The passage in today’s gospel reading follows immediately upon St. Luke’s version of the Our Father. It seems to give further explanation of the disciples’ original petition of Jesus: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” I am struck by the stress on persistence in prayer. Jesus tells the story of the man who at midnight goes to ask a friend for loaves of bread because friends of his have come unexpectedly and he needs to feed them after their long journey.
If the friend replies that he is already in bed and he won’t give up his bread, the story indicates that even though he doesn’t give up the bread because of his friendship, he will give it up because of his persistence. The familiar words of Jesus are an encouragement to us, “ask and you will receive; seek and you will find.” Anyone who asks receives and the one who knocks will have the door opened for her. The “bottom line” is that God gives to us out of love and God knows us intimately to give us what is good for us.
This bottom line is so clear and yet its truth comes to us so slowly. The spirit of the gospel reading today is that I am called to boldness in my asking God for what I want. Often enough I don’t expect that the prayers will get answered and this is MY difficulty, and not the issue with prayer in general and especially prayer of petition. As any good parent wants what is best for their children, so God wants what is best for us and will provide it. Can I believe and trust in that? That’s the challenge of the gospel today.
Can I be bold in asking? and in expecting that my petition will be answered?
Lord, help me to know that you care and love me. Help me to expect that care to be realized concretely in my life and not to be afraid to ask for it. Help me to develop the persistence of the man in Jesus’ story today.
By Tom Shannahan