In those days, the Lord said: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out."
While Abraham's visitor's walked on farther toward Sodom, the Lord remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer to him and said: "Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty, so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?" The Lord replied, "If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake."
Abraham spoke up again: "See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?" He answered, "I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there." But Abraham persisted, saying, "What if only forty are found there?" He replied, "I will forebear doing it for the sake of the forty." Then Abraham said, "Let not my Lord grow, impatient if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?" He replied, "I will forbear doing it if I can find but thirty there." Still Abraham went on, "Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord, what is there are no more than twenty?" The Lord answered, "I will not destroy it, for the sake of the twenty." But he still persisted: "Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time. What if there are at least ten there?" He replied, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it."(P) The word of the Lord.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name. (R)
Because of your kindness and your truth; for you have made great above all things your name and your promise. When I called you answered me; you build up strength within me. (R)
The Lord is exalted, yet the lowly he sees, and the proud he knows from afar. Though I walk amid distress, you preserve me; against the anger of my enemies you raise your hand. (R)
Your right hand saves me. The Lord will complete what he has done for me; your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands. (R)
Brothers and sisters: You were buried with Christ in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test."
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, "Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him," and he says in reply from within, "Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything," I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence."
"And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?"(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Once, three priests were discussing the proper positions for prayer and worship while a telephone repairman worked on his job nearby. One priest said, "Kneeling is definitely the proper way to pray." Another said, "No. Standing and praying with our hands lifted to Heaven is the best way." You're both wrong," the third priest said. "The most effective prayer position is lying face down on the floor." Finally, the repair man could not contain himself any longer and yelled, "Hey Fathers, the best prayer I ever did was when I was hanging upside down from a telephone pole."
What is the proper way to pray - standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or lying face down on the floor? Should we close our eyes or keep our eyes open when we pray? Why should we pray? How should we pray? What should we pray for? How long should we pray? Does God even hear us when we pray? These are some of our most frequently asked questions regarding prayer. I believe that today's gospel text can shed some light on these questions.
The apostles certainly knew how to pray because as Jews, they regularly joined in communal prayers in the synagogue and customarily prayed three times - in the morning, in the afternoon and at nightfall - each day. Much of Jewish prayer at the time of Jesus was chanting of the scriptures in Hebrew. The apostles must have memorized these prayers and repeated them every day as all the Jews did. Yet, they recognized something new when they saw how Jesus prayed. They must have seen Jesus praying many times, in many places, and on various occasions. They wanted to learn to pray as He did. So, they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. In response, Jesus taught them to pray as He prayed and, told them stories to explain how God the Father cares and answers prayers.
The prayer Jesus taught them was simple and direct, which today we call the "Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father Prayer". The most important aspect of this prayer is to address God as "Our Father". Jesus wanted his apostles to call God their Heavenly Father. Just as children trust their earthly father to whom they belong, God wants them to know they too belong to Him and that He wants only what is good for them and that, secure in His love, they can pray unceasingly to Him. Then Jesus instructed them to honour God and His Holy name, and pray for His kingdom, that is, God's ways and order, to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, that is, He may bring about His heavenly purpose on earth through us. Finally, Jesus encouraged the apostles to submit themselves fully to God and, humbly express their dependence on Him for their basic needs and concerns and, ask God's forgiveness for their sins.
Then Jesus told them a story about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. The story was about a man who at midnight found himself short of food for his guest and, went to a neighbour to borrow some bread, even though he had to wake up his friend's entire household. Jesus concluded the parable by saying that the neighbour eventually responded to the man's request, not because of their friendship, but because of the man's shameless persistence.
Jesus then added something more to describe the need for persistence in prayer. He said that no earthly father would give his child a snake if the child asks for a fish or, a scorpion for an egg. The point was that earthly parents do not typically give gifts that would hurt their children or things that are useless to them. So Jesus said that if it is so with human beings with their mixed motives and self-interest, how much more so with God who wants to give His children what is good and life-giving. Through these illustrations Jesus encouraged the apostles to prevail in prayer without doubting the Father's love. He urged them to ask with perseverance without ever getting tired of asking, especially for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What can we learn from this gospel text today?
I would like to leave you with an inspirational expression of an unknown believer's experience of his unanswered prayers:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.
God Bless You!
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