17th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
28th JULY 2019
Tony van Vuuren
The Gospel this week tells us a lot about prayer. Be persistent. Ask for what we need. Be assured of the concern of God for us. It does not say: Give it one shot and see what happens.
Between the model of prayer that Abraham provides in his bargaining dialogue with God and the direct advice that Jesus Himself gives us regarding prayer; we need to be centered on the importance of praying every day for our needs and the needs of others. We keep hold of God’s hand through our persistent prayer.
The Our Father prayer is the greatest and most well-known of all Christian prayers. Its short and simple phrases embrace every relationship between us and God. It not only tells us what to pray for, but also how to pray for it. However it so often tends to be said so hurriedly and unthinkingly that much of its meaning is lost. This is a pity; because, properly understood, the Our Father contains a whole programme for Christian living. If we were to live up to what it contains, we would be perfectly in tune with the mind of Christ, because undoubtedly this is how he himself prayed and lived.
The first part deals with God. We begin by acknowledging God’s existence, and calling him “Father”. God is a parent to us, and we are his children. Sometimes he acts like a father and sometimes like a mother!
Then we praise his name; and in praising his name we praise him. We pray for the coming of his kingdom; a kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love and peace. We all have a part to play in making his kingdom a reality.
We pray that his will may be done on earth. “On earth” means in our lives too. God’s will may not always be the easiest thing to do, but it is always the best thing.
The second part deals with us and our needs. We begin by praying for our daily bread. “Bread” stands for all our material and spiritual needs. We may experience a physical hunger, but we can also experience a spiritual hunger. We have a soul as well as a body and sometimes we can experience great emptiness. The soul also needs food to sustain it.
We then pray for forgiveness for our own sins, and for the grace to be able to forgive those who sin against us. Inability to forgive others makes it impossible for us to receive God’s forgiveness.
We pray not to be led into temptation. God does not put temptation in our path, but life does. And we ourselves sometimes walk into temptation of our own accord with our eyes open. We are asking God to help us cope with the temptations that come to us unbidden, and to avoid those of our own choosing. Temptation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a chance for us to prove our loyalty and maturity.
Finally, we pray to be delivered from all evil, both physical and moral. We can’t expect never to encounter evil. God has given us the gift of free will and he respects our freedom; so we can’t be guaranteed a life free from pain and struggle. He didn’t even do that for his son. But there is something God will do. He will help us cope with whatever evil comes our way. We are asking God for the grace to be victorious over all evil, but especially moral evil.
Just something we should take note of; the whole of the Our Father is couched in plural terms. This shows that we are one family under God, and there can be no salvation for us independent of others.
Our best behaviour may not save our part of the world, but it certainly will make for less of the negative drama which each of us is exposed to, tolerates, or even contributes to, each day. The Our Father prayer tells us how to pray, with an emphasis on forgiveness. Our persistent prayer will surely change our hearts and stiffened necks to conform more to this awesome God of ours.
So as we take a breath and disengage a moment from the current news cycle or family need or workplace upset or health issue, let us pray! Let us first return a prayer of thanksgiving to God for being there. Let us call on the Holy Spirit over and over, to be with us, close by, so that our new direction along our journey of faith and hope and love may reflect this awesome God.
No matter what we face in life don’t let go of God’s hand!