Thursday, 27th Week in Ordinary Time
A mother sent her fifth-grade boy up to bed. In a few minutes she went to make sure that he was getting in bed. When she stuck her head into his room, she saw that he was kneeling beside his bed in prayer. Pausing to listen to his prayers, she heard her son praying repeatedly: “Let it be Tokyo! Please, dear God, let it be Tokyo!”
When he finished his prayers, she asked him, “What did you mean, ‘Let it be Tokyo’?” “Oh,” the boy said with embarrassment, “we had our geography exam today and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.”
Prayer is not a magical means by which we get God to do what we want. Robert Allen, in his book Greatest Passages of the Bible, says, “Prayer is an inner openness to God which allows his divine power to be released in us.” “Ultimately, the power of prayer is not that we succeed in changing God, but that God succeeds in changing us.”
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus shows us what to pray for and how to pray. Jesus tells us, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
We have to realize that, yes, Jesus assures us of God’s help; but he never says that God would grant whatever we ask for. We must take note that Jesus’ sentence does not have a direct object. He just says, “Ask and you will receive,” but he does not mention what we will receive. He does not say that we will receive exactly what we ask for. Actually, only after another four verses does Jesus reveal what we will receive and what we will find – by saying: “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.”
I underlined the words “good gifts” and “Holy Spirit” because they are the “direct object” of Jesus’ previous statement. What Jesus is saying is that God would give us good gifts…God would give us the Holy Spirit.
We must emphasize, then, that the effectiveness of our prayer is not in the guarantee that all our petitions will be granted but in the certainty that we will receive good gifts. In and through prayer we receive all the grace we need as we strive to be good and to do good. We do not pray, in the first place, to solve life’s problems, but to be good followers of Christ.