Wednesday, July 22 2020
Our Father's prayer for our days: a reflection from the Gospel of Luke 11: 1-13
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for[e] a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 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!”
Today's Gospel reminds us of an important text that is included in each Eucharistic liturgy, celebrated in the Episcopal Church and is our identity. Our Father's prayer, the Lord’s prayer can be found both in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of Luke, although if we compare the two versions Luke omits some parts that are more detailed in the Gospel of Matthew.
We could dedicate many reflections on the meaning of the words of our Father’s prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition. But I would like to focus in a general way on the meaning the Lord’s prayer has and the parable we have read today, in the practice of personal and community prayer in the lives of Christians.
The way of Jesus was a way of prayer. Luke is the evangelist who most often refers to a praying Jesus, both in community and alone, both in moments of joy and crisis.
That is why the way of Christians must also be a way of prayer. Luke himself, in the book of Acts, often presents the apostolic community in prayer. Today the gospel helps us understand the importance of prayer in our personal life.
Luke is the evangelist of prayer and sees Jesus as the great prayer in permanent dialogue with the Father. Above all, in the important moments of his life, he shows that Jesus retires to a solitary place to pray to his Father: Thus he prays in his baptism, in the desert, before the election of the Twelve, in the transfiguration, before the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, on the night of betrayal, on the cross: that is why the prayer of the Our Father reminds us, "Pray not to fall into temptation."
When we focus on praying, we should live an experience of total dependence on God, recognizing that, above our human abilities, God has the ability to transform us through prayer. That is why prayer creates that deep connection we have with God and that at the same time produces in us that immense joy of sharing our faith and our love in the company of our brothers and sisters.
Prayer invites us to look at the reality of our world with faith and love. From that perspective we will be sanctifying the name God, who loves the world even when on many occasions we have decided to turn our backs on actions that do not dignify the human being as his creation. And although sometimes prayer also takes action from us, it is important to understand that what may seem impossible on many occasions in our human reason, the Gospel reminds us of the words of the Angel to virgin Mary, in the history of the birth of Jesus: "Nothing is impossible for God."
Prayer can change our sadness into joy, it can change our insecurity into trust, it can turn the impossible into something possible. All of this on the basis of faith and action.
In 1959, Cuba experienced the world-famous Revolution. The Cuban revolution initially brought social promises that encouraged the people to feel some sympathy for the values that the new leaders promised (free health for all, free access to sports, free education for all, among other reforms). But very soon The Cuban Revolution declared itself as based in communist ideology, which provoked an atheistic and dictating system of government that saw the Cuban church as a potential enemy.
We all know that the basis of communism does not believe in God, therefore, after the declaration of the Cuban government the impact became rapid and profound on the whole Church. 90 percent of pastors, priests and other leaders responsible for serving the churches in Cuba were forced to leave the country for fear of repression and the new conflicts between the Cuban government and the Church. The government, in an act of showing its absolute power, took without permission, schools, college, clinics, some churches and convents and even other properties that belonged to the Cuban church, without considering how this would affect the mission of the Church towards the Cuban people and respectful relations between both parties.
But the Cuban Church did not lose the Faith, given all these pressures and others that I could not count in this reflection because the reflection would be endless. The church asked itself a concrete question, “what should we do at a time of so much crisis, of so much darkness, of so much pain”? The answer was: "the only thing possible in this historical moment is to pray and continue our mission as far as the limits allow."
For more than 30 years the churches in general lost more than 90 percent of their members. People were afraid to say they were Christians or even visit a church. It was a dark moment, full of questions and insecurities. But in the face of difficult times, the Cuban Christians who remained in the churches decided not to close the doors, not to be intimidated by teasing, threats and fears. Many churches continued their services with just 5 people in the temples. It was a horrible situation.
30 years of prayer and faith seemed like 100 years. But the answer came to the Cuban Church. In the 1990’s, a group of Pastors, priests and leading lay members called “Pastor for Peace” from USA, arrived in Cuba in a caravan that was preparing to support the Cuban people with donations for schools, hospitals and other Government institutions. For the first time, we began to see religious leaders in a respectful conversation with the Cuban government.
In my opinion, the concrete action of this group of Christians opened a door so that the Cuban churches could again stop feeling pressured in a certain way, and above all, that people could return to the churches without fear of negative consequences.
That is why I believe in prayer. If we put all our faith in it and if we fully trust that whatever our need or concern is, we can, through prayer, feel a certain rest about our daily concerns.
Our Father and today's parable are an invitation to insist on our desires and needs through prayer to God. We should not worry how God will solve our requests, but we must put all our faith and our hope that there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.
"Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." Today's readings are certainly a great invitation to trust in God, an invitation to have God very present in our lives and to be able to present our fears, our worries, our needs without fear, but with and in faith.
As I always say: "Faith requires action" and I repeat today: "prayer sometimes also requires our action." Not only do we pray to sanctify God's name as a Christian community, to ask for forgiveness for our faults, we also pray for our daily bread and for God's kingdom to come to us.
But we must understand that in order for the Kingdom of God to be a reality amongst us, it is necessary that everyone receive our daily bread without exception. It is necessary that everyone learn to forgive themselves and to forgive others who have sometimes been difficult with their bad actions. We need to show our hospitality with our neighbor, even though sometimes this is difficult to practice.
Then we will live together the gospel of prayer: where God is a loving father to all, where his name is sanctified by our good deeds, where forgiveness and mercy go together, where with 4 loaves and 2 fish all who need will eat, where Justice and Peace mark our road, where sadness will become joy; where we understand that although the horizon may appear close, God always, always give us a new dawn. Amen.