The example and encouragement of men and women at prayer can never be underestimated. It isa powerful testimony to faith when people humble themselves and pray.
Prayer is radically countercultural today. We are told to depend on ourselves and to create our own destiny, but prayer knocks down that house of cards and acknowledges our dependence on God and his loving providence.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a teaching tool. It is a means of echoing the Gospel and presenting the saving truths of Jesus Christ to all people. As such, the Catechism is a masterful display of pedagogy. It knows the ways and methods of teaching.
When it comes to prayer, therefore, the Catechism – following its teaching mission – turns to the strength of witnesses. Teaching is needed, but witnesses give flesh and blood to the teachings. We can talk about prayer, but we all need to see men and women at prayer.
In this light, the Catechism highlights the great figures of salvation history. In particular, it has many unique things to say about Moses.
The Catechism begins its instruction on Moses by noting his intimate relationship with God. He walks with God, converses with him, argues with him, and shares fellowship with him. From such closeness, Moses recognizes the faithfulness of God. He knows that God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He experiences the immense love God has for his people.
From such a relationship, which is personal and vital, the Catechism tells us: “Moses drew strength and determination for his intercession. He does not pray for himself but for the people whom God has made his own.”
In a seemingly paradoxical rapport, as Moses draws closer to God, his prayer turns more and more to the people entrusted to him. Such a dynamic is consistent with the spiritual experience of many. The love of God compels us to love others, and by selflessly loving others, we can encounter God. God and his people are inseparable. The love of God and the love of his people are inseparable.
If prayer leads us away from a care and concern for those around us, such prayer needs greater scrutiny and discernment.
The Catechism continues: “Moses already intercedes for them during the battle with the Amalekites and prays to obtain healing for Miriam. But it is chiefly after their apostasy that Moses ‘stands in the breach’ before God in order to save the people.”
In issuing forth threats concerning his people, God is testing and forming his servant Moses. Will Moses sit and remain silent as God speaks judgment? Or does Moses love God’s people and will he speak on their behalf?
Knowing of God’s steadfast love and his faithfulness, Moses takes his stand. He loves God’s people enough to speak on their behalf, to possibly even being disciplined on their behalf, and to remind God of his goodness and toward his people.
The Catechism makes the point: “The arguments of his prayer – for intercession is also a mysterious battle – will inspire the boldness of the great intercessors among the Jewish people and in the Church: God is love; he is therefore righteous and faithful; he cannot contradict himself; he must remember his marvelous deeds, since his glory is at stake, and he cannot forsake this people that bears his name.”
It’s a divine classroom and Moses is passing with flying colors. God sees that his servant is trying to love his people in the same spirit as God himself loves his people. Moses’ heart has been expanded by his encounter with God. Moses has become a man of the people, a man of love. Prayer has changed him. It has made him more like God.
Such is the transformative power of prayer. We see it in Abraham. We see it in Moses. We see it in David. And – if we labor to truly pray – we can see it in ourselves. Prayer makes us more ourselves. We become more of who we are called to be in God.
The task of prayer can require great effort and diligence. By looking at the holy ones who prayer, we can be inspired to pray and to persevere in our prayer. By seeing the results of their prayer and the spiritual regeneration that’s brought about by it, we are pushed forward in our own journey to believe in God, to converse with him, walk faithfully with him, and to intercede for those around us.
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