Clearly, “persistence” is the word of the day. Ask, seek and knock and we will receive, find and be welcomed. But what is it exactly that will be given to us? To illustrate, I have been praying for priest-friend these last days and his situation has not been resolved; a few months ago I buried a lovely parishioner—JoAnne Gullo—after having prayed for and with her for years; a priest of our diocese is not recovering very well from being stricken with serious illness and he’s barely hanging on to his life. For each of these and so many more things I’ve been praying, but when asking, seeking and knocking, I’m finding it almost impossible find the Lord’s response. Yet, He still invites me to be persistent in prayer. Why?
In today’s first reading, we hear of the immediate results of Abraham’s prayer: God promises to save Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of a mere ten righteous inhabitants. So, what about God’s response in other instances?
I wonder if my prayer could be better framed: recall the Lord’s Prayer and our constant request that God’s will be done. This might be significant: if my prayer is to be that God’s will be done in these many challenging situations, just what will God’s will look like? I would suggest there are two important ingredients that help to shape God’s will. First, I would hold that God’s will very much involves His desire for me (and, for that matter, every one of us) to experience LOVE. To experience, feel and know that I am fully loved by God; to be able to grow in my love for God in return; to be able to freely love and be loved by others. This is God’s greatness of will: that each of experience more and more fully LOVE. Second, I believe that God’s will is that we also experience FAITHFULNESS. At the core of the human soul, we desire a love that is faithful, enduring, unending, constant. I desire your faithfulness, for example, when the bells of the church toll and you gather for the Eucharist; you desire my faithfulness to lead our prayer well; husbands and wives desire a steady and enduring faithfulness in their openness, their care & support, their cherishment of the other; children desire and long for the faithfulness of their parents; citizens desire faithfulness from government and society; and so on. Even throughout the Scriptures we see examples—time and again—of God’s faithfulness to us and to His promises for us. So LOVE and FAITHFULNESS make up God’s will.
Back to this persistence in prayer embodied in today’s readings. Note well that, in the end, Abraham did not receive the spirit of his petitions: Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed. Was it that God did not receive Abraham’s plea? No, but in His will, God desires that goodness which, in this instance, is Justice. As the citizens of those two cities did not desire God nor His will, justice demanded that a punishment be meted out. In our Gospel, Jesus invites us to continue to ask, seek, and knock, but He never promised WHAT would be given, WHAT would be found. Instead, it’s left open to the will of our heavenly Father. And isn’t this crucial to our relationship with such a loving Father: that we trust His LOVE, His FAITHFULNESS, His GOODNESS toward us?
Finally, what of the various prayers I’ve been offering lately?
As we all know, the human condition always involves the struggle between good and evil, health and sickness, death and life. So, when I accept that I cannot escape such struggle, when I finally can admit that I am not the all-powerful God, only then can I begin to rest in God’s goodly care and constant presence. That when I am suffering, God is near; when my priest-friend is in such pain, God can now become the new source of his consolation and peace; when a couple is having difficulties in marriage, then humility, honesty and compassion can become new hallmarks in their love; when a parishioner dies, God’s will is accomplished in the resurrection of the dead.
Yes, God hears and answers our every prayer: we simply need to learn to see Him, trust Him, love Him…and His holy will…a will filled with LOVE and FAITHFULNESS!
May each of us experience the answers to our prayers, prayers that allow God’s will to come upon us, bless us, and remain close to us always.