Arrows to Heaven

The preacher was happy to be on this remote island. He could do some missionary work here. The first persons he met were three fishermen mending their nets. In some way they managed to communicate with each other. They even told him that many years ago a missionary had come to those islands and he had baptized them. “We are Christians!” They exclaimed proudly pointing to each other. The preacher was so happy and he invited them to say the Our Father together. They stared at him. “What is the Our Father?” they innocently asked.

“What ?! You do not know the Our Father?! The Lord’s prayer?! Then how do you pray?” exclaimed a bewildered preacher.

“Very simple,” they told him. “We raise our eyes to heaven and say “We are three, you are three, have mercy on us, poor fishermen!”

The preacher was appalled at the primitive nature of their prayer life. He must help them progress. Improve. Learn the basics. So he spent hours and hours teaching them the Our Father. The fishermen tried hard and before the ship left, they managed to go through the whole formula without a single mistake. The preacher was so satisfied that now these three men were able to pray properly through his patient effort. A good day’s work!

Months later, this same preacher happened to pass by the islands again. He was sure his fishermen would be thrilled to see him. “Perhaps we can make one step forward” he mused.

The ship was still at a distance but he could already see his three fishermen walking across the water and waving their hands frantically. When they were within speaking distance, they immediately started shouting: “Preacher! Preacher! Please help us! We forget lovely prayer. We say, ‘Our Father in heaven, holy be your name, your kingdom come . . .’ then we forget. Please tell us prayer again.”

The preacher understood. What? He understood that prayer is not a mind effort but a heart effort! He felt so humbled. “Go back to your homes, my friends,” he told them, “and each time you pray say, ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us, poor fishermen!'”

The mystic Meister Eckart used to say : “If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

And someone remarked : Do you know what is wrong with the Church today? There’s too much theologian and not enough kneeologian.

How right he is!

Two beggars went to a king and pleaded for a coin. “Return tomorrow,” said the king. “Bring a container and I will fill it with coins.”

The one man said to himself, “Since I am only a beggar, I will not count for much in the eyes of the king.” So he brought a small cup, and the king filled it with coins.

The other beggar thought, “This king is kind and gracious. He will surely be the most generous towards me.” So he brought a large pail, and the king filled it with coins.

We are the beggars; God is the king.

If when we seek God’s favors, we expect to be treated according to our unworthiness, we force God to ration the very gifts we seek. If, on the other hand, we forget ourselves and think only of God’s goodness, God will live up to our high expectations and load us with a superabundance of gifts.

When we come to prayer therefore, let us come expecting much so as to allow

God the joy of showering on us the riches of divine bounty.

Ask for a miracle… and expect one!


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.

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