Prayer with a Price

This morning, as happens pretty much on a daily basis, someone was on the street in downtown Chicago asking for money as I walked to the office.  A few years ago when I made the Ignatian pilgrimage to Spain and Rome, I was impressed by the fact that for a prolonged period in his life, Ignatius begged for what he needed to live on outside a church in Barcelona.  Since that time I have thought of Ignatius when I see people asking for help and I try to share something with them.  I remember that even Ignatius had to ask for help in such a humble way.  So this morning I gave the person some money.

Then I got to thinking that accepting money for prayer was one of the most serious complaints Martin Luther had against the Catholic Church.  Admittedly it’s not exactly the same thing, but he definitely didn’t like putting a price on prayer.  Then I realized that something really important to me is the “God bless you” that you get most often when you give something to someone on the street.  Personally I place a lot of trust in that prayer.  I look forward to receiving it and somehow it makes my day better.  I am always reminded of the Scriptural refrain that “the Lord hears the cry of the poor,” so the God-bless-you that I receive no doubt goes straight to heaven and has God’s ear.  So I am grateful for the cry of the poor that is made in my name.  The fact that people in need are so attuned to the Lord in their life is a lesson for me.  And I am happy that they are praying for me.  That’s worth paying for.

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