Prayer: An Ongoing Journey by Preston Findlay, Vestry Member
Prayer can be difficult. It can be difficult to prioritize our most pressing needs and wishes, and to acknowledge our discomforts or painful sorrow to ask God’s help. In brighter moments, it can be difficult to make time for prayerful thanksgiving, and we might frequently need to be reminded we can reach out in prayer for strength and renewal and not just for solace and pardon.
I feel better knowing that prayer did not always come naturally even for the Disciples. In this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Luke (11: 1-13), Jesus is asked by his closest followers to teach them how to pray. He recounts a version of the Lord’s Prayer as a specific script but also provides several broader lessons about the purpose and answers that prayer can provide: “for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
In one of these lessons about the answer to prayer, Jesus starts by explaining that even a wicked or evil man would never respond to a child’s request for a fish by giving the child a snake instead, or hand the child a scorpion when they ask for an egg. The example is intended to illustrate the generosity of God’s grace in response to our requests, as Jesus explains “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
As I try to appreciate the entirety of this lesson and to recognize my own unearned grace, today it is difficult for me to look past the literal example Jesus used. His story starts with a fairly safe assumption he expected his entire audience to recognize, that even an evil person knows how to respond to a child with basic kindness, and even an evil person would not respond to their child’s simple request with malice. But today I am often confronted with examples of doors slammed closed, and the needs of children (and their families) treated as a burden or met with outright hostility.
Today it can be difficult to focus on the larger lesson about the purpose of prayer in our lives, if we don’t even share the same basic understanding about personal compassion, that was assumed in the time of the Disciples. Now more than ever it is important to pray for the friends, strangers, and especially the children who knock on our door and the doors of our nation – and to greet every person in need with the same level of compassion that was assumed by Jesus when he tried to illustrate the enormous, welcoming generosity God provides in response to our prayers.