“Ask and you will receive…”
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he said: begin by saying “Father” — in Aramaic, “Abba” daddy. That word sets the tone for how we are to pray. God is not a father from whom gifts have to be forcibly extracted. God is Abba, a loving, intimate father who delights in giving us all we need.
If the disciples – and we – still don’t get it, Jesus tells a parable about prayer. Sometimes parables illustrate a likeness; sometimes a contrast. The story in today’s gospel reveals a contrast. Jesus tells us if a father who is impatient, inconvenienced, ill-tempered and just plain grumpy can be coerced into giving a friend the bread he needs, how much more, by contrast, will a caring and understanding Abba give us what we need?
My granddaughter, Sarah, loves ice cream. During the summer, ice cream is our favorite desert. The trouble begins however when Sarah demands her ice cream before dinner. She may scream and cry, but Mom and Dad, good parents that they are say no, not yet, not now. A healthy dinner comes first – with vegetables – to strengthen her body and keep her in good health.
God, our loving father, knows better than we do all that we need and when we need it. If we don’t receive what we ask for, it isn’t because Abba grudgingly refuses to give it, but because God knows best what we need right now to strengthen our faith and keep us in spiritual health.
A man one day prayed to God and asked: “How long is a million years to you?” And God said, “About a minute.” The man then asked: “How much is a million dollars to you?” And God said: “about a penny.” The man prayed: “Please give me a penny.” God said: “In a minute.”
God’s delay and our need to persist and persevere in prayer are mysterious dimensions of God’s providence. Nevertheless, Jesus urges us: ‘Ask and you shall receive.” And our prayers will be answered. Abba, our loving father, will delight in giving us all that we need.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California.