THEME: STUDY ELIJAH, COPY JESUS!
BY: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
HOMILY FOR THURSDAY JUNE 16 2022
*Sirach 48 : 1 – 14, Matt 6 : 7 – 15.
I find the book of Sirach as one of the most intelligent books of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, it belongs to the taxonomy of books which the Protestants refer to as “Apocryphal” just because it didn’t enjoy the privilege of being written originally in Hebrew. What I like most in it, apart from the wise counsels, is the Eulogy of our Ancestors in Faith. Just look at the Eulogy of Elijah for example; (i) His word burnt like a torch, (ii) Brought famine and shut the heavens for 3 years, (iii) He rose famous men from their sick beds (like Naaman), (iv) He raised corpses to life again, (v) He brought occult kingdoms down to destruction, (vi) He heard rebuke from God at Sinai, (vii) He heard judgments of vengeance at Horeb (against the prophets of Baal), (viii) He anointed kings to inflict retribution (Jehu against Ahab) (ix) He anointed prophets to succeed him (Elisha) and (x) He was finally taken up in a chariot to heaven. He is second to none as the greatest prayer warrior and greatest service provider of the Old Testament. But the most important thing we need to learn from him is how to pray in the Spirit. Perhaps this is why the New Testament account of the transfiguration of Jesus never omitted his presence.
I have seen no area where Christians falter like in the aspect of prayer. How did Elijah pray? No much shouting or waste of words. He even mimicked the prophets of Baal as follows: ‘Cry louder…Maybe your god is asleep so you can wake him up!, as they babbled and hobbled up and down the altar wounding themselves’, 1 Kg 18 : 26. Elijah taught us how to pray in the Spirit; how to pray with strong faith using fewer words.
Jesus now gives us a pattern to copy. The ‘Our father’ is a great pattern for prayer; its address is perfect, its form is ideal, its method is instructive and its expression simple. It has 2 structures; the 1st part relates to God and his honour while the 2nd part relates to our needs. The 1st part contains the praise of God, establishment of his kingdom and surrendering to his will. The 2nd part contains our present needs, past errors and our future dangers. According to St Augustine, ‘What we ought to pray for is in the Lord’s prayer; what is not in it, we ought not pray for’. For example, Christ’s attitude to the devil was exorcism but in prayer, his recommendation for us is to pray for grace to overcome temptations. Deliverance prayer not only came last but addresses evil in its entirety (Devil, World and Self). The prayer of petition for our daily bread deemphasizes frivolities while the prayer for forgiveness of sin is conditional (forgive us …as we forgive those who trespass against us).
Let’s learn from Elijah how to pray in the spirit. Let’s copy Jesus’ prayer pattern and learn not to use too many meaningless words while praying. According to Vima Dasan: ‘It is not the arithmetic of our prayer – how many they are; it is not the rhetoric of our prayer – how eloquent they are; it is not the geometry of our prayer – how long they are; it is not the music of our prayer – how sweet they sound, which God cares for. Faith is what counts in prayer’. May God give us faith to pray like Elijah and humility to pray as Jesus taught us. May God bless you today!