17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." (Lk. 11:1-13)
As a parent, I have had to reflect on my own prayer life as I think about how we teach our children how to pray and create a family routine around nightly prayer. My own inclination was to teach the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary, prayers that could be memorized and would be heard in many settings. My husband focused instead on thanking God by asking open-ended questions and making sure our daughter feels comfortable talking to God. Even though I defaulted to the Our Father, the act of reading this passage from Luke was a good reminder about just how powerful this prayer we say so often is.
One thing that strikes me immediately is about the community rooted within the model prayer. Even when it is not said in the context of Mass, we pray to ”our” Father and it continually refers to “us.” In a few short verses, Jesus emphasizes there is power in collective prayer and that we cannot go through this life only concerned with our individual selves. In order to fully experience God’s forgiveness, we too must forgive.
And though short, it is no small prayer Jesus teaches, the very first petition is, “Yourkingdom come.” Inherent in that is trust. Trust that despite not knowing what God has planned, it is right and good. Now, I say this prayer at least once a week at Mass, but sometimes in between things happen that shake that trust. However, it is through the act of prayer, by giving way to that trust, that we are changed, providing us the strength to face whatever may come our way.
The focus of the second part of the Gospel is persistence, something children are well versed in. I admit I immediately identified with the flawed friend, grumbling about the timing. In our house, this parable could easily be rewritten about whichever parent is in our one bathroom & the kids that decide at that moment they need to ask a question or want to spend time together. And yet, despite my impatience and imperfect nature, I do not give the kids snakes or scorpions.
It is easy to forget the radical nature of addressing God as Father in the prayer that Jesus taught the disciples because we think of the comparison as so apt now, but it was in that time. We pray for our daily bread, and God provides, but the latter verses remind us that God gives us more than we know to ask for. We might think we have asked for specific things and not received them but we must be open to the gifts of the Spirit.
Twice Jesus tells us to ask, seek and receive. All of these require action! We must continuously tend to our relationship with God. Prayer is central to that, and we will do well if our prayers are child-like: audacious and constant.
Author: Adrienne Alexander, President, Catholic Labor Network, St. Benedict the African in Chicago.