When Jesus visits Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), we understand that there is need of only one thing in life: i.e. to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as the source of reassurance of being loved with infinite love, of being protected by his omnipotence and of being enlightened by the undimmed light of his truth.
In the Gospel of Luke (11:1-13), however, we go to Jesus in our miserable condition of sinfulness and, alas, wickedness and we ask him to teach us how to pray. We should not feel offended by the blunt assessment thrown into our face by Jesus: “If you then, who are wicked…” We need to be allured and enticed by the prospect of how much we could glow and become radiant if we learn to pray as the Lord teaches us.
It is true: we can go from a condition of wickedness to be glowing and radiant as Jesus was whenever absorbed in prayer to the Father. Besides, we cannot overlook the fact that Jesus absorbed in prayer offers such an alluring sight of serenity and radiant confidence even as his days are filled with daunting challenges, rejection and marked with his willful sharing in the ills and miseries of the people among whom he has come.
There is something captivating and irresistible about genuine praying. Whenever we run into people absorbed in prayer, we instinctively try to avoid any alteration of their quiet and silent atmosphere. Actually, we might be fortunate enough to stumble upon someone absorbed in prayer and notice a heavenly glow and spiritual radiance in his/her countenance. Now, what I desire to submit to you is that these people radiating serenity and confidence as they pray might have more reasons than your average Christian to be worried, pensive, tense and over-concerned about many things. Therefore we must attribute their radiation of serenity and confidence to their having learned today’s lesson on prayer and on the Holy Spirit who has come to their aid.
The complexity of modern life is such that the lesson Jesus teaches us ought to be multifaceted. Therefore, our prayer life has to become a reflexive, spontaneous condition similar to breathing air in and out of our lungs. It has to become a relationship with our Heavenly Father based on ever-growing trust in his love, power and compassion. It has to be lived out as an ongoing effort to bring our longings, dreams and actions to be in harmony with the Father’s universal design of salvation. And it has to create a solid and reliable setting in which all our existential needs (both physical and spiritual) are taken care of; our sinfulness is dealt with frankness, mutual acceptance and patience; and also our weaknesses are addressed properly and effectively.
From Jesus’ examples, we gather that the second part of the lesson deals with the need for perseverance bordering on obsessive, relentless, even “obnoxious” persistence. Yet, for as long as our requests go unanswered, this remains the murky area that, inevitably, leaves us puzzled, frustrated and wondering about God’s trumpeted love and care for us.
However, we can spare ourselves a lot of grievances if we interpret this invitation to persevere in our prayers of petition as the time needed to get a clearer vision of how the little corner of our world should fit into the Father’s universal plan and, thus, purify and modify our requests to conform to his plan.
The final part of the lesson on prayer illustrates the absolute necessity of being given the Holy Spirit as the Gift that enables us to pray to our Father while being endowed with serene recognition of our wickedness, a strengthening of our weaknesses, an enlightening of our minds, a purification of our intents and the reconciliation of our petitions with the will of the Father. Certainly, for as long as we are unfamiliar with the logic of the Gospel we would be confused and groping for a rational explanation as to the reason why the Father will give us the Holy Spirit as his answer to ANY of our requests.
We can ask for many things; seek solutions to numerous problems: knock on several doors to get the best that might be available. But, as soon as we become familiar with the logic of the Gospel and the Father’s modus operandi, we will realize that the Holy Spirit is the very best the Father has to offer.
It will be so because, if we are capable already of giving good gifts to our loved ones in spite of our wickedness, with the Holy Spirit guiding, purifying, sanctifying us, we would see our miserable condition perhaps as less wretched than the one of many around us but, most significantly, as the main reason that moved the Father to send his only Son Jesus among us.
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groaning. (Romans 8:26)
The Holy Spirit is the unbreakable bond that makes us one with Christ Jesus so that our cries reach the Father and are perceived by him as not our cries but the cries of his only Son; ours indistinguishable from his. This must be the reason why every single official prayer of the Catholic Church ends with these words: “Through Christ our Lord.”
Capitalizing on the Gift of the Holy Spirit, we will become humble in acknowledging our wickedness vis-à-vis the total perfection of God, and be in patient solidarity with our brothers and sisters who, like us, are beset with a heavy burden of shortcomings and flaws. We will become also docile to the work of the Holy Spirit in removing the dross of our many imperfections so as to progress in the impossible path of becoming as perfect as our Father is. (Matthew 5:48) And knowing what moves the Father to grant our Spirit-inspired requests we would use our condition as being “dust and ashes” (as Abraham would say in Genesis 18: 27,) to our advantage in our intercessory prayers.
Thus, if we allow the Holy Spirit to pray in us, eventually, we, too, will be radiant and glowing with trust, confidence and serenity.