17th Sunday OTC

Genesis 18:20-32, Col 2: 12-14, Luke 11:1-13

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One day, Joe, Bob and Dave were hiking in a wilderness area when they came upon a large, raging, violent river. They needed to get to the other side, but had no idea of how to do so.  Joe prayed to God, saying, “Please God, give me the strength to cross this river.” Poof! God gave him big arms and strong legs, and he was able to swim across the river in about two hours, although he almost drowned a couple of times.

Seeing this, Dave prayed to God, saying, “Please God, give me the strength and the tools to cross this river.” Poof! God gave him a rowboat and he was able to row across the river in about an hour, after almost capsizing the boat a couple of times.

Bob had seen how this worked out for the other two, so he also prayed to God saying, “Please God, give me the strength and the tools, and the intelligence, to cross this river.” Poof! God turned him into a woman. She looked at the map, hiked upstream a couple of hundred yards, then walked across the bridge.

Dear friends! The readings teach us today what to pray and how to pray.  The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis, gives us a model of intercessory prayer provided by Abraham in his dialogue with God. Although Abraham seems to be trying to manipulate God through his skillful bargaining and humble, persistent intercession, God is actually being moved to mercy by the goodness of a few innocent souls. The responsorial psalm, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me,” is a hymn of hope and trust in the Lord, reminding us that God is close to the humble of heart and to all those who call upon Him in their need.

In the gospel passage, after teaching a model prayer,  Jesus instructs his disciples to pray to God their heavenly Father with the same boldness, daring, intimacy, conviction, persistence and perseverance shown both by Abraham and by the friend in need in Jesus’ parable. Jesus gives us the assurance that God will neither be irritated by our requests nor unwilling to meet them with generosity.

The parable teaches us that prayer is not putting coins in a vending machine called God to get whatever we wish. We must not look upon God as a sort of genie who grants all our requests. God is our loving “Father” who knows what to give, when to give and how to give. This includes not only our daily bread but also our spiritual needs. Prayer is a relationship — an intimate, loving, caring, parent-child relationship. The Greek text means: “Ask and you will receive something good,”–not just whatever we ask for. The New Testament Greek also instructs us, “ask and keep on asking…seek and keep on seeking…knock and keep on knocking.”  Hence, we are to be persistent declaring our trusting faith and dependence on God. One thing that is sometimes overlooked in this story is that this is primarily a story about intercessory prayer. One friend goes to another friend on behalf of someone else.

A colleague asked C.S. Lewis if he really thought he could change God with his prayer for the cure of his wife’s cancer. Lewis replied: “Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.” The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us but that we will finally hear God.

We need to keep in mind that Jesus has taught us to address God as Father.  A loving Father listens to his child, but he does not blindly endorse every request.  Instead, the loving Father provides what is needed, including discipline.

One of the easiest ways that devil has to lead us away from God is to discourage us or to convince us not to pray. He tells us “it doesn’t work,” ‘you’re wasting your time,’ ‘it’s boring,’ ‘you have too many other things to do,’ ‘you are too tired now,’ etc. Today’s reading tells us, ‘don’t ever quit praying, no matter what. It will bring you great blessings and most important, it will bring you to a deeper relationship with God.

Dear friends! Prayer is a vitally important aspect of the life of any Christian. One could say that prayer is the life-blood of faith, the vital force that gives us energy and moves our faith forward. Let’s pray for each other until, together next week, we “meet Christ in the liturgy”.

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