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If only faith can keep us on our feet, the question then is, what is the best way to pray? Here we are helped by today’s Gospel passage, which relates the story a foreign woman, outside the tradition of Israel, who seeks Jesus because she is driven by despair over the suffering of her daughter: “‘Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not say a word in answer to her.”
How cutting is this mention of Jesus’ silence, yet we should not be shocked, because many of us experience this apparent distance and indifference of God. Those are precisely the moments when we wonder if perhaps the problem is in the manner in which we have been praying, or worse yet, whether it really does any good at all to pray.
Here then, this foreign woman gives us an immense lesson: Instead of leaving, stay. Instead of stopping her prayers, she continues to pray despite all the evidence to the contrary: “‘Lord, help me.’ He said in reply, ‘It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.’ Then Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that hour.”
Praying requires not stopping. We need to keep doing it just when it seems futile. We must pray despite all evidence it isn’t working. Praying means hoping against all hope.