17th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY 

There is so much in this passage. Let us take it piece by piece. 

“Jesus was in a certain place praying”.  This seems to clearly state that Jesus had a sacred space for his prayer time. This gives rise to the recommendation of a fixed place for our prayer. It is not beyond deduction to suggest that the Garden of Gethsemane was the sacred place for Jesus. He certainly was there in his darkest hour. 

“When he had finished”. It is possible to imagine the awe of the disciples watching Jesus at prayer. One of the disciples is so moved that as soon as Jesus finishes praying, he asks the question, “Lord teach us to pray.” Thence follows the teaching of the version of the Lord’s prayer that we find in Luke’s Gospel. 

At this stage we should note that this is not the prayer of Jesus. It is not the way Jesus prayed. It is the way he taught us to pray. For example, when Jesus prayed, he said “to my father and to your father.” He certainly had no need to pray for forgiveness!! 

“Father in heaven”. “Abba”. This entirely new and provocative teaching of God as being close and familiar caused great unrest with the Scribes and Pharisees. It was totally against the vision of the time that God was “Adonai”, the LORD, remote and unapproachable. Jesus teaches that we should approach God as “daddy” in our prayer. 

Can we skip to the verse, “Ask and you shall receive”? Let us clearly and briefly look at the conditions of this wonderful instruction of Jesus. Clearly, it is conditional. If it were true, I would have won the Lottery by now!!! I certainly asked for that in early years! Jesus gives three examples here. One is about the stone and the bread, one about the snake and the fish and the other about the egg and the scorpion. It is important to look at these. 

1.       The stone and the bread. In the desert places of the middle east a child could be confused between a loaf of bread and a river stone. Both are round, one would be covered in sand, the other in flour. If the child asked for the stone, a parent would know better and refuse to grant it. God knows better and sometimes refuses our prayers. All prayers are answered, not necessarily as they are asked! 

2.       The snake and the fish. The Red Sea has one of the deadliest snakes in the world. It sheds its skin near the sandy shore. A child could mistake it for a fish. But the parent knows best. 

3.       The scorpion and the egg. A scorpion has a white belly and when attacked is rolls up in a ball in self-defense. Again a child could mistake this round white shape for an egg. Parents know best! 

We should ask and we will receive. But we always leave the answer of our prayer with the Lord. He knows best!! 

What a challenge today. We have barely skimmed the surface of the text. But we had a go!

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