Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Best-seller feeds spiritual hunger
May everything we do find its origin and reach completion through God
August 12, 2001, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What are your favorite prayers?
2. Does the prayer of Jabez speak to your experience?
3. How does prayer affect your daily life?
Seldom does a religious book make the best-seller list in the New York Times. But there currently is one on the list and doing very well. It's Bruce H. Wilkinson's The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life.
The author takes a prayer found in the Old Testament, 1
Chronicles 4:10 and gives an extended interpretation of each of
the phrases. The prayer reads: "Oh, that You would bless me
indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with
me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause
Our God is a God who does bless us. Abraham is a great example.
This blessing was the gift of faith, which totally revolutionized
his life and the life of his people. Abraham believed that what
God said would come true. Abraham's obedience to God astounded
the people and in return for his submission, Abraham and his
people were given a precious land. But even more important than
the land was the blessing of God's special presence and love for
At first glance the request in the above prayer for enlargement
of one's territory gives the impression that the pray-er is
seeking more more possessions. Rather, the interpretation is that
God might use us to expand the divine rule here on earth. The
request is for more responsibility in furthering the kingdom. It
is a step ahead of today's Gospel, which emphasizes a waiting
upon the Lord to come. Here, one is seeking to become an
instrument through which God can act.
The third part of the prayer of Jabez is hope for God's presence.
If we walk together with the Lord, all of life takes on a new
quality. With the Lord at our side the works of faith and justice
will truly lead to salvation. In the Lord's absence we feel
endangered and lack courage.
The final section of the prayer from Chronicles is one of great
realism. Evil is a fact. Sometimes we are the recipients of it;
sometimes we are its perpetrators. The request here is for one of
protection for others and ourselves. It fits in well with the
"Our Father" where we are instructed by Jesus himself to pray
that we be not led into temptation and that we might be delivered
from evil. And, of course, once evil enters into the human heart,
much pain and hurt is the result.
Why is it that millions and millions of people are buying this
book? Is it its simplicity? Is it its practical nature? Is it
that the spiritual hunger within our world is finally be
recognized and addressed?
It is good to have prayers that are foundational to our spiritual
lives. For some people it is the "Our Father." For others, the
"Memorare" has sustained them for many years or the prayer of St.
Francis, sic., "Instrument of Thy Peace." Years ago Msgr. Maufort
taught us seminarians a prayer in Latin which became a favorite
of mine. Here is the translation:
Father, may everything we do begin with your inspiration and
continue with your saving help. Let our work always find its
origin in you and through you reach completion. We ask this
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)