In my position, I spend a fair amount of time traveling by air. Whenever there is an especially uncomfortable flight due to severe turbulence, it is interesting to watch the reaction of my fellow passengers. Some simply order another drink. But mostly I see people that I suspect that are in some serious negotiation with their God. “If you just get me to my destination safely, I will be sure that I go to church this Sunday.” “If I make it through this, I am going to write that check to my favorite charity.” And the negotiations go on. (I have actually received donations at Catholic Charities from people who own up to the fact that they are making good on a deal they struck with God. Happy to oblige!)
In today’s Gospel passage Jesus tells us that if you ask, you will receive. If you seek, you will find. If you knock, the door will be opened to you. If we try to interpret this passage literally, we will find it difficult to take Jesus at his word. How many times have we prayed fiercely for something only to have it not come true? The sentences following these statements are critical to their understanding.
We are told that God loves each of us even more than a parent. And that love is always and totally solicitous of our well-being. How God answers our prayers is dependent on what we need not in the immediate or short-range picture, but in the overarching context of our life and spiritual well-being. Scripture reminds us that God does not see as human beings see. God sees beyond what is superficial to the underlying reality that lies at the core of our being.
This Gospel passage is situated within Jesus’ teaching on prayer. In the verses before this passage Jesus presents to us the Lord’s Prayer. This brief prayer addresses all the aspects of our relationship to God: praise, adoration, thanksgiving, petition. In the first verses of today’s passage, Jesus exhorts us to be persistent. Persistence has a way of opening up to us new insights into situations that might be myopic for us. Prayer gives us the opportunity to let God change our perception and in doing so, change our hearts.
Frequently our prayer focuses on the needs of our own lives, rather than beginning with thanking God for the countless blessings we receive each and every day. When the gift of blessing is our starting point our hearts can be open to the plight of those around us. Our faith tells us that our lives are inextricably entwined because God’s love unites us as sister and brother. When one of my neighbors experiences need, then my life should somehow be affected. And the initial response should be one of prayer. When we do this, we carry them in our hearts all the day. And prayer leads to action.
Just as anyone’s day would not be complete without food or sleep, so our relationship with God depends upon daily interaction. That can be a formal prayer experience or it can be as informal as having a conversation with God during your first cup of coffee every morning. Much of life is determined by our perspective. Through prayer our perspective becomes one of faith; a perspective of faith leads us to recognize blessing. And blessing can lead us to truly pray: “thy will be done.”
Editor’s Note: During the month of November, as we celebrate the final days of the Year of Faith, we’d like to feature stories from YOU about the blessings and fruits you’ve experienced during this year. How did you celebrate? What did you do to grow in faith? How did your relationship with Christ and His Church deepen?
Send us your stories and reflections to email@example.com along with your contact information, and your reflection could be featured here on the blog in November!
Submissions should be under 500 words; deadline for submissions is October 31st.