The liturgical readings for Sunday, July 28 are filled with rich lessons, too many to summarize here, but one passage struck me forcefully this year. Handpicking phrases from Scripture out of context can be dangerous, especially for one like me who is not in any way a theologian. However that is exactly what the readings from the liturgy last Sunday, July 28, led me to do, so I share what I found (or what found me) with the hope that my personal reflections will encourage you to search for your own interpretations.
“Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) Don’t be afraid to ask God for direction.
In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable about a man who wakens his neighbor at midnight with an urgent request for three loaves of bread because he has nothing to give a guest who has just showed up at his door. The sleepy neighbor, though understandably annoyed, does grant the request because of the petitioner’s persistence. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Luke 11:9)
And yet haven’t we all had occasions when in our prayer we asked devoutly and sincerely and did not receive, searched high and low but couldn’t find, knocked loudly and repeatedly but nothing opened. So what are we to understand from this reading? Was this passage just a feel-good bit of empty encouragement? God does not deal with us that way. I certainly do not know the why and what and how and when of God’s ways, but I can surmise that the lesson Jesus is teaching in this parable is that persistence in prayer is critical -- persistence and confidence. My confidence is firm because I truly believe that God is a faithful God, a trustworthy God, a God whose love for me is unconditional, a God who will never desert me. I may never understand why sometimes my asking, my searching, my knocking appear to be unheard, but I will continue to pray with gratitude and hope the words of Sunday’s Psalm 137:
I thank you for your faithfulness and love
which excel all we ever knew of you….
you increased the strength of my soul.
And as for hope? Remember: “Hope is a marathon runner.” (source unknown)