Luke 18: 1-18, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
I have often heard people say that they don’t want to trouble God with their petty needs and concerns. After all, he has more important things to attend to, like running the universe.
Just about three weeks ago, a lady told me, “Father, isn’t it that God knows everything?” – “Yes, that’s true. Why do you ask?” – “Hmm, if God knows everything, we need not ask him for anything. We need only wait until God will give us what we need.”
But the Gospels tell us another story. Not only does Jesus often urge us to ask for what we need, (“Ask and you shall receive” Lk 9:11), but he praises the people, like Bartimaeus who ask in the loudest, most obnoxious of ways (Mk 10:46-52). And to top it off, he tells stories in which he presents rude, relentless people who wake up their neighbors in the middle of the night.
“Ask and you shall receive.” Today he encourages us to ask boldly and persistently through the story of the unjust judge and the persistent widow.
This story of the nagging widow is my all-time favorite. She who won’t give the judge a moment’s rest till she gets what she wants. The unjust judge simply wanted to get the lady off his back. He wanted the widow to stop bugging him. But God appears to want us to bug him. And keep bugging him.
Why? There are many reasons. Maybe because he’d rather us look to him for assistance than to the idols of the secular world. Perhaps because he knows that asking him for help strengthens the virtue of humility in us. After all, it is an admission that we are not in total control of the universe and just might need his help. Perhaps, because he is a loving Father and likes being with us, even when we come just to ask him to open his wallet.
When we ask God to provide for our needs, we implicitly recognize his existence and authority in our lives. And God wants us to do this.
But I think there are even more important reasons God wants us to ask. It is in asking that our faith grows. The more I ask, the more I come into a personal relationship with God. If I never had to turn to him for my needs, I would never realize how much he wants to be a part of my life. But when I have to ask, especially if I have to put some time and effort into it, then, when my needs are satisfied, it will be very clear that God did it. It will be clear that it wasn’t me, or luck, or anything else, but God. So, don’t be afraid to ask and develop your faith by doing so.
Another point: When we expect God to give us all we need without asking, are we not in a sense being lazy? In effect we are saying, “You know what I need, Lord. Just give it to me, take care of it, while I focus on my own interests.”
Not only is this laziness, it is pride, treating God like a servant whose role is to provide whatever I need. We then forget he is God. Certainly God is generous and loving, willing to give us everything that is good for us; but he is still God, and he deserves our respect, adoration, and especially our gratitude.
But we have also to learn what to ask for! So before talking to Him, which is certainly a dimension of prayer, we need to listen to Him, which is an even more important dimension of prayer. We were given two ears and only one mouth for a reason.
But how do we listen to him? One privileged way is through Scripture. These words are guaranteed to be his, for they are inspired, breathed by the Holy Spirit, divine words in human words (2 Tim 3:16).
This does not just mean that the Holy Spirit moved once, guiding the authors when they wrote down the words long ago. It means that the Holy Spirit dwells in these words as in a Temple and invites us to enter to meet him regularly, for a life-changing rendezvous. These words are not simply a wearying catalogue of ideas we need to buy into, facts we need to believe, or rules we need to follow. Instead they are meant to be a fresh, personal, energizing communication from God each time we hear or read them. They are food for our souls.
Most of us don’t eat once a week. We eat daily. Several times a day in fact. So we should gather up the manna of God’s word at least daily, maybe even several times a day.
So you say you don’t have much time for quiet prayer and extensive Bible reading? Hmm… If you have time for three meals or snacks a day, you have time for at least three short Bible passages a day.