Persistence in Prayer

17th Sunday OrdinaryTime Cycle C      
25th JULY 2010
 Luke 11: 1-13. Genesis 18: 20-32
Tony van Vuuren

Persistence in prayer is one of the important themes of today’s scripture readings.

Using the parable of the friend at midnight, which is unique to Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that persistence has the power to overcome resistance.

This is a part of Jesus’ response to the disciples who had asked Him how to pray. He taught them the Lord’s Prayer, gave them the parable, and immediately thereafter He said: “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

 Jesus is telling us to pray persistently, to pray constantly, to pray endlessly, and to make prayer a ritual. Besiege God; continually ask for God’s help, God’s gifts, and God’s love. God our Father knows what we need… what God needs to know is how much we love Him, how intensely we love Him, how much we will love Him no matter what. Persistence lets Him know.

Perhaps this will throw light on understanding what today’s First Reading is all about. It’s not the haggling that God wants; it’s our persistence through prayer in seeking His love, His care, and His gifts for us. All true love is persistent; it is constantly proclaimed; we never tire of words of love; Love that speaks of fidelity and commitment beyond the ups and downs of our emotions, distractions, and tiredness on a given day. Prayer is in part a ritual, an act that is done regularly to assure God our Father; that the deepest part of us remains committed even during those times when we are too tired, too distracted, too angry, too anxious, too emotionally unfaithful to be as attentive and present as we should be. There are those times though when ritual doesn’t come into it and we spontaneously start a dialogue with our Father; a conversation with the God who loves us.

Not to pray is to show our indifference toward God. Not to pray is to send the gift of His love back to Him. Jesus taught us how to pray in the simplest of terms. There’s nothing mysterious or mumbo-jumbo about it. The prayer Jesus taught us is so simple in its expression of what we need from God. It tells us that we need to honor Him, that we need our daily bread, that we need forgiveness, that we need His strength to give forgiveness to others, and that we need God’s protection in times of temptation and trial. Not to use it, not to pray it, is to say to God: “You don’t have anything I need or want.”

Our prayers acknowledge that we have a relationship with God. Consequently, the quality of our prayer is complimentary to the value we place on our relationship with God. Abraham took God seriously — so seriously that Abraham haggled and bargained with God over the value of what was to be delivered. There was something very serious at stake here so Abraham got serious with God.

 Do we need God? Do we take God seriously? Of course we should. We need a higher power in order to extract ourselves from sinking further into the quicksand of sin as we thrash about, sinking further and further down. We need our daily bread — the Bread of Life along with all those daily gifts that nourish and strengthen us. Our daily bread is sustained by the ritual of prayer; the simple fidelity to the act, as we pray irrespective of our feelings and mood; any attempt at prayer is prayer.

 We need that which causes us to grow as persons. And I daresay each and every one of us here in St Michael’s will admit we need forgiveness.

Do we need the strength, the fortitude, and the guts to forgive someone in our lives who has deeply wounded and hurt us? Of course we do. Do we need to have the willingness to forgive others? Yes! For many of us here there has probably been someone in our lives who has hurt us so much that only an act of God can give us the will and the power to forgive that person.

Are any of us held in the steel grip of habit and addiction, a particular temptation that conquers us and snatches away our soul every time it visits us? Are we threatened by something terrible that will hurt us — by an evil that seriously threatens our well being? We all know that is so. We all know that we have been tried and found wanting. We all know that when we face that trial again we will succumb unless the power of God comes to us and helps us out of the quicksand that sucks us down ever more deeply and ever more powerfully to the point that we will suffocate in it.

 Jesus assures us that one prayer we can make with confidence is to ask for the Spirit; the best of gifts that God gives freely and abundantly. In prayer God’s Wisdom presents itself to us. The gifts of God’s Holy Spirit become available to us — wisdom, understanding, knowledge, strength, and courage being among them. We must try and find through the truth and wealth of Christian prayer our own style of prayer that will let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, who leads us, through Christ, to the Father. Our sorrows can become lighter; our pains can become a little more bearable. Our little part of the world can become more enriched by the presence of God, a presence we can bring to others around us. No one who prays is ever alone.

That is what happened to Abraham. That is what can happen to us. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask that God forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us, we are praying that we open ourselves up for God’s forgiving love in order to empower us to forgive others and to transmit His forgiving love to others. God does not suddenly change His mind and decide to forgive us simply because we pray. No. God is constantly forgiving us. He forgives us even before we ask. It is we who are hesitant and weak in forgiving. Prayer changes that. Prayer changes us, not God.

The Mass we celebrate is in itself a prayer. If we do not make the prayers of the Mass our prayers, then we give God nothing but our own indifference. To turn Sunday Mass into something that is only optional is to tell God that for us He is only optional.

To pray often, to pray consistently, to be persistent in our contacts with God, lets Him know that we really do love Him, that His presence in our lives is not simply optional, and that in our persistent searching for His caring love we take His love for us very seriously.

We need to spend quiet moments to hear and absorb the words “how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him;” above the clamor, hurts and anxieties of life

 If we do that then Jesus’ words will come true for us: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” 

Ref: Fr Charles & Fr Ron.

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