Three Important Parables on
June 30, 1996
Brother John Raymond
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us about three
important parables on prayer given by Jesus. They are found in the
Gospel of Saint Luke. I want to concentrate on the first one. It is
about a person who goes to his friend at midnight to borrow three
loaves of bread. The friend is unwilling to answer the door and
grant his request because he is already in bed. But because the
person at the door keeps knocking he gets out of bed and gives him
what he wants, not because he is a friend but because of his
importunity. (Lk. 11:5-8)
Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P. in his commentary on this parable
tells us that we must not conclude that God is like the unwilling
neighbor. The only lesson here is the need of persevering prayer.
Jesus concludes this parable by telling us it is His desire that in
prayer we continually ask, seek and knock. (Lk. 11:9-10) Jesus
encourages us to have confidence to do this with our heavenly Father
by pointing out what our imperfect earthly fathers do for us. (Lk.
11:11-13) Carroll points out that "Prayer is not for God; He is
always ready to give. It is for us that we may realize our need for
God's help." The gift the heavenly Father wants to give us most of
all is the "Holy Spirit who contains all gifts." (CCC, #2613)
St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the great Fathers of the Church,
says that prayer not only gives expression to our love of God but
enlarges and expands the heart's desire, until it is capable of
containing Him. A balloon comes to my mind. When you get a new
balloon you can only blow a little air in it. But as any child knows
if you stretch it first the balloon fills easily with much air.
Constancy in seeking, asking and knocking will stretch our desire
thereby increasing our capacity to receive Him.
St. Augustine tells us that Our Lord in this parable wants us to
pray. He exhorts us to pray. "If you would be good, be like a
beggarman before the Lord who urges you in the gospel to ask, to
seek, to knock." (Sermon 61:1-3) Further, he tells us that in the
parable we have a man who was asleep giving to the person at the
door in spite of himself, the very person who disturbed him from
sleep. "How much more kindly will He give who never sleeps, but who
rouses us from sleep that we may ask of Him." (Letter 130:15) He
tells us that God is more willing to give than we are to receive.
The expression of our desire, the strength of it, is reflected in
our perseverance in asking.
How are we to knock? St. Augustine tells us, "If you knock with
pious affection and with sincere heartfelt love, He who sees from
what motive you knock will open unto you." (On Ps. 93,1) What if we
have been knocking for some time and have not received? It could be
that what God "wants to give He defers, so that you may desire it
more ardently still__if given quickly, it might be lightly
esteemed." (Sermon 105,2-3) It could also be that what we are asking
for may not be good for us. For example, suppose your child cries to
you all day long for your pocket knife to play with. You refuse to
grant his request. "You pay no heed to a weeping child for fear you
have to lament a dying child...You deny him a part of your goods but
you are preserving all you have for him. You now deny him a part
that might prove dangerous so that he may grow and safely enjoy all
that you possess." (Sermon 80,7) Remember, we know what we want but
God knows what is good for us!