Jesus embodies what to pray, ask, seek, knock is. We Christians, then, strive to pray, ask, seek and knock as he teaches us.
Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus and calls him, “Teacher” because he first calls her, “Mary.” And because God loves us first, we love also. In the same way, we pray because Jesus prays first. Jesus or God is the one who takes the first step.
But, yes, Jesus is “a man of the greatest prayer” (SV.EN IX:326). In the Gospel of Luke especially, he “prays again and again … ” (The Way of Vincent de Paul 32). Praying is so habitual with him that a disciple finally catches on. And he asks him, “Lord, teach us to pray ….”
Jesus agrees right away; he teaches the prayer that will identify them as his followers. And the prayer is plain, simple and short. It does not babble. Nor does it use many words as though one wants to force God to answer. As though one can, through many words, magically bring about what one asks for.
And the prayer names God “Father,” which suggests nearness, fondness and trust, and not strangeness, aloofness and fear. Next comes the wish that God show the holiness of his name (see Ez 36, 22-36). Moreover, there is the wish that a new order reign. That is, that the whole world and all human beings do what God wants, what is pleasing and perfect (see Rom 12, 2).
Surprisingly, then, the Lord’s Prayer starts out not asking for what is good for those who pray.
The prayer that Jesus teaches us focuses on God first and seeks his interest. Is not this simply another way of saying that God takes the first step? We now know we are sons and daughters because God reveals himself first, through Jesus, as our Father. And because he is such a good father and friend —as the two parables show— we readily go to him. We ask, yes, not to let us go hungry. To forgive us as we pledge to forgive others. Never to let us think that we, in the end, do not need him.
We, obviously, pray as a community. For to call God father is to say, too, that we are, among ourselves, brothers and sisters. No one of us should be poor, then, since we are to open our hand to the needy and have everything in common (Dt 15, 4-11; Acts 4, 32-35).
And the Father’s daily gifts and blessings should convince us that he wants the best for us. Surely, then, he will also give the bread of future life alongside Jesus. And the Holy Spirit also. To those who pray, ask, seek and knock trustingly and tirelessly as Jesus, while making the rounds of towns and villages.
Lord Jesus, grant to us who call ourselves your followers to pray, ask, seek and knock without becoming weary.
28 July 2019
17th Sunday in O.T. (C)
Gen 18, 20-32; Col 2, 12-14; Lk 11, 1-13