness and aloofness but with honesty and intimacy.

So, when we are angry, when we are upset, when we are disappointed, it is important to tell God how we feel. When life dumps on us one more time, it is valid to ask God what the heck is going on? We need to be as brutally honest as necessary to be the people we really are before the Lord. We do not need to worry about God’s feelings. God is big enough to handle it. God wants us to speak as sons and daughters. God wants us to be close enough to speak the truth, to bluntly cry out in our need.

So, we need to tell God what is in our heart, both when it is pretty and when it is not. Because it is only after we tell God how we truly feel that we will be able to hear the answer that God gives.

Fr. Monteleone

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