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Lord, Teach Me to Pray!
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just 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 in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Opening Prayer: My dear Father in Heaven, you are truly holy. Lord open my heart to your Spirit and guide me in this time of prayer. Thank you for loving me as I am and forgive me for my many failings.
- Lord, Teach Me to Pray: Imagine the disciples watching Jesus as his prayer unfolded. How many times had they seen him steeped in prayer? What about this moment made them curious? What was Jesus’ posture? How did his intensity reveal itself? Watching Jesus talk to his Father must have deeply inspired the disciples because they asked to be taught how to pray. We all want an intimacy in our prayer that draws us close to the Father, don’t we? May the Lord teach us to pray.
- A Friend at Midnight?: Our Lord was eager to teach his disciples how to pray. In the parable he shared, Jesus urged them (and us) to be persistent in prayer. Persistence in prayer can be difficult while we wait for an answer. Discouragement can sap our hope. But persistence can become much easier if we remember whom we are talking to. We know that Our Lord is pure love. Therefore we can trust him with our deepest longings, knowing that he works everything out for the best (Romans 8:28). “For ‘we have not been commanded to work, to keep watch and to fast constantly, but it has been laid down that we are to pray without ceasing.’ This tireless fervor can come only from love. Against our dullness and laziness, the battle of prayer is that of humble, trusting, and persevering love” (CCC 2743).
- Snakes and Scorpions: This may sound strange, but aren’t there times we think we’re getting snakes in answer to our prayers? How often do we look at prayers, perhaps for a dying friend, and wonder if they are being heard? We can be tempted to pull away from God, to cross our arms like a stubborn toddler. If we’re wise, however, we’ll follow St. Paul’s recommendation and praise God! “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (Thessalonians 5:16-18). As hard as it can be, we praise God for our suffering, and for the good we find in the midst of our deep sorrow. When we praise God, we greatly bless him and our praise draws an abundance of grace upon us and those we love.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, your relationship with the Father is intriguing and captivating. There is an intimacy that I see and that I want. Lord help me, in my prayer, to form that intimacy that only comes with relationship. Help me, through your Holy Spirit, to grow closer to you. Help me to grow in trust as your plan for me unfolds.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will seek out a special time of personal prayer, perhaps to make a visit to Christ in the Tabernacle or a Eucharistic Holy Hour, where I will praise you.
For Further Reflection: Psalm 28 is a beautiful prayer during hardship.
Bob Cohn and his wife Jeanette live in Maryland and have spent the last thirty-five years raising seven children, working in their parish, and singing together. He is an electrical engineer with a manufacturing firm, and he loves to share his faith through speaking and writing.