Patriarchs Of Prayer
Throughout the Old Testament, there are many
accounts of God's encounter with His people.
From the Genesis story of creation, after
Adam and Eve had disobeyed, we hear God call
out to Adam: "Where are you?" (Genesis
3.9) We too hear this same call when we have
fallen and the voice of conscience calls
us back to the truth.
Abraham is the great example of faith and
obedience for followers of the Islamic, Jewish,
and Christian traditions. "By faith
Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out
to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to
go." (Hebrews 11.8) We too are often
called to take a risk, to follow God's will
beyond our comfort zone, and to serve Him
with the same faith that Abraham exemplified.
It is by believing in God's promise and responding
with obedience to God's will that we co-operate
with God in building His kingdom here on
Moses encountered the living God in the burning
bush and Moses responded to His call: "God
called out to him from the bush, 'Moses!
Moses!' He answered, 'Here I am.'" (Exodus
3.4) Moses questioned but accepted the mission
God had called him to, taking God's promise
to heart: "I will be with you."
(Exodus 3.12) Moses participated fully in
God's plan of salvation for His people. In
our experience of prayer, we too are called
to live out the Christian life, and we are
accompanied by the living Savior as we participate
in the salvation of God's people.
David, a young shepherd and musician, was
called by God to become King of Israel while
he was still a boy. The songs he composed
of praise, thanksgiving, joy, supplication,
and lamentation expressed his response to
God through his experiences and those of
his people. The tradition of these songs
has been handed down to us as the book of
Psalms. The Psalms are always part of the
Liturgy of the Word at Mass and they form
the core of the prayer of the Church - the
Liturgy of the Hours. From David's heart,
we pray the words which describe the beauty
of an intimate prayer life: "The Lord
is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes
me lie down in green pastures; He leads me
beside still waters; He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's
sake." (Psalm 23.1-3) May we recall
the heart of the young shepherd boy, David,
as we sing the psalms which so deeply touched
The prophet Elijah conquered the followers
of the idol Baal on the slopes of Mount Carmel.
Through his intense prayer, Elijah invoked
the power of God, calling down fire from
heaven to consume the sacrifice on the altar
he had built before the people. In response
to this great sign, the people turned from
their ways of idolatry and turned back to
God as they exclaimed: "The Lord is
God! The Lord is God!" (1 Kings 18.39)
We are called to imitate the prophet Elijah,
to be "most zealous for the Lord"
(1 Kings 19.10) in our prayer, trusting always
that God will hear us and that has the power
to do whatever He wills.
St Thérèse of Lisieux is an example of praying
with the zeal of Elijah, as she wrote to
her mother prioress: "Since the zeal
of a Carmelite ought to embrace the whole
world, I hope, with God's help, to be of
use to even more than two missionaries. I
pray for all, not forgetting our Priests
at home, whose ministry is quite as difficult
as that of the missionary preaching to the
heathen." (Story of a Soul, A.11)
The patriarchs of the Old Testament
left us a rich inheritance of teaching
example to help us learn the ways of
This poem expresses the legacy they
left for us.
From the first soul He created,
Our God has touched and formed each
Of these, He has elevated
Some souls as saints who've raced and
Like father Abraham, He takes
Each soul by faith on the journey;
And like Moses, He too partakes
In the mission we're called to be.
Like David's music, He inspires
Our hearts with heaven's melody;
And in His zeal, He sends love's fires
To enflame like Elijah's plea.
By faith, adhering to His will,
We answer His call: "Here I am."
In Him, our hearts do have their fill;
With zeal we pray, trusting in Him.
The patriarchs of prayer have shown
The way to live for God alone.
Holy Spirit, please inspire
Our hearts to pray as men of old;
May their examples be as fire
Enkindling God's love foretold. Amen.
St Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of A Soul
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs
2568 - 2589, 2684, 2738
(c) Paul Buis, 2006