Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask, Ask
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray; and when he does, he gives not only them but all of us the wonderful prayer we call ‘the Our Father’ or ‘the Lord’s prayer.’
The first thing to notice about the Lord’s prayer is that it is full of petitions. The first one is that God’s name would be hallowed. The second is that God’s kingdom would come. The third is that God would give us our daily bread. And so on.
The Lord’s prayer isn’t just a litany of praise to God, then. It isn’t just an expression of a pious wish that God’s will be done. It isn’t only a surrender of one’s own will to God. Just look at the request for daily bread. It presents to God what we would want God to give us. Having desires and presenting them to God are required by the Lord’s prayer.
The second thing to notice about the Lord’s prayer is that people don’t generally get what they ask for. Ask and you will receive, the Lord says. But how many people around the world pray the Lord’s prayer and go without food that day? And food is only the beginning. In every mass, we ask God for healing: “Only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Then we lug our sinful, sick, and sorrowful souls around another day.
So here is the third thing to notice. Jesus doesn’t promise that we will get the very thing we ask for. He says that if we ask, we will receive; but he doesn’t happen to mention what we will receive.
If you think about it, you can see the point. If a sick person could heal himself, he would be the doctor, not the patient. The patient’s job is to want to get well. It is the doctor’s job to figure out how to get him well.
In the same way, the Lord’s prayer requires us to trust God enough to tell him what we want—over and over and over. Our job is to ask continually. God’s job is to figure out what to give us that will really fill us and heal us.
So we might not get what we ask for. But as long as we keep asking, the Lord promises that we will receive—grace, pressed down, shaken together, running over, and gently given, from the God who loves us.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University