August 28 is the memorial to St. Augustine of Hippo, a Doctor of the Catholic Church.
St. Augustine is famous for his tremendous intellect and his gift as a great rhetorician. His books such as Confessions and The City of God are wonderful testaments to the faith, and even though they were written many centuries in the past, are as relevant today as the day they were published.
St. Augustine is also famous for the fact that he was a bit of a rapscallion as a young man, chasing earthly pleasures and forgoing the Lord. Living a life of excess, he was the object the fervent prayer of his mother, St. Monica. Her hopes were in the conversion of her wayward son, that he would soon discover the love and joy of Jesus Christ.
Her prayers were like many of ours in that we ask for something to happen. In her case it was for Augustine’s salvation. Our prayer might be for the health of family and friends, a new job, or to sell a house.
St. Augustine wrote about this kind of prayer in his letter to Proba, “a widow, rich and noble, and the mother of an illustrious family …” who had asked him for a discourse on prayer. His response to her request is quite thorough, as one might expect.
What he wrote in chapter nine of his letter, however, changed my view of prayer in a way I never thought possible.
“Therefore, when the Apostle says: Let your petitions become known before God, this should not be taken in the sense that they are in fact becoming known to God who certainly knew them before they were made, but that they are becoming known to us before God through submission and not before men through boasting.’”
God already knows our prayers before we pray them. He knows both the background and the answer to our request. Our prayers won’t change his mind, pleading as we might our case in the courts of heaven. Rather, our prayers make us able to receive their answers.
In his book Confessions, St. Augustine tells us “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” In a great act of stewardship, we give the whole of our lives to God. When we do that, then rest ourselves in the Lord, we find contentment.
Finding peace and contentment in the Lord is available to us today, just as it was St. Augustine was preaching about it 1,600 years ago.