Insistent Prayer – Do Not Give Up!
The First reading presents an issue as old as faith in God. To the prophet Malachi and the pious Jews, the apparently happy life of sinners was a scandal. To them, who practiced their faith, God seemed absent and not listening to their prayers. But God will hear them and do justice to each on the day of judgment. Christ tells us to persevere in our prayers. God hears and will give what we need.
Luke tells us that Jesus prayed often. And insistently, as at his agony. Now he tells us that Jesus wants us too to be persevering, insistent and even bold in our prayer. For God is good. How can he resist us when we pray? He will give us not only good things but also the Holy Spirit, the gift that contains all gifts. In fact, He’ll later instruct us to, “Pray always and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
1 Reading: Malachi 3:13-20b
You have defied me in word, says the LORD, yet you ask, “What have we spoken against you?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his command, And going about in penitential dress in awe of the LORD of hosts? Rather must we call the proud blessed; for indeed evildoers prosper, and even tempt God with impunity.” Then they who fear the LORD spoke with one another, and the LORD listened attentively; And a record book was written before him of those who fear the LORD and trust in his name. And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action.
And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Then you will again see the distinction between the just and the wicked; Between the one who serves God, and the one who does not serve him. For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
R. (Ps 40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night. R.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers. R.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes. R.
Alleluia: cf. Acts 16:14b
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open your hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 11:5-13
Jesus said to his disciples: “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
“That was the answer to a prayer.”
“I have been praying for this for years.”
“Fortunately God said ‘No’ to my request.”
We have all heard comments like these. We also know how often people ask for our prayers, and they do so with great confidence in the power of prayer. The short story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel emphasizes the importance of persistence in prayer. Jesus in no way downgrades the prayer of petition; it is clearly commendable and an indication of our dependence on the giver of all good gifts.
Prayer is closely connected with God being our Father. A child’s request of his father is received favourably. Therefore we should approach God full of confidence. Yes, there are times when we later realize that what we asked was not in our best interest. The outcome is not always certain, but the prayerful posture is always in order.
We seldom hear the “Dies Irae”, the sequence of the funeral Mass. It is a classic but perhaps a little too descriptive in treating the final lot of the just and the unjust. It has been immortalized also in Verdi’s Requiem Mass. But the truth is that it says no more than did the prophets themselves. Malachi today speaks of the final deliverance of the just and the punishment of evildoers. Even if the imagery need not be pressed, we cannot forget that there is justice in God, and the pursuit of evil differs greatly from the pursuit of good.
Let us be vigilant in our prayer, bringing our intentions willingly before our Father. Let us also remember that evildoing will receive its just desserts. We should be vigilant in our pursuit of good and persevering in our prayer.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” For God is good and he blesses you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!