C Cycle – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
How many times have you prayed for something or requested someone to pray with you for something and that prayer was concluded with these words, “according to your will?” When we pray for God’s response to be if is his will could it be because we are uncertain our prayers deserve God’s attention? Or could it be we lack faith, or we lack understanding of God’s desire to give us all that is good.
Didn’t Jesus say to us, “ask and it will be done, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened?” Today’s gospel parable is telling us to be persistent and not to yield to the temptation of considering our prayers insignificant tor God. Can persistence change God’s will or his inclination to respond? It seems so based on this parable. But the scriptures are full of promises by God telling us it is his desire to give us all that is good. Have unanswered prayers left us cynical and doubting God’s provident care for us? Is that why we close our prayers by saying your will be done because it leaves us believing in prayer while at the same time it does nothing for us acting on that belief.
Yet in my diocese there are parishes that have prayer teams available for anyone who wants prayer after each mass. There are other centers of prayer for healing which exist in Ohio and throughout the United States as well as in other nations. They exist because we are a broken people who seek to feel the healing power of God and especially the forgiveness of God. Spiritual and emotional healing is at the center of all our prayers even if we are praying for a physical healing. So here is the over riding question for us today, how much we trust in God’s promises.
Abraham, in the first reading boldly speaks to God after discovering he intends to destroy Sodom. We must realize this is not a casual comment by Gog to Abraham. God knows Abraham’s heart and Abraham knows God’s heart. But Abraham knows the stories of the Old Testament where God destroys those who made the golden calf. He knows the penalty for disobedience is death and yet he knows the heart of God is not intent on destruction but on restoration and renewal. It is because he knows God’s heart, he can boldly speak to God about punishing the innocent with the guilty. If we learn nothing else today, we can take away that lesson, God does not desire to destroy anyone, but he will do all he can to give us the courage to change those who do not know God’s heart.
Where is out boldness and our faith in God responding to our prayers? He is not telling us in the gospel to be persistent. No, he is telling us something much more profound. He is telling us to listen to the things we hear when we pray for a need in our life or in the life of someone we love. Yes listen, because there was a response each time the door was knocked, and the need made known. The point to understand in God responding to prayer is God always answers prayer. He will answer it exactly as we pray for it, or he will remove our need to have it answered in a specific way, but we will know it has been answered.
If you look at both the Old Testament and the New Testament story you will discover at the heart of each one is a challenge to our understanding of God’s desire for us. In each case the individual in the story persisted because they knew the heart of God was to restore and make whole not to destroy and abandon us.
Yes, I know you are remembering those prayers for people you love which were not answered in the way you wanted them to be answered. I have had that experience also, while at the same time I have had the experience of praying for complete strangers and days, weeks, or months later hearing about their healing. That should not destroy our faith in God answering prayer. No, instead it should be a time for listening and learning why God’s action is not in our best interest. Note it has to do with us not the person for whom we are praying.
Jesus in the garden, prayed for the cup to pass. Yet that prayer was not answered. Jesus submitted to God’s will and that submission won for all of us our freedom from the sins we have committed. When we pray for something, and the answer is not what we desired instead of concluding God said no, we need to go to God in prayer and listen. For he is teaching us something about our relationship with him. It is a time for a deeper dependence on God for the outcome and time for us to understand what we must do going forward.
How should we pray? Boldly, confidently and knowing as Jesus knew, God hears us he always hears us.