It’s been a long few weeks in a writing program for teachers, and I’ve enjoyed writing so much that I asked Daddy if I could write your letter this week. Unfortunately, I’ve got the memory of a goldfish right now and the energy level of a pregnant-with-twins mama, so it’s Sunday and you’re just getting your letter now. Sorry.
This week’s readings remind me of an Italian-American classic, The Godfather (a part of your heritage that I’ll share with you one day in the very distant future). There’s a famous line that most people quote without even knowing the context: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Now, Don Corleone isn’t even CLOSE to Jesus, so the comparisons stop there. But, still…this week is full of opportunity to think about how to convince God in prayer, right? Maybe or maybe not.
Sometimes, when I hear these readings about Abraham and then that pesky persistent neighbor in the gospel, I think of that line. And I think about the deals I used to make with God. Those deals usually sounded a lot like Abraham in the first reading, except I usually wasn’t negotiating for the salvation of a whole city of people. As a good Italian girl, I knew the power of a good deal and some quality negotiating skills. Usually, I was trying to convince God that if he bailed me out of this new mess I’d gotten into, I would do ANYTHING he wanted. I think there were usually some “pretty please with a cherry on top” moments in there as well. God always came through for me. And, I tried my best to follow through with what I had promised (which usually ended up being God’s sneaky way of getting me back to church or ministry).
So, somewhere along the line, I began to think that if I cut the right deal with Jesus, I could convince him of whatever I wanted. And, that’s usually the message people get out of today’s gospel as well: If you’re persistent in prayer, God will come through. That dang pesky neighbor coming to my door in the middle of the night will get their food, as long as they bug me enough. And, it’s true in our house too. Nicholas has already figured it out: if he cries long enough for his pacifier, I’ll cave and go search under the crib for it (even if it’s 3AM and I don’t want to get up out of bed). But, there’s a deeper message in today’s readings than just the rewards of whining.
Jesus teaches us how to pray. He tells us to call God “Father.” He shows us that we need to be persistent in asking for what we really need. Then, he comforts us with the knowledge that if we ask, we will receive; if we seek, we will find; if we knock, the door will be opened to us. So, Jesus’s message isn’t about being whiny (which is good because whining drives me crazy). Instead, he calls us to reach out to God often and honestly.
God knows my prayers before I offer them. He knows that every night Daddy and I are going to pray for the three of you to grow up big and strong. So, why do we pray the same thing over and over? Because God wants us to share our heart with him. Nicholas, it’s kind of like when you ask us to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” over and over, even though you know the words. It’s part of our relationship with you that we share that song and that time together. God wants to listen to what’s on your heart, even though he already knows.
See, God loves us more than we could ever imagine. And, he doesn’t NEED us to pray. He WANTS us to pray–for our benefit–because it keeps us connected to him. Mark Hart, Life Teen extraordinaire, says that prayer isn’t part of our relationship with God. It IS our relationship with God. And, the more we open our heart to God and beg him for those things that really matter—the more we ask and seek and knock, the more that we will be looking for his response and find his love for us.
So, my sweet babies, please pray often. Please pray honestly. Please open your hearts to God, our Father—not to convince him to sway to your will, but to help your heart to be open to his will for you. After all, prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind…it’s about changing our hearts. Just like your dad, he’s so excited to hear from you and to give you all of his love. All you have to do is ask 🙂
I love you the world!