Thursday, October 10, 2013

“Ask … seek … knock.”

"Every soul should know that even though God does not answer our prayer(s) immediately, he will not on that account fail to answer them at the opportune time, if we do not become discouraged and give up our prayer(s)." ~ St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, 2:4

Gospel Text: ( LK 11:5-13)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“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 him 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?”

Taken at face value, it sounds as if Jesus is saying that prayer is like a gumball machine. We put in a request, and out comes the answer. But Jesus was after something deeper than quick-fix prayer. He was trying to teach us about what kind of Father we have in heaven. He won’t give us the wrong thing, and he won’t ever leave us hanging out there with no hope. He loves us too much. Because he knows us far better than even we know ourselves, he knows what we really need—even what we really desire.

Does this mean that we should stop asking for the things we want? Not at all. God loves when we come to him, even if our prayers are shortsighted or otherwise misguided. Whenever we pray, we are putting ourselves in his presence, and that always opens us to his grace, even if God doesn’t immediately give us what we’re asking for.

There is more to prayer than just receiving. God wants us to understand His wisdom and justice so that we will begin to long for what He longs for.

In his parables on the power of persistence in prayer in the passages from Luke, Jesus helps us understand the need to continue to ask of God, to petition for help and guidance, to form good aspirations and expect good things from our prayer. These passages on one level help me understand that God will answer my requests with good gifts. But one difficult thing is that God gives us good gifts that only God might see as being good. I recall a story where a teacher reminds his students that our lives are like beautiful tapestries that God weaves with our talents and gifts. We fail to see the beauty many times because we are viewing the tapestry from the reverse side, while God can see it in all its glory. So too the responses we might receive in our prayer – we fail to see their goodness because we look with mortal eyes instead of from God’s perspective.

So pray with a firm, stubborn, even “mulelike” persistence. As we do, we will learn what is most important to God, and we will begin to ask for that.

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