A wise man once said, “If the only prayer we ever pray is: 'Thank you!' that will be enough.” As Christians we are called to a deep friendship with God through Jesus, and prayer is our pathway to the Living God. In prayer we speak directly to God and listen actively and attentively for God's response, a response that often comes in surprising and unexpected ways. I'll bet that if we reviewed our prayer life, we'd find that for many, our prayer is not properly balanced.
Spiritual writers insist that prayer is not supposed to be one-dimensional; it is multidimensional There are prayers wherein we ask God to for favors; these are prayers of petition. But there are also prayers of praising and glorifying God, then there are prayers of contrition and sorrow for our sins, and finally, prayers of thanksgiving for blessings received. Now if we conduct an accurate review of our prayer life, what might we discover? I presume from my own experience that my overwhelming prayer time is devoted to petition, to asking God for things, oftentimes asking over and over again. I ask for special favors, for blessings, for better health for myself and for others, for improved personal relationships, and sometimes even for being thought well of by other people. My actual list is much longer, but you get the point!
Perhaps you feel as I do: We spend so much time asking for things, and not much time expressing joy, glory and praise to God, or sorrow for our sins, or thankfulness for blessings received. An example of balanced prayer is our gathering here on Sundays because all kinds of prayer are included during this Liturgy. We start every Liturgy with a Penitential Rite wherein we confess our sins & faults to the All-merciful God. Then we sing the Glory to God, a great hymn of praise to God. Then the entire Eucharistic Prayer is a great prayer of thanksgiving. In fact Eucharist, is a Greek word that means “Giving thanks well.” The Liturgy also contains prayers of petition such as the Opening Prayer, the Prayer over the Gifts, and the Closing Prayer, all prayers we pray aloud and together for spiritual favored. We pray to express our unity of mind and heart with the mind and heart of Jesus. We also sing the prayer Jesus taught us, the Our Father, which includes words of praise (Hallowed be Thy Name!), contrition for sin (Forgive us our debts/trespasses) and petitions (Give us our daily bread). So our Table fellowship, Our Sunday Prayer time, offers a prayerful balance for all.
In today's Gospel featuring Jesus' response to the noisy but desperate pleas of people with leprosy, we note the importance to Jesus of a corresponding prayer of gratitude for the favor given and the healing received. We can almost sense the keen disappointment of Jesus who asks, “Were not ten made clean? Where are the other nine? Why is there only this one stranger who returns to give me thanks?” Only one in ten! Would we be that one, or would we be among the nine who were healed but never thanked Jesus? Maybe that wise person was right: “If the only prayer we ever pray is 'Thank you!' that will be enough!”