Homily By fr. Carlos Zepeda.
today I would like to talk about our daily prayers. But I would like to begin by telling you of the Prophet Daniel.
But before I begin, I would like to bring back to our minds, that this story is not just a tale, it is a historical fact.
In the last sermon we mentioned the first destruction of Jerusalem. When the Jews, about 3000 years ago, committed idolatry and apostatized from the true faith, God as a punishment allowed the pagan peoples, particularly the Babylonians, to come and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple.
Many Jews were killed, and the ones remaining were deported, that is, they were brought to Babylon, or to other pagan nations.
Among these Jews were four young men, who were of good manners, pius and exemplary. One of these was Daniel.
Now, it was a custom among the Babylonians, to take some of their prisoners, and introduce them into the court, to be around the King, so that the King would profit from the wisdom of other nations, and to increase the pomp of the celebrations. They were a sort of “Souvenir”.
As it turns out, Daniel, just a young man, together with the other 3 young men, was chosen to be in the court with the King, and soon enough, he became quite favored, and pretty close to the king. He came to acquire so much influence and power, that soon the other noblemen were envious and sought to destroy him.
The problem was that Daniel was quite upright, and moral, he kept chastity, he never accepted bribes… So His enemies knew full well, that He couldn’t be caught in anything to accuse him against the King. In this, Daniel was a figure of our Lord.
The only thing they could use against him was his faith and religion. They knew that Daniel would Always pray three times a day, no matter what. And they designed a trap to have him killed by using this.
These men went then, to the King, and flattering him, advised that he would enact an edict, commanding that no one would adore or pray to any other God or Divinity, for the space of thirty days, in order to prove their allegiance and adoration of the King. They also asked the king that whosoever should break this prohibition, should perish by being thrown to the Lions pit.
You can guess what happened. The King enacted this horrible decree, and the following morning these wicked men went to spy on Daniel, and Daniel indeed, even at the peril of his life, as always, got up, opened the windows facing Jerusalem, and Knelt down to Adore and Thank the Lord our God.
As the minions saw this, they immediately accused him against the King, and forced the king’s hand, by putting public pressure upon him, to punish Daniel and throw him into the Lions Pit.
As He was about to order, and Daniel looked at him for the last time before he was thrown in there, the King said to Daniel: “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (Daniel 6:16)
My dear friends: We want to talk about our daily prayers. Morning and Night Prayers, our Rosary, our Daily Mass, whenever is available and possible to attend.
Prayer is our Primary Duty.
First of all, Prayer is ABSOLUTELY Necessary. We need it as we need food, and we are required to do it, as Our Main and Primary Duty.
Your Job is not your primary duty, your family is not your primary duty, your own salvation is not your primary duty. The First and foremost Duty you have is to honor and Love God, with all your heart, and mind, and strength, and soul.
And this means certainly, to pray.
How interesting it is to consider this! For in our life, we commonly think of prayer as a secondary issue. “I will do it when I have time”, “I will do it when I finish this or that thing,” we say. Sometimes, it’s: “I just don’t have time”.
What stupidity to fall into! And don’t be offended if I call it by its name. Do we not all fall into such blindness here and there? I myself have felt like that sometimes.
But How can I not have time, for what is My first Duty? How can I relegate to the very last and least, that which is the main purpose of my creation?
See my dear friends, Daniel, a man just like us, and how his priorities were well regulated. For he found time to pray, even when he was the second in charge of a vast empire, probably burdened with great responsibilities, and yet Sacred Scripture tells us, that he never failed to Adore and Thank God, three times a day. Every Day.
In such a manner my friends, we should set aside certain times in our days. In the mornings, in the night, and during the day, to occupy ourselves in that which concerns us the most. to Adore God, to Thank God, to ask him for forgiveness and strength to improve. This leads me to our next consideration.
We Must Have Regularity in Prayer.
We read that Daniel was like a clock in his prayers, always regular, and at different times in the day. So much so, that his enemies knew perfectly well how and when to catch him.
Indeed, we have made resolutions very often to pray, and we fail after a couple of weeks, and the reason why we fail, is because we lack regularity. we don’t have a fixed schedule.
We often go to bed at 11:00 p.m., or midnight, and get up one day later, one day earlier. One day we struggle to get out of bed, because we wasted so much time last night, in front of the T.V., on Facebook, youtube, who knows what.
Is it any wonder that in the morning, our morning prayers should rather be more of a complaint than a prayer?
At night, our schedule has no control. We think of the time after work and school as “wastable time” where we have no duties, or chores, or worries.
Or perhaps we have plenty to do, but we have never sat down, to take control of it, and schedule my day, in as much as I can.
What are some rules we should have, in order to improve our regularity, and in that way persevere in our daily prayers?
1st. Go to Bed Early, and wake up early.
2nd. After a certain time, 5 o clock, 6 o clock, absolutely forbidden to use screens, technology, etc. (This is the first step. It would be better to take it further, but it’s a start). Use this time after 6 to unwind, to talk to spend time with your family, to do spiritual reading, maybe by fire, maybe with some te, or a drink, but forbid your mind to dwell into the numbing hypnotizing screens, which will prevent you from going to bed and doing your chores when you should.
3rd. Establish a fixed time for rosary, perhaps right after dinner, perhaps right before, perhaps a little before going to Bed. And here, let the man of the family take upon himself responsibility. Let him be brave and go and make his children kneel down to pray. Let him impose that discipline, and get the spiritual backbone to persevere on that. It is a duty that men are bound to do, and trust me, it really shows how much guts you have, when you persevere in praying your daily Rosary, and as the man of the house you engage in that daily battle to bring the family together to pray.
4th. Get a set of prayers which you should say, and frame them. Put them in the rooms, in your living room, wherever it is more fitting. But have them framed. It is much easier to persevere if there is a physical thing to remind you. Ask me for help in this regard, I can help you with it.
The Spirit of Our Prayer.
We read also that Daniel knelt down, and Gave thanks and Adored his God.
The fact that Daniel knelt down is quite significant, because the Jews were not used to do that. Usually they would pray either sitting down or standing. Kneeling down is a Christian thing, and even after the reformation, we see that only in the true Catholic Church is this a common practice. Even after Vatican II!
How important it is for us, to have the right spirit, mindset and posture as we pray!
For children, it is normal to fail in posture sometimes. they might kneel down, one knee half spread out, the upper body laying down in the bed, in things as such, but if we teach them since their early childhood to have the right posture, at least a decent one while praying, in their teenage years and later it will be easier for them to pray with decorum and modesty.
For Adults, we should pray, asking ourselves first: “what posture should I have, if i were right now before God the Father, the Creator of all things? How would I speak to Him?” your body is also a manner of speaking. And if at times you find yourself that prayers do not mean anything to you, begin by changing your posture, and you will see how different it is to pray.
Because by that posture you are making an act of faith. You are saying you believe in what you do, and in who you are talking to.
And as you pray: let this be the spirit of your words and feelings: To Thank God and Adore Him. Love the Lord our God. acknowledge that he is your owner, your creator, your master, your king, your Father.
Let it be, that when you wake up, for you God is all. And you deliver yourself to him as His property. Give him back Love, for all the love that he has given you, and the benefits he does to you, almost every day. Serve him, for you are here to serve Him.
Perhaps you might pray with your own words, giving him your own feelings and thoughts. If that is so:
1.- Make sure that you always spend a certain amount of time, in such prayer, to avoid being lazy or inconstant.
2.- If you have children or a family, still say some vocal prayers, because you should and want to praise God and honor Him, collectively, with all your family.
The Results of Prayer
Perhaps you think praying is too difficult for you.
Perhaps you find it hard? perhaps we don’t have to pray every day? Well, let’s look at Daniel, who was literally risking his life to pray. Anyone of us might have said: “I would die. Nothing happens if I don’t pray for a month, or if I pray less…” But Daniel prayed, even at the risk of his life. How I would admire, and we all would, a Catholic Man today, in such situation, raise up his chest, and devoutly and gravely get up and adore God, together with his family, three times a day, even at the risk of his life!
But before we shrink from it, let’s look at the results of Daniel’s prayer.
The following day, the king came to the den, and with a trembling voice asked out loud, putting his lips at the vents of the dent: “Daniel, servant of the living God, hath thy God, whom thou servest always, delivered thee from the lions?”
There is a painting which I love and portrays the answer of Daniel beautifully. In it, Daniel is looking towards the window in the den, where the light of the sun is coming through, representing God. And Daniel is standing in a peaceful, grave, and pensive manner. The Lions are at his back, meek and tamed under the power of God. And you can almost hear Daniel saying, as if he never doubted it: “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut up the mouths of the lions, and they have not hurt me”.
My dear friends: If we pray daily, if we pray with devotion, if we do this our FIRST DUTY conscientiously and carefully, we cannot doubt that God will do what is best for us. He might deliver us from the Lions, at times he might allow us to suffer. But it will always be for his greater glory.
Let us then do a resolution, from now on, to put in practice the things mentioned in this sermon, to do it little by little, one step at a time, until we can reach to persevere in proper and careful prayer, remember the words of our Lord:
porro unum est necessarium: One thing Alone is Necessary: To Pray.
In Nomine Patris