Jesus said to his disciples:”Ask and it will be given to you; 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. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread,or a snake when he asked for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.( Matthew 7, 7-12)
Our readings in the 1st week of Lent, most from the Gospel of Matthew, are devoted to prayer. Today’s reading faces the question– Does God answer prayer? For some, God–if there is one–doesn’t pay attention to us at all. We’re on our own. No one’s listening and no one cares.
Jesus knew his Father listens and cares. He asked for things in prayer and teaches us to pray as he did. In the Garden of Gethsemane he asked over and over that his life be spared. “Father, let this cup pass from me.” As he knocked the door opened, the answer came, yet not as he willed, but as God willed. “An angel came to strengthen him.” He went on to do God’s will. He suffered and died, and rose from the dead.
In our 1st reading from the Book of Esther, Esther and her servants “ lay prostrate on the ground, from morning until evening” praying for deliverance from their enemies. Their prayer is similar to Jesus’ prayer in the garden. They’re filled with fear, without resources, humbled, but they get what they ask, and more than they ask– an immediate, surprising victory over their enemies.
From Jesus and Esther, we learn that God hears prayers and is never deaf to them. God’s answer is more than we ask–but according to his will. He gave his only Son the gift of new life after he passed through a trial of suffering and death. God’s answer to Esther was more immediate.
From Jesus and Esther we learn too that humility leads to prayer. Both are stretched out on the ground, humble before God, and their humility leads them to cry out to the One who hears them.
Our prayers are answered in different ways, but there’s always answer and the answer comes from love.
St. Paul of the Cross recognized the mystery surrounding petitionary prayer. In a letter he responds to someone who remarks that God’s playing games; we’re not sure of the outcome. Our faith is tested when we pray for things.
“I thank the Father of Mercies that you are improved in health, and you say well that the Lord seems to be playing games. That’s what Scripture says: ‘God plays on the earth,’ and ‘My delights are to be with the children of men.’ How fortunate is the soul that silently in faith allows the games of love the Sovereign Good plays and abandons itself to his good pleasure, whether in health or sickness, in life or in death!”
I ask, I seek, I knock.
Hear my prayer
and let it be done
according to your will. Amen