So much teaching on prayer is packed into today’s gospel. Firstly, we are reminded that the “Our Father” was actually taught to us by Jesus. If for that reason alone, it must become the air that we breathe. We do well to meditate on each part of this prayer. Such meditation is the source of immense inspiration and enlightenment.
In the presence of the wild and wonderful promise that we find in today’s gospel with respect to our prayers being answered, I can say two things from personal experience.
The first thing I can say is that, rare exceptions notwithstanding, you almost certainly won’t receive what you asked for. But the second thing I can say is that you will most certainly receive something – something that God knows is better than what you asked for. The sooner we give the right to God to not answer our prayers as we have formulated them, the better off we’ll be. Over time, experience of Christian life and prayer confirms my second claim, that is, that we can trust God to answer our prayers in the way He knows to be the best. And once we have acquired that faith-certainty, and that disposition to accept “no”, at least to the things we have asked for, as an answer, the easier it will be for us to persist in prayer, as Jesus urges us to do. Our persistence will be richly rewarded.
Finally this surprising, unexpected affirmation by Jesus: “how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” Lk 11,13 We are to ask the Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit. That’s a very precious affirmation, because it’s not self-evident. Well, now we know. In the mainline Western Churches (the Protestants, the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics), contrary to the Churches to our left (the Pentecostals and Evangelicals) and to our right (the Eastern, or Orthodox Churches), the Holy Spirit doesn’t get a lot of attention. The reality and the works of the Holy Spirit are under-stated. As a consequence, we tend to neglect him. The fact is, he is real, and everything specifically Christian that happens in our lives happens in Him. And in today’s gospel we are reminded of this precious fact: we can, and we must ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit. When you think about it, this is a prayer that is pretty hard for the Father to ignore, isn’t it? Now we know, so let us proceed. Let us ask the Father on a regular basis to give us the Holy Spirit.
Enough material for one Sunday. More than enough content for one summer week’s meditation. If we all truly absorbed these teachings in our hearts and minds, what a difference it would make…