Twenty Ninth Sunday of the Year 2019
As we have been working through St. Luke`s Gospel we find much about Our Lord`s desire for wholeness and healing for his followers and in chapter 17, part of which we read last Sunday, we find Our Lord, in his parable about the Ten Lepers, pointing to the need for gratitude and thanksgiving and not taking God`s gifts for granted. This week we take up the first part of chapter 18 which has much to teach us about persistence in prayer. It is not about arm-twisting Almighty God as it may seem to some to be but rather it brings out the need to have a relationship with Almighty God. Indeed, Jesus told his disciples about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. This implies, of course, a relationship between the pray-er and the Prayed-to – namely Almighty God for it is only God who can and does answer prayer.
To illustrate his instruction Jesus tell the story of the self-important judge and the widow woman with a sense of justice who perseveres with the judge who for a long time refuses to listen to her or take her seriously until such time as he has had enough of her pestering and gives in to her demands. Then Jesus tells us that the judge says to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God or respect for man, but since she keep pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death”
As I said, we can see this as I kind of arm-twisting of the Almighty but, far from it, and Jesus says,”I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes will he find any faith on earth ?”
Elsewhere Jesus says, “Ask, and it will begiven you, search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” Which we find in both Matthew 7.7 and Luke 11.9. This implies both faith and persistence.
Even so, we need to remember that prayer is not just about `asking` for God promises to answer prayer and meet our needs, the first purpose of prayer is surely recognising who God is and beginning with adoration – a fancy word for acknowledging our total dependence upon God and His love who brought us into being and, so after the Lord`s example we pray: “Our Father..” acknowledging that he is the Holy One in Heaven, asking that His Kingdom may come here on earth just as it already exists in Heaven, His will being done and then only asking for our needs – whatever they are – spiritual and material – after acknowledging His Majesty. Then comes the request that God forgives us our sins as we forgive one another. The whole tone of the Lord`s prayer emphasises then both our total dependence upon Him and our corporate nature as the Body of Christ for we are taught to say, “Our Father” not “My Father”. “I” is crossed out and the word “us” is integral to prayer so that whilst we can pray, quite properly, for our own needs after giving glory to God we cannot ignore others and particularly those who, as St. Paul puts it, “belong to household of faith.”
Our Lord in his teaching both as it is found in St. Matthew`s and St. Luke`s Gospel implies that prayer should begin with ADORATION a word simply meaning our acceptance of God`s love for us and telling Him how much we love Him, LOOKING FOR THE COMING OF HIS KINGDOM, LAYING BEFORE HIM OUR NEEDS – “Give us this day our daily bread” – ACKNOWLEDGING THAT WE NEED OUR SINS TO BE FORGIVEN AND HOW THAT THIS IS CONDITIONAL UPON OUR OWN READINESS TO FORGIVE – “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. And the prayer is rounded off by that request that God “lead js not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. Since it is unlikely that God would lead us into temptation it might be more accurate to say, “Do not bring us to the time of trial.”
A key word concerning prayer might be found in the word:
(P) – Preparation
The sense of persistence in prayer is shown in today`s Old Testament Reading from Exodus 17 when we read the story of Moses sending out Joshua against the Amalekites – Moses sat on a stone with arms raised but getting too tired and the arms dropping and the battle turning back against Josua when Moses could not hold up his arms in prayer. But the situation righting itself as Aaron and Hur assist Moses in holding his arms aloft in prayer of petition and Joshua cutting down Amalek and his army.
St. Paul`s injunction to Timothy in his second letter chapter 3 and verse 14 also, in part, complements the life of prayer when he say to Timothy, “You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true.”
Verse 2 of Psalm 120 which is the response to today`s psalm is a good pointer to the prayer of adoration and thanksgiving when we declare: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.”