Living Boldly for Others

“Keep asking, seeking, knocking” (Luke 11:9)

Luke 11:1-13 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, 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 indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Reflection: St. Mother Teresa said of prayer, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.”

In today’s gospel text, Jesus provides his disciples with a framework for effective prayer after a disciple asked him to teach them how to pray (11:1). The framework Jesus offered is known as the Lord’s Prayer (11:2-4). The prayer contains five foundational elements that guide every disciple’s worldview and life. They are: (1) praise of God as divine, caring, relational, and holy; (2) an unwavering hope that the world is headed toward a peaceable and just future; (3) a vision for the wellbeing of the whole human family (“give us”); (4) a vision for freedom from guilt and resentment through the grace of forgiveness; and, (5) an acknowledgment of the need for strength to live life with a God-centered spiritual morality and virtue. 

It would have been enough if Jesus would have stopped after sharing the framework for effective prayer, but he continues the teaching in a way that seems to take an unsettling turn. He continues his teaching by telling his disciples a parable about a man who received a friend that unexpectedly arrived at his home (11:5-8). Not having the food to meet the basic needs for his guest, the morally obligated and resourceful host in turn boldly goes out at midnight to one of his neighbors in town to ask for bread so that he can feed his hungry friend and guest. After some reluctance, the host’s neighbor gets up from his slumber and gives him some bread for his hungry friend waiting back at home. The teaching would be confounding if Jesus is implying through the parable that God is like the slumbering and reluctant man that eventually and reluctantly fulfills a petitioner’s request, but only after continued knocking on the doors of heaven, harassment, and shaming. This is certainly not a proper way to think about nature of God in relationship to our prayer life.

Through his overall teaching on prayer, Jesus makes a connection between God’s care for humanity (especially the vulnerable), a disciple’s moral and social responsibility to the vulnerable, and God’s divine activity in the world through the the life of a disciple. Jesus’ teaching on prayer enjoins his disciples to the plight of the vulnerable. Jesus teaches that effective prayer is human action on behalf of others guided by God’s good gift of the Holy Spirit (11:13). The beautiful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, beckons and empowers us to go boldly into the nights of unknowns on behalf of others in unceasing efforts – continually asking, seeking, and knocking – to meet their needs. It is the Holy Spirit who inspires our imagination to envision new life-giving possibilities for others. The Holy Spirit leads us to identify resources to meet the basics needs of others such as food, clothing, shelter, safety, community, and the peace of knowing that God loves and cares for them (11:6). It is the Holy Spirit who imbues us with the spiritual boldness to keep asking, seeking, and knocking in ways that enable us to fulfill our discipleship obligations and demonstrate God’s care and love to the vulnerable among us. It is the Holy Spirit who that gives us the ability to actively entrust ourselves and the needs of others with faith, hope, and love into the hands of God who cares for and leads us toward the fulfillment of human wholeness.

Prayer: God of life and love, may the prayers and lives of your disciples throughout your creation help shape the world in ways that usher in hope, peace, and life for all peoples in all places.

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