17th Sunday in Ordinary time July 28th.
Through the readings of this Sunday Jesus is teaching us how to pray and persistence in prayer. Do you pray with joy and confidence? The Jews were noted for their devotion to prayer. And the rabbis had a prayer for every occasion. It was also a custom for rabbis to teach their disciples a simple prayer they might use on a regular basis. Jesus' disciples ask him for such a prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he gave them the disciple's prayer, what we call the Our Father or Lord's Prayer. Authentic prayer is about exercising, screening, and correcting our desires. Prayer concerns crucifying our "flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24). Prayer is laboring (see Gal 4:19) and struggling not to get what we want from God but to give up what we want so as to obtain the desires of His heart. This means that the Lord frequently tells us "no" in prayer because our desires are out of order. What does Jesus' prayer tell us about God and about ourselves? First, it tells us that God is both Father in being the Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only begotten Son who, reciprocally is Son only in relation to his Father (Matthew 11:27). All fatherhood and motherhood is derived from him (Ephesians 3:14-15). In the Lord Jesus Christ we are spiritually reborn and made new, and we become the adopted children of God (John 1:12-13; 3:3). Jesus teaches us to address God as "our Father" and to confidently ask him for the things we need to live as his sons and daughters. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Jesus Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his atoning death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, he responds with grace (his favor and blessing) and mercy (pardon and healing). He is kind and forgiving towards us and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. Jesus' parable of the importunate and bothersome neighbor shows a worst case scenario of what might happen when an unexpected guest shows up in the middle of the night! The family awakens, unbolts the locked door to receive the guest, then washes the guest's feet, and the wife begins to prepare a meal. When the wife discovers that she has no bread to set before the guest, she prevails on her husband to go and get bread from a nearby family, who by now is also asleep with their door bolted shut. In a small village it would be easy for the wife to know who had baked bread that day. Bread was essential for a meal because it served as a utensil for dipping and eating from the common dishes. Asking for bread from one's neighbor was both a common occurrence and an expected favor. To refuse to give bread would bring shame because it was a sign of inhospitality. If a neighbor can be imposed upon and coerced into giving bread in the middle of the night, will not God, our heavenly Father and provider, also treat us with kind and generous care no matter how troubling or inconvenient the circumstances might appear? Jesus states emphatically, How much more will the heavenly Father give! St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) reminds us that "God, who does not sleep and who awakens us from sleep that we may ask, gives much more graciously." The Lord Jesus assures us that we can bring our needs to our heavenly Father who is always ready to give not only what we need, but more than we can ask. God gives the best he has. He freely pours out the blessing of his Holy Spirit upon us so that we may be filled with the abundance of his provision.