Seventeenth Sunday of the Year
Gen 18:20-21, 23-32, Psalm 138, Col 2:6-14, Lk 11:1-13
Jesus teaches us to pray. How great is that!!!
Our readings today invite us not only to reflect on these texts but invite us to reflect on our prayer as it develops and unfolds. Ask and you will receive might prompt one person to ask God for a lamborghini another for a vacation home in Iceland and still another for a diamond necklace. Somehow I think that is taking the reading in a different direction than Jesus intended. If prayer is conversation and the relationship is realizing not only what God can give us but what God is asking of us, our conversation might be a little different. Ask and you receive is not a vending machine relationship with God – push the buttons and you get what you selected. God brings us into existence with more than a let me entertain you program. “We” are endeavoring to work with God at the creation and salvation ‘work’ that God tells us we are privileged to be a part of. We don’t pray ‘My Father who art in heaven’; and carefully pausing to pray each of the words Jesus gives us in responding to ‘teach us to pray’ take us very clearly into a dynamic that is still coming to be as God continues to ask of his children that they love him and love one another.
Abraham is praying not for his wish list, but for the people of God who have messed up and to each request that God be forgiving, Abraham receives cooperation from God. Monks pray with and for all humanity – interceding in behalf of everyone in need – profoundly aware that we have many siblings in this human family who are struggling, may have made a wrong turn on the road, or may have fallen off the road.
Clearly, the psalm refrain is not saying we know God you want to give up on us, but rather we know God that if we are living the full dignity you have given us we are beholden to notice where things aren’t going well in the lives of those around us and we ask for their well being, the return to a right relationship with you and others, as the ones you have created in your image and likeness – thus the psalmist says – discard not the work of your hands, because God’s love is eternal.
God made us alive when he forgave us all – the letter to the Colossians tells us – alive! – not getting by, not barely surviving – but imbued with the Spirit of him who loves us faithfully and unreservedly. To be alive in the love of our God transforms our experience and hopefully brings us beyond the polarizing thinking that paralyzes efforts at dialogue. To be alive in the love of our God disentangles us from distancing from one another so that we can work at living together in peace to build up the kingdom of God. In his teaching Jesus asks, does a parent give a scorpion when their child asks for an egg, going on to invite us to place our trust in God who loves us and desires to bless us.
Knowing to whom we are praying, gathered to receive God’s gifts, may we be drawn to pray as Jesus is teaching us and find that our asking does indeed bring us to receive richly, enabling us to live together in the full dignity God has in mind in bringing us into existence.