Summary: Prayer is the most powerful weapon for combat against our corrupt, secular world. We can't survive without prayer. The best way to honour God is to pay attention and be careful how we live our lives.
A priest, a minister and a guru were discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairman worked nearby. "Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray," the priest said. "No," the minister said, "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven." "You're both wrong," the guru said. "The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor." The repairman could contain himself no longer. "Hey, fellas," he interrupted, "The best praying I ever did was when I was hanging upside down from a telephone pole."
Several years ago, Mother Teresa appeared on the Hour of Power television program. The host, Pastor Robert Schuller, reminded her that the show was being broadcast all over America and in 22 foreign countries, including her native Yugoslavia. He asked her if there was one message she would like to convey to all those viewers. Her response was, "Yes, tell them to pray. And tell them to teach their children to pray."
In today's Gospel reading, Jesus and the disciples were following Mother Teresa's message. Jesus told them to pray, and taught them to pray. The lesson he gave them became the pattern for the prayer we all know-namely, the Lord's Prayer. The outline He gave is threefold:
1. The promise of prayer
2. The reality of prayer
3. The practice of prayer
Jesus intended the words of the Lord's Prayer to portray the spirit of our prayers instead of specified words. For Jesus, prayer was not just a form, but a force, a power. Prayer was vital and influential in His life. It can be the same for us. Prayer can take many forms, but it is often difficult to find the time, energy or focus to engage in prayer. The disciples wanted to learn to pray, to integrate prayer into their lives, to understand and deepen their relationship with God, and find the words to offer. Jesus taught the disciples to make their prayer God-centered. The glory of God's name and the advancement of God's kingdom were to be their primary concerns of prayer. We also want and need to learn these same things.
We are to come before the throne of grace boldly. We are to live every moment knowing that a loving, heavenly Father is on our side. He understands the problems of our lives. People have given up hope and trust. Little in life seems worthwhile. Faith has petered out. This parable encourages us to keep stirring up God until He gives us His ear. Whenever we pray, God is on our side. He is ready to listen for the sake of bringing us the best possible blessing.
This reminds me of a story about a little girl who was kneeling bedside her bed one night. She said, "Dear God, if you're there and you hear my prayer, could you please just touch me?" Just then she felt a touch, and got so excited! She said, "Thank you, God, for touching me." Then she looked up, saw her older sister, and got a little suspicious. "Did you touch me?" The sister answered, "Yes, I did". "What did you do that for?" she asked. "God told me to" was the reply.
When we face life's problems we can do one of two things-faint, or pray. Jesus helps us and the disciples develop an attitude of dependence. He teaches them and us to come to God as our Father, and not as our employer. We are to make requests, not demand earnings. We are to realize our constant need for forgiveness, not to shout in pride, "See how great I'm doing." We are to request deliverance, not to promise, "I'll try harder". Jesus never met anyone he couldn't forgive. People he met were no better or no worse than the people we meet every day. Some were strong, some were weak. Some were fortunate, some had experienced bad break after bad break. He loved them all. He came into the world not to condemn people, but to save them. God is the same. He hears the prayers of ALL the world's people, regardless of age, wealth or other social limitations. No one is too insignificant to be beyond His concern.
Prayer is a privilege for the robust who come into the presence of God and approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing what they want of Divine providence. Does that mean that everything we ask for in prayer will be granted, or even granted right away? No. Sometimes God says "Yes", sometimes He says "No", sometimes He says "Not now", and sometimes He says, "No, I have something even better in mind for you". God is the one who can and will provide us with what we truly need to live the life Jesus calls us to live.