SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME JULY 28, 2019
A reading of the holy Gospel according to Luke 11:1-13
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test."
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,'
and he says in reply from within,
'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.'
I tell you,
if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
At the beginning of this passage, we see that the followers of Jesus ask a very common question that each of us probably would have asked at various points along our spiritual lives-- how to pray. They ask Our Lord expecting a formula in which to pray.
Our Lord answers their request and gives us the human words of the Our Father. He then moves deeper into explaining the nature and disposition of prayer. Prayer understood is a spiritual seeking God out, usually for our personal needs, petitions and intercession. However, the ultimate seeking out is seeking God Himself. Jesus teaches us to address God the Father, through Jesus Himself, God the Son, and to ask for the Holy Spirit in a persistent way.
Elsewhere in the Gospel, Our Lord gives us His Name with which to pray, that is, to ask God the Father for anything through the name of Jesus Christ. Further, St Paul tells us that when we pray, it is the Spirit of God that prays in us and for us.
Prayer does not begin with us. All begins with God. He is the initiator of all good movements within our being. Prayer does not require any skill on our behalf, as it totally depends on God and where and how He chooses to lead us into ourselves, and ultimately, into Himself.
What does make it easier to enter into prayer is a refinement of our faculties. To be able to make that journey, it requires a simple, silent and humble heart desiring God.
When we say we cannot pray well, it could be because of one of these resistances: we are not silent enough, we are not humble enough, we are not simple like a child, or all the above.
It is not to say that God cannot work with our failings, but it is to say our failings resist the movement of God in our hearts.
I reflect on the gospel stories where Our Lord is moved to act and a pattern emerges. He answers the prayers of the broken-hearted in very extraordinary ways. Jesus healed the blind man and those with leprosy, He brought Lazarus back to life seeing the state of Mary and Martha, He healed the woman bleeding for years who touched His cloak. To understand why God allows our hearts to be broken, is to trust that He allows this for some good to come from it. The prayers of the broken-hearted are powerful.
Prayer does not necessarily result in amazing feelings of devotion and consolation, although sometimes it may, but it always transforms us. Like prayer itself, how we are transformed, and how much we are aware of this transformation is entirely up to God.