Three Important Parables on Prayer

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!