“Persist in Prayer”

Deacon Mark Dillon’s Homily from the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C –   “Luke 11:1-13”

Have you ever sat in front of the television not knowing what you wanted to watch?  You start flipping the channels until something catches your attention.  That happened to me a couple of months ago.  After about two minutes of channel surfing I finally landed on a “Strong-man Competition.”  You know, that’s where overly muscled men do feats of great strength to see who is the strongest.

I caught the tail end of the elimination round that led to the finals.  It was fascinating!  Each guy had to life a 5 foot, 300 pound tractor tire and throw it into the bed of a truck.  After all that, the contestants were fitted with a harness that the tethered to a five ton bus.  The challenge was to see who could pull the bus 100 feet in the least amount of time.  To put it in perspective, imagine pulling a SEPTA bus the length of the center aisle of this church.  I was impressed because I have trouble lugging overloaded grocery bags from the car to the house.

So I was really curious about what feat of strength awaited the five finalist.  Would it be pulling an airplane down a runway?  Or maybe carrying a boulder across an open field?  I must say I was a bit disappointed when the challenge was announced.   Each contestant grabbed a trapeze bar and was lifted 20 fee in the air, suspended over a pool of water.  They hung there to see who could hold on the longest.

The first contestant dropped out (or should I say “dropped into” the pool) after 11 minutes while two more hung around for 18 minutes.  The fourth guy lasted 28 minutes leaving the winner still hanging onto the bar above the water.   This was a true test to see who had the strength and  willpower to persist ever when their body was too tired to go on.   That feat required not just raw strength, it also required concentration, focus and perseverance.

These strong men, who were accustomed to events that required sort, 60 second bursts of energy, were really challenged by a test that required their sustained effort and determination.

After reading today’s Gospel I thought that prayer had a lot in common with that final challenge.  Sometimes we find ourselves praying in short bursts, knowing that we can sustain prayer for five to 10 minutes and maybe, even for a full hour each Sunday.  But prayer requires persistence.  It’s not an activity reserved for Sundays alone.  It shouldn’t spike and wane as we go from crisis to crisis in life.   Daily prayer fosters an attitude of holiness that strengthens us every day as we persist in doing it.

In today’s readings from Genesis and Saint Luke’s Gospel, we heard how persistence in asking for what we need pays off in the long run.  Whether it was Abraham asking God to spare the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, or friend in need of bread for his guest, persistence in asking was rewarded. 

So how do we pray?  In giving us the “Our Father”, Jesus shows us how to enter into a conversation with God.  And like any conversation, we not only talk and persist with our petitions, we also listen for God’s response.  Prayer gets us ready to receive God’s grace as he speaks to us. and answers our prayers, in the many blessings he bestows on us and on our families.

Sometime we get the impression that God is not listening or isn’t interested in what we have to say.  In those times the gospel tells us just what we need to do.  Like the man at midnight knocking on the door of his friend’s house, we are encouraged to be persistent, and keep knocking on heaven’s door with our prayers, confident they will be heard and answered by God.

Don’t be discouraged if your God doesn’t give you exactly what you ask for in prayer.  Like the father who gives only good gifts to his children, God, Our Father, also will give us what is good for us.

This week try to set aside a few minutes each day to have a conversation with God.  In the moments of silence, listen to His response and reflect on how your “unanswered prayers” may have been granted to you in surprising ways.  Then, count he many blessings God has showered on you and your family.

Don’t be afraid to make your life an example of your prayer in action because you can pray with your lives as well as your lips.  Take a lesson from the “Holy Strong men” of our faith, the saints, and be persistent in prayer.  Never give up…never, never, never-ever give up.

Be like the strong men in that completion and hang-in there to the end.  And each day ask God to…     “…Give us this day our daily bread.”