17th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME - Deacon Brian Lewis
The disciples ask Jesus, “Teach us to pray” today. And Jesus complies with the words of the Our Father and instruction on prayer. Prayer was of the utmost importance to Jesus His whole life. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus prays publicly and privately, in front of crowds and intimately with His closest disciples. He prays from the very beginning of His public ministry, marked by His baptism by John in the Jordan river to His last breath on the cross when He commends His spirit to His Father. And it is with prayer that He ascends into heaven after His resurrection.
What do we learn from Jesus' prayer? More than just an action, prayer is a way of being; a way of living out a relationship with His Father. Because of this, Jesus can pray in all situations – in thanksgiving, in blessing, or even in deep grief. Jesus tells us today to be consistent and persistent in our prayer life and that prayers are always answered. God is always available. The lessons on prayer are clear. God is willing to give, but one must ask; God is willing to reveal, but one must seek; God is willing to open the door, but one must knock on it; God is willing to answer prayers, but one must pray.
Our first reading is a prayer from Abraham to God. Unlike formal prayer, this prayer is a discussion over the fate of good people living among the godless. After six exhortations about the number of good people necessary to withhold judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham got the number down from 50 to 10, who if found, their innocence would save the cities. It shows that only a few righteous can save many. The story also shows the relationship and depth of trust and love that Abraham enjoys with God.
We too can learn to be confident in our relationship with God through our prayer life. That relationship grows throughout our life as we share our hope and dreams, our wants and needs, our failures and mistakes, our misery and our repentance with God. God experiences it all with us and gives us hope and strength to move forward through the Holy Spirit alive in our hearts.
That is why we persist in prayer even when that prayer seems unanswered. For when we have the Holy Spirit, no request is too great, no seeking is unrewarded, and no door is locked. This is because no prayer is unanswered.
Yes, every prayer is answered by God, according to God's will. Our prayer doesn't change God; it changes us. It may or may not change our situation, but gives us what we need to accept and deal with our situation. As we surrender to our prayer, we become more like our Teacher, Jesus who prays boldly, persistently and authentically.
We never master prayer, we always have much to learn from the Spirit and we always have more room to grow in relationship with God.
So, like the disciples in today's Gospel, we too ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.”