Saturday, July 27, 2013

Teach Us to Pray!

Gospel Luke 11:1-13 
17th Sunday Ordinary Time  
July 28, 2013

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of the disciples asked him, "Rabbi, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples." Jesus said to them, "When you pray, say: 
Abba God, Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins for we too forgive all who do us wrong; and subject us not to the trial.  
Jesus said to them: "Suppose one of you had a friend to whom you went in the middle of the night and said, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for some friends of mine have come in from a journey and I have nothing to offer them,' and the friend answered, 'Leave me alone. The door is shut now and my family and I are in bed. I can't get up to look after your needs ' - I tell you, even if not out of friendship, then because of your persistence, your friend would get up and take care of you and give you as much as you needed.” "So I say to you, 'Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.'  "For whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; whoever knocks, is admitted. What parent among you will give your son a snake if he asks for a fish, or hand your daughter a scorpion if she asks for an egg? If you, with all your sins, knowhow to give your children good things, how much more will your loving God in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?"

  Ask and You Shall Receive So I say to you "Knock and it shall be opened to you", "Ask and you shall receive. "These are promises from the mouth of Jesus that continually perplex people. Everyone, having heard these words as a youngster, has thought to themselves, "If I just pray and believe hard enough, I will get whatever I ask for."  What's more, many adults still think this way. But all stories about people who hold magic genies in their power end up in a bad way; those who can have anything they want always send up disappointed, disillusioned and most times, worse off than when they started.
So just what did Jesus mean when he said, "Everyone who asks receives, everyone who searches finds"?  I think we can most accurately understand what he meant by examining the five petitions of the Lord's Prayer, which St Thomas Aquinas has pointed out to be the most perfect of prayers, for it teaches us all the things for which we might rightly ask and it teaches us the order in which they should be desired. 

"Our Father/Mother  God Who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name" Disciples, first of all, recognize that God is the Source of All and the fullness of life.  We acknowledge that everything of all creation as well as of all human accomplishment owes itself to the Almighty's genius and Loving providence.  We acknowledge frequently, humbly and gratefully, that life and life's pursuits are all gifts, for which God's Name deserves every mortal's constant praise. Furthermore, because of Jesus' Resurrection, as St Paul tells us in the 2nd Reading, all of our sins have been forgiven, 'we are alive together with Christ", and now have  the authority and grace as daughters and sons, to address God as a loving Parent and Friend,  Who we know  is ready to give us everything that is good for us.    

"Your Kingdom come, Your  will be done". God is more gracious than a friend who reluctantly gets up in the night to help us, but God's graciousness does not guarantee that we get what we think we want. I was in 2nd grade when I first began to understand that even though a whole church community could pray for something worthwhile and good to happen, we are sometimes given what we need instead, a mystery that we see best in retrospect. At the time, my beloved classmate Catherine was suffering greatly with her leukemia, and when after months of suffering she finally went home to heaven,  our wise and gentle Sister Bonaventure helped us see how peacefully and brightly Cathy had lived up until the end, and how as young as she was, gave us all, kids and grown-ups alike, the example of how we could go through our troubles in life, counting on Jesus to be with us. Although none of us then, and none of here today have gotten most of the things we've prayed for,  we have in retrospect, discovered more than what we were looking for, and  have been graced beyond our expectations by what was behind the door on which we were knocking. 
When we make this petition, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done",  we are asking God to change us from thinking that God is obligated to us because of our religious acts of worship or service.  ..we are asking that God make us, instead,  into instruments for the Divine Will to be accomplished on this earthly kingdom.
Give us each day  our daily bread". This petition asks us to recall the total dependence upon God that the  Israelites experienced in the desert, of having to pray and wait each morning for 40 years, for the manna  to appear like dew on the land, . Like God's people of old, wandering on their journey, we are to ask only for that which is essential and wholesome to our life--not for luxuries and extras. Mother Teresa once said, "God made the world rich enough to feed and clothe all human beings". So we pray, "Give bread to us; not to me only, but to others in common with me.", asking God to create compassion and charity in me for all those whom God needs me to feed. Finally, we remember that when Jesus was tempted to break His fast and turn stones into bread,  He told Satan, that  "one does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from God." Most importantly then, we ask God to give us hearts that hunger all over again every day, for the true Bread of Life, Jesus Himself, that we might be fed daily in Word and Sacrament.   
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". Which is to say that we will follow the standard set by Jesus' teaching and example. When he was asked how many times we must forgive someone He answered '70 x 70 times', Which is symbolic language for 'limit-less' times, for not even counting at all. And because His dying words from the Cross were "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,", He charges us to have forgiving hearts when we are most hurt by the betrayal and cruelty of others, especially those who we thought loved us the most.  
"Lead us not into temptation, but Deliver us from evil". Since God would never 'lead us into temptation', it's odd that we make this petition,  but it is in fact a plea for the grace of God to so fill us that we  never succumb to the pride of thinking that we can earn our salvation by our works. It is an appeal that we will be drawn to seek God's strength in all of our future unforeseeable trials, especially in those times of fear or despair when we might forget to pray.  

Because most of us have been saying the Lord's Prayer since we've been knee-high, the power of its longing has been lost in the millions of repetitions of it in our lifetimes. But Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God among us, gave us this prayer specifically to summarize and to encourages us in the Good News of His Gospel. To believe in and to call for the coming of God's Kingdom, to daily come to God with our basic needs as individuals and as community, to pray both to be forgiven and to forgive as we know ourselves forgiven by God, and to pray to not be tested beyond our capacity to endure in faith--this is how the followers of Jesus were to live . With perseverant prayer in this manner, asking for the Holy Spirit, we shall indeed receive.  

Reverend Mary Wagner

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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