15 Jun Our Prayers do not change God, but prayer changes us
We all know the story of the parable of the Prodigal son but have you ever wondered where you stand in the story? Are you currently the prodigal son, lost and far from God? Or are you a lost sinner, seeking salvation and the Father’s love? Perhaps you may even be standing aside, watching and wondering how the Father could ever forgive you? If you’ve hit rock bottom and have finally decided to turn back to God, do not fear, for He is a God of great compassion and mercy. His love for you has never and will never change but returning to Him allows for us to change.
“But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands. So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly , bring out a robe – the best one – and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.”
Purification through prayer
Firstly, we must know that God’s love for us is not based on our performance. Our Father has already provided us with all the Heavenly blessings, 2000 years ago, when Jesus died on Mount Calvary. This blessing is already with us, along with His only Son, and so nothing we can ever do, or not do, can change this. He is a God of compassion, love and forgiveness and thus He does not need to change. So, what about the different prayers we recite? They are said not to change God, but rather, to change ourselves. Through prayer, we become purified; we allow God to refine us. When we humble ourselves and reflect on the way of the cross, we ourselves change and that’s where the door to blessings are opened.
He awaits with great compassion
Do not think that God is waiting to condemn us, but our Heavenly Father eargerly watches, waits and cares for us. Others may condemn, judge and reject us but our Heavenly Father, when we decide to turn back to Him, comes running to us, embraces and exhaults us in front of the whole world, just like the father in the prodigal son. In the same way, our Father celebrates with great joy when the lost are found and longs to save all is His children who truly repent and turn away from sin. Sometimes, it may even take us to hit rock bottom before we finally come to our senses and recognise our sins. But even still, like the father in this story, our Heavenly Father waits patiently, with loving compassion, to restore us. And when we do, He offers us everything in His Kingdom.
Penance has already been made complete by Jesus
Confession is a place of repentance but so many are afraid and ashamed to confess to a priest. Do not be anxious about what the priest may think but rather see the priest as the only witness of the forgiveness of our sins. Though others may condemn us, or focus on our past and failures, the priest witnesses our sins being 100% forgiven and so we should never be ashamed. But we must remember that after we confess, it is not because of our penance that we are forgiven, but rather, all our sins have been forgiven and paid for by the precious blood Jesus shed on the cross. Penance has already been done by Jesus for us; He has finished it all. All we must do is accept what He finished on the cross, and continue to have a repenting heart.
Even the father, when the prodigal son came back with a big list of excuses, was not interested in any of them. The mere fact that the son returned was sufficient for him. He didn’t check for the money he gave his son, nor the property or any of the inheritance he gave his son. He did not reject him, condemn him or accuse him but rather he was planning for his future. He was planning to give him the best clothes, best food, the ring, robe and sandals. Likewise, when we return back to God, He will not be thinking about how to punish us for all the sins we have commited, rather He will be planning for our bright future. As it says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
We will never lose our sonship
Trust in the Lord and our future will be full of hope; He will never fail us. When God gives us something special, He always gives us the best. Despite our sinfulness, despite our past, God give us the best when we return back to God. And the more we repent with a sincere heart, the more blessings we receive from God. He will put a ring on our finger, sandals on our feet and clothe us with a robe – the symbol of sonship. We will no longer remain slaves to our sin, but we return back to sonship. We return to our true identity, a son/daughther of the Most High. It is important to know that though the son in the story lost everything the father gave him, he did not lose one thing- his sonship. He was still his father’s son. Therefore, despite what we have done, despite being in the pigsty or choosing to stay in sin, we do not lose this sonship; we are still God’s child. This will never be lost or changed. But when we return back to God, we enter back into this identity.
Faith without works is dead
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found (Luke 15:24)
Seperation from God results in death but retruning to God brings life. The son was both spiritually dead and physically lost, but when he returned he was spiritually alive and physically found. And so, true repentance involves two kinds of changes: spiritual death and spiritual life, physical loss and physical finding. Thus, repentance should not just be internal but also external. We should be changed both internally and externally, through attending mass, prayer and reading the bible. Though we return back to God and are internally change, the external gestures are still important and should be carried out for true repentance, which is part of our life. That’s why there is a law in the Old Testament that when one is made cleaned, they should go to the priest and do all that the priests asks them to do. That is why Jesus Himself asked the lepers to go and show themselves to the priest and do what they say. Therefore, the external rituals that we are supposed to do is in fact the result of the expression of our repentance which ought to be carried out in our personal lives for true repentance. In doing so, they do not change God, but they continue to change and refine us.