In the Hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
“Lord, teach us to pray.”
This Sunday's readings teach us not only what to pray, but how to pray - with persistence and hope.
Our first reading (Genesis 18:20-32) is an early teaching of both persistence in prayer and God's willing mercy. Abraham learned that the three divine visitors (from last week's readings) planned on carrying out God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness. Abraham implored God, with persistence, to "spare the whole place" for the sake of the few innocents. God granted his request.
In those days, the LORD said: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out."
While Abraham's visitors walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer and said: "Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?" The LORD replied, "If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." . . . . But Abraham persisted, saying "What if only forty are found there?" He replied, "I will forbear doing it for the sake of the forty." . . . . Still Abraham went on, "Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?" The LORD answered, "I will not destroy it, for the sake of the twenty." But he still persisted: "Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time. What if there are at least ten there?" He replied, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it."
In our Epistle reading (Colossians 2:12-14), St. Paul explains how God, in his infinite love and mercy, has rescued us, despite our bondage of sin; and has forgiven our transgressions, nailing them to the cross.
Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.
In our Gospel passage (Luke 11:1-13), the disciples asked Jesus how to pray. His response was the Lord's Prayer, with it’s focus on the Father. Then he followed it with instruction on persistence and the willing mercy and generosity of the Father.
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?"
Prayer is said to be “Communicating with God in a relationship of love” (Thomas Zanzig). Prayer is a two-way conversation. Prayer should not be just an as-needed, case-by-case event; it should be a way of life, a life-long conversation. God rewards persistence.
- Click HERE to read, reflect, pray on the scripture readings for this Sunday