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Gen 18:20-32, Col 2:12-24, Lk 11:1-13

THE THEME TODAY IS PRAYER. The First Reading speaks of Abraham pleading on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah. The story implies two things which could be misconceptions for people of the Christian Testament:

a. God does not take vengeance on those who are wicked. In fact, really evil behaviour brings its own punishment because it corrupts and destroys. It goes against all that we have been created to be. It may not seem to do it in the short term but in the long term the inevitable results will be seen.

b. It is not necessary to bargain with God in order to reduce his anger. First of all, God does not get angry. This is an understandable human projection. It is the way we normally react when we see something very wrong being done. God is Love. It is not just something he does; it is part of his very essence. God cannot not love. Anger and vengeance are totally foreign to him.

But it is natural to project our instinctive reactions on to God. But, as we sing in our hymn, our God is a God of mercy and compassion. The true image of God is that of the Father waiting for the prodigal to come back. The prodigal suffered not because of anything his father did but simply because of the results of his own choices. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah indicates how willing God was to give these wicked cities every opportunity to repent and change their ways.

Teaching prayer

It was customary for a rabbi to teach a simple prayer to his disciples. John the Baptist had done so and now Jesus' disciples ask him to teach them, after they see Jesus himself deep in prayer.

In response, Jesus teaches them

- what to pray for

- how to pray

- what results to expect from their prayer.

What to pray for

First, he teaches them what to pray for. The Lord’s Prayer is not just a formula to be recited; it is not just a prayer to "say" although we tend to use it in that way. Normally we tend to recite it – before Communion at Mass, while praying the Rosary, etc. But it would be better to understand it less as a prayer to be recited than themes around which we should pray.

It is also a very challenging prayer. We are largely responsible for making the things we pray for a reality. For instance, we often pray for peace in the world. But who is going to bring that peace about? It is not all just meant to be God's work, where we tell him what we want him to do. In praying for peace or justice or whatever, we are reminding ourselves of our responsibility to work with God in bringing it about.

By Richard Doyle

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