We’re thinking about prayer today. In the first reading from the book of Genesis we see an interesting form of prayer. Abraham is having a conversation with God, or perhaps it might be more correct to call it an interrogation.
Things look very bad for the corrupt city of Sodom. God has shared with Abraham that he’s planning to destroy it as punishment for its sins. In this prayer, Abraham, who has only recently come to know God, is trying to get a handle on God. Is this a capricious, undisciplined God or a just God? So, Abraham begins what seems like an endless string of questions. Will you destroy the city if there are 50 good people there? 45? 40? 30? 20? 10? The prayer, conversation, interrogation, ends when God says that the city will not be destroyed if there are 10 righteous people living there.
So, the prayer leads Abraham to a deeper understand of God. In this scene, we see Abraham’s inner child engaging his heavenly Father. His conversation reveals God’s fatherly patience and loving acceptance.
This example of prayer reminds us that when we don’t understand the terrible things that happen in the world we can question God. It doesn’t mean that we have a lack of faith; it means we’re troubled, and looking for answers to our questions. When we were children we asked lots of questions of our parents. Some answers we received we understood and accepted, others didn’t satisfy us; they only brought up more questions. So, we asked more questions. This is one type of prayer.
In the gospel passage Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples. He begins with a blessing: “Father, hallowed be your name.” This is the opening line for all Jewish prayers: “Baruch ata Adonai.” Blessed are you, Lord. Our offertory prayers over the bread and wine follow this structure. “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation for through your goodness you have given us this bread to offer which earth has given and human hands have made.” We bless God and then acknowledge God’s blessings to us. Jesus’ entire prayer may be prayed in that way.
Father, hallowed by your name – your kingdom come.
Father, hallowed be your name – give us each day our daily bread (bread for our table and the bread of the Eucharist.)
Father, hallowed be your name – forgive us our sins because we forgive everyone’s sins against us.
Father, hallowed be your name – do not subject us to the final test. (the agony you suffered in the garden.)
Jesus continues his teaching about prayer by emphasizing the importance of persistence in prayer, as Abraham was persistent. He concludes with a teaching we all know by heart. So, today, as we reflect on prayer, let’s takes that final teaching to heart. Blessed are you, Lord our God, for you have given us this teaching on prayer.
“Ask and you will receive. Seek and your will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you.”