There were many times that the Disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ asked questions of him, or of each other. Usually they had completely misunderstood what he was saying, and he had to correct them, or even challenge their wrong attitudes, such as when they wanted to know who was the greatest Disciple. But on the occasion we read of in the Gospel today, from Luke 11:1-10, they asked him to teach them to pray, and he gave them the most precious prayer, that which comes from the very mouth of God himself, the Lord’s Prayer.
This should be an encouragement to us. We often feel that our prayer life, our spiritual experience of God, is not very deep or rich. We see people around us who seem to have got it together, or we read about them, and this makes us feel that we are either a failure, or that Christianity doesn’t really deliver what it promises. On the contrary, if prayer is something that is to be taught and learned, then we should not expect our spiritual life to work itself out in fruitfulness unless we become a disciple. We cannot easily pick it up by osmosis, or second-hand.
We can begin by listening to the words of Jesus Christ himself, who says that when we pray we should always pray …. Our Father in Heaven. This is a good rule, indeed it is a divine rule. When we begin to pray, let us always begin with the words that the Lord Jesus gave us as the proper means to introduce ourselves to God. What do we say? We call him… our father. If he is our father then we have become his children, and so we are invited to turn to him as members of the divine family by grace, and not as those who worship a distant and remote God.
I don’t want to consider all of the Lord’s Prayer in this brief reflection, but those last words of the Lord Jesus. He tells us a parable about persistence, and then he tells us that whatever we ask for we will receive, what we seek we will find, and when we seek access it will be granted. What does this mean? It does not mean that whatever I want God is somehow obliged to give me, if I wave this promise in front of him.
The Fathers are clear that what God waits to give is not possessions and wealth and temporal goods, but grace and life and understanding and himself. When we persevere in asking God to give us of himself, to give us grace so that we might be transfigured by the divine light and life, to receive understanding of his will. When we persevere in asking and seeking these things, we can be sure that we will find them.
More than that, if we persevere in seeking the very presence of God himself, never giving up in our prayer, increasing our prayer so that it fills each moment, we can be sure that God will grant us entry into the place where he dwells. Not in some future life and time, but in this life and within the heart.