Like most of us, those who followed Jesus were concerned with the nature of prayer. It is, objectively speaking, an interesting experience. At a point in our day, when we are in the midst of something or nothing, we turn our attention to God and, either audibly or silently, and expect that God is now focused on those thoughts or prayers.
A person hopes that his or her prayers are efficacious. We expect that God listens to and then responds to our prayers. While some of us understand this to be somewhat similar to a child asking a parent to buy a toy, as we mature in our experience of faith and prayer, we begin to understand that prayer is more of an adult dialogue.
It is understandable that the followers of Jesus would ask him about prayer. As Jews, they were familiar with the Scriptures, ritual sacrifice and the chanting of the Psalms. They went on pilgrimage, observed feasts and festivals, and they prayed. What should the prayer of a follower of Jesus look like?
Jesus taught his disciples a simple outline for prayer. It is communal, not solely personal, and includes elements of praise, petition, mercy and hope. The account of this prayer that we hear in Luke’s Gospel differs in development from Matthew’s more widely known and said version, but the elements are the same. The basic outline should work for all experiences of prayer.
It is here promise from Jesus: “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.”
Jesus is offering the absolute promise that the Lord responds to our prayer to find faith. When we seek an authentic relationship with the Lord, he will reach out to us. True, it might take persistence, as the Lord tests our sincerity of heart and purpose, but the Lord never abandons us or leaves us stranded.
Yet, too many times we are willing to give up on God. We can feel like our prayers are falling on deaf ears or go unheeded. We pray in the intense moments of need, but do not persist in prayer. Sometimes we hear talk about “bombarding heaven with prayers” when a crisis occurs, but we don’t hear people doing this when things are going well.
The Lord invites us into a relationship. He wants us to hear him as well. Sometimes when we think of prayer, it is us who does all of the talking. We open our prayers then tell God what we want, say “Amen,” and move on to something else. The Lord gets shut out of the conversation. Often, because of our closed-mindedness, or our simple moving-on, we entirely miss the answer and the dialogue that the Lord has invited us to have with him.
Abraham offers us a warning and an example. For as persistent as he was, he reached a point where he gave up. He managed to get God from 50 to 10 good people in the city of Sodom, but he stopped. He lacked the mercy and insight to ask God to go to zero.
When we place specific demands on God we place limits on God. We need to be open to the full working of grace in our lives – to allow God to do great things for us. Allow your prayer to be not what you want but what God wants for your life.[[In-content Ad]]
Father Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.