March 4th, 2013: The 17th Day of Lent
March 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
Here, Christ begins a new section of teaching regarding prayer. Many Christians have latched on to this verse, and rightfully so; Jesus gives us a powerful promise on the behalf of God the Father. Our prayers will be answered; we can rest assured of it.
The problematic response to this promise goes something like this: “Well, I prayed, and I kept praying, and my prayer wasn’t answered. So much for prayer!” Many of us have experienced this: we pray regarding something important, and our request doesn’t get answered in the way we want. What gives?
Well, the context of the Sermon on the Mount gives us some help here. Back in chapter 6.5-15, Christ gives specific instructions on how to pray. Apparently, hypocrites and pagans can pray too, but Christ doesn’t think those prayers are valid. Prayer is not meant to elevate ourselves in the eyes of others; and, difficult as it is to admit, prayer involves more than getting what we want. So then, why does Christ tell us to be persistent in prayer so that our prayers will be answered?
The answer lies in the overall theme of the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. The whole passages has been explaining realities of God’s Kingdom, and how we can live into those realities. The more we study, the more we find that entering God’s Kingdom involves deep change that takes place within us. This also is true for our prayer life. In the context of this greater message, Christ is saying that when we pray in alignment with the goals and aims of his Kingdom, we can rest assured that our prayers will be answered. We just need to be persistent.
What about prayers that don’t get answered? First, we need to examine our prayers to be sure that they align with the mission of God’s Kingdom. If they do not, we should not expect divine assistance in getting what we want. Also, we do need to recognize the fact that evil exists in the world; our prayers will be opposed. This is why we need to remain people of prayer. In either case, the answer is not to stop praying.
As we genuinely pray, we draw closer to God’s heart; as we do, we learn more of what his heart desires for us and the world around us. As long as we are submitting ourselves to God in prayer, and not expecting God to submit himself to us, we participate in God’s plan for redeeming the world. The trick is to know that prayer isn’t all about us – it’s all about bringing creation back into proper relationship with the Creator.
Lord, I confess that I’ve tried to bend my world to my will using prayer – I’ve even tried to bend you, and blamed you for not getting what I wanted or thought I needed. Please show me your heart, so that my heart may be changed to desire what you desire. Amen.