Psalm 130: 1-8
Today’s scriptures affirms for us that prayer is a dynamic relationship between God and ourselves. In the Book of Esther she risks her life by interceding for her people. Her prayer is "My Lord, my King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you." In the parable of the annoying neighbor, who has unexpected guests, we admire his persistence and his neighbors acquiescence. First, one of the lessons Matthew is communicating is that "persistence" in prayer is an admirable quality. Second, and more important is that it is not "persistence" that wins the day. It is the relationship that we have with God. God is a loving parent and because of this wants to provide what we most need.
Matthew uses classic biblical terms for prayer in this story that his audience could not miss. Matthew has chosen very precise words to speak of the importance of prayer. The words: Ask, Seek, and Knock are all used in the Hebrew Scriptures as synonyms for prayer. Not only in the Scriptures is this true. It is also true in all our lives. We all find ourselves "asking" God for our simplest daily needs: to finish a task, to keep an appointment on time, to finish an exam, to pass a test. Sometimes we ask for daily needs we can not even find words to express. That a loved one will be healed of an illness, an injury, an addiction. At times in our asking we are like a child "with no language but a cry." Yet somehow faith assures us our cry is heard and God will respond. At other times we "seek." We are like the student of life who is seeking for answers, and is not sure what the right question may even be. But in our ignorance and thirst for an answer we are sure God understands our question and gives the needed response. Because of this assurance we enter deeply into the mystery of life and carry the sufferings and hopes of our family and friends with us confident that God is a loving parent who provides for our needs. Sometimes we need to "knock" because our words are too weak. Like the prophet Qoheleth, we stand pounding at the door of separation and injustice until our knuckles are bleeding. We knock in the darkest night praying that the door of life is beyond the perceived door of death. God is the Door of Life and is opened to all who ask, seek, and knock. Matthew says God will give all "good things" for those who ask. Luke says God will give "the Holy Spirit." Hopefully, "good things" and the "Holy Spirit" are the fruit of our asking, our seeking, our knocking – our prayer.
Fr. Kenneth O’Malley, C.P. is the archivist at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.