Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had
finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, 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 indebted to us. And do
not bring us to the time of trial." And he said to them, Suppose one of
you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, "Friend,
lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have
nothing to set before him."
And he answers from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been
locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you
anything." I tell you,
even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend,
at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he
needs. So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will
find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks
receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the
door will be opened. "
The disciples had often seen Jesus praying alone. They were
anxious to learn some special prayer from him, as John the Baptist had
evidently taught his disciples some special prayers. As Jews, the disciples
knew the ordinary morning and evening prayers. Prayers before eating were
usually aid by the Jews too, and the disciples also would know them. Our Lord’s
answer to this request was the prayer we all know as the “Our Father”.
In this prayer, Jesus gave them a formula which contains the
essence of all prayer. God is addressed as our Father. He really is, since he
made his Don our brother. We praise and honour him and wish that all will
honourn him. Then we ask for our daily, temporal needs, and especially for our
spiritual needs. We ask forgiveness of all our offences, while we likewise
promise to forgive our brothers if they offend us.
Jesus then went onto stress the necessity of perseverance in
our prayers. We must honour God daily and pray that all will honour him. We
must also keep on asking for our temporal and spiritual needs. This is the
meaning of the parable. The Father may delay the granting of our reque3st
because he wants us to continue to t trust in him. This very perseverance in
our prayer is bringing us closer and making us dearer to God. This is a greater
blessing for us than the favour for which we were asking.
As regards requests for help in our spiritual life, we can
rest assured that, if God delays his answer, the reason is that he has some
more important spiritual gift for us. Our perseverance in prayer will bring it
to us. Many great saints often wondered why God did not answer their fervent
prayers and remove some temptation, or some lack of virtue which they felt was
impeding their progress. They found out later that it was because God was slow
in grating their requests that they actually progressed in sanctity.
As far as temporal favours are concerned, we do not always
know what is best for us. God does. Of this we can be sure that if our requests
for temporal favours are sincere and persevering, we are sure to get an answer.
Christ himself says so. The answer may not always be what we asked. If not, it
will be something better, something we do not even know we need. God knows it
and gives it to us, instead of the less essential gift we were asking for.
Looking back over our lives, many of us can see now how
fortunate we were that some of the favours we sought so fervently from God in
our youth were not given us. He gave us instead some gift which we had not even
thought of, but which changed the course of our lives and saved us from the
tribulations, spiritual and temporal, which the gift we were so anxiously
seeking would have caused us, if God had granted it.
We are told by Christ, we must continue to ask. He has put
us in this world in order to earn heaven. Our life here is of its very nature a
journey. All journeys entail some, and often many, hardships. For some on his
way home, the journey’s hardships are bearable. For some they may at times
border on the unbearable, but such people can turn to their heavenly Father. He
has a personal knowledge of, and interest in, each individual’s progress. Ask
him to remove the cross, for the time being at least. Loving Father that he is,
he will do just that, or he will strengthen the shoulder that has to bear.
Remember out Lord’s advice to us: “Ask and you shall
receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened to you.” Amen.