C Cycle – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
Lord teach us to pray as John taught his disciples. Since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the Jews have had a formula of prayer which involved praying three times a day. According to tradition Abraham instituted morning prayer, Isaac instated afternoon prayer and Jacob evening prayer. All Jews prayed those ritual prayers daily, faithfully reciting the words passed down for generations. John the Baptist as a Jewish man not only prayed those ritual prayers but obviously, he did something unique during his prayer as did Jesus.
What seems obvious by the question of the disciples is the prayers of Jesus and John the Baptist were effective and perhaps that was the motivation behind the question. We really do not know why they wanted to pray as Jesus prayed. But since this question appears in the Scriptures as a revelation from God to us, God is trying to gain our attention to a very important part of our spiritual journey because we grow in intimacy with God through prayer. The disciples are not questioning the merit of praying because it would seem prayer should be natural to us in not just because we grow in trusting God.
Does God really care about us, enough to answer our prayers? I can tell you the answer to that question is yes but then you will respond with the many times prayers seem to go unanswered. Where is God when we need Him is a common statement. Does God pick and choose or use silence or denial to teach us a lesson? The only way I can answer that question is to use God’s own words to us as he reveals himself to us in the words of scripture. “I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer.29:11). Those words from the mouth of God are definitive and should give us more than a hope in God’s intervention but they should fill us with confidence in His provident care.
Jesus, the exact representation of the Father, tells us in today’s gospel, “…ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds.” That is God’s response to our prayers.
What more do we need to believe? How about the lesson in God’s response to our needs as we hear the story of Bartimaeus? He refused to be silent and shouted louder and louder repeatedly until Jesus responds to him. Does that sound like God desires us to be accepting of a lack of response? Another lesson for us in the scriptures is the refusal to accept and answer of “don’t bother me” given to us in the parable we hear in today’s gospel. Talk about a neighbor from hell knocking on your door at midnight asking you for bread to feed a visitor. No was the response but the message of the parable is to persist because you believe God cannot be bothered with your needs.
God is telling us; He will always answer us and we can come to Him anytime. God is inviting you to come to Him day or night, convenient times and inconvenient times. He is inviting us to throw all our self-imposed restrictions out and rid ourselves of all our restrictions related to proper decorum and go to needs. In fact, Jesus use those very words to us when he said, “come to me all you who are heavy laden.”
It is an invitation to go to God without hesitation, without any preconditions about our worthiness or about the quality of our need. It is an invitation to receive not only what we are praying for but also to receive the one gift we do realize how badly we need in our lives is for the Holy Spirit to fill us.
Notice after Jesus invites us ask and to receive, He tells us are told about the one gift of God which answers all the questions we have about prayer, about God’s response to our prayer and why all we seek is resolved when we are infused with the Holy Spirit. Paul told us we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit will pray for us. Jesus tells us the Spirit will teach us and remind us of all He said and did. If only we could walk in faith with the full confidence of Jesus that God always hears our prayers, we could ask for mountains to be moved and they would move.
We all need to learn to pray as Jesus prayed and the only way, we can do that it to become one with God in prayer. That desire comes from a desire deep within us because we know there is more to our faith journey than what we are currently experiencing.
There is more to praying than following the ritual prayers and the disciple’s question to Jesus is evidence of that fact. They prayed, we pray but is our prayer drawing us closer to discovering the love of God, the forgiveness of God, the desire of the Father to give us all that is good or is it leaving us wondering if God has heard our players.
God is not distant, and God is not unresponsive. He is a loving Father who delights in us and wants us to never doubt His desire for us to become disciples. God wants us to do more than going through the motions of dutiful prayer. He wants our prayers to be honest, unbridled in emotion and never ceasing.
Let me give you a model of prayer used by the church for centuries. The Office is centered around the Psalms. I invite you to read the office – it is available online – and pay particular to the Psalms of David. Note David’s honesty as he speaks to God. Note his trust in God’s power to respond and his belief that God is always present. Model your prayer after David and you will pray as Jesus prayed. After all God called David a man after his own heart.