Theme: Do God Always Answer Prayer?
By: Fr. Evaristus Abu
Homily for Sunday July 28 2019
Bible Study: Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138, Colossians 2:12-14 and Luke 11:1-13
“And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).
Last Sunday, we read the story of Abraham playing Good Samaritan to the Holy Trinity without knowing it. In the course of this visit, God made the promise of a child concrete to Abraham and as we read today, God reveals to Abraham the purpose of His visit on earth. Abraham quickly assumes the position of an intercessor on behalf of the entire city of Sodom and Gomorrah. The very fact that God was willing to bargain with a mere mortal Abraham, regarding His plan to destroy a city shows us immediately the power of prayer.
We may then wonder, “how come some of our prayers in the past have not yet been answered?” Could there be something wrong with the way we asked? Could it just be that we haven’t asked God enough? Abraham stopped his negotiation at ten persons. What if he had continued down to just one? Would God have spared the city? Indeed, as always our readings are packed full with a lot of life-lessons we could take home today.
*One: The Wages of Sin is Death.*
What warranted God’s destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? “Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave,” (Genesis 18:20). God is merciful, but His mercy should never be taken for granted. The only reward we get for sin is death; death to ourselves (loss of our freedom to choose right; slavery to evil), death to others due to our bad example, death to our environment and ultimately eternal condemnation in hell. There comes a time when repentance becomes too late. So if today you hear God’s word, harden not your heart.
Secondly, dare to be different. It is often said: “If you cannot beat them, you join them.” The city was destroyed because there were not up to ten persons who stood their ground against sin and evil. Do not say “everybody is doing it.” Let your light shine. Keep doing right regardless of the pressure and scandals you may see around you. There is nothing to gain when we decide to sin just because it is so popular. Thirdly, the best gift you can ever render to anyone is to pray for them. This is one important spiritual work of mercy we often take for granted. It is not enough that we point out the sins of others or verbally condemn evil in our society, we must, like Abraham intercede to God on behalf of sinners.
*Two: Prayer Does Change God.*
The fact that God was willing to negotiate with Abraham regarding His planned destruction of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah is one big lesson we must not take for granted. More than three times, we hear God saying to Abraham, “I will not destroy the city…” Prayer is truly powerful. The problem is that we are either too afraid to ask (we feel we could be asking for too much) or we literally do not believe our prayers are answerable. If God was willing to change His plan based on Abraham’s intercession, I am sure God would have spared the city if Abraham continued further down even to one person. Abraham, like us, felt asking for more was asking for too much.
There comes a time when we stop praying. We stop asking because having asked for a period of time, we feel God will no longer listen to us anymore; we just give up on prayer. The story that Jesus gave in today’s Gospel passage teaches us never to give up, never to stop asking, never to stop praying. Jesus says “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (Luke 11:8). This means that we should never be afraid to ask, to seek and to knock.
*Three: Keep Praying, Do not be Discouraged by Results.*
According to Jesus, “Everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened”(Luke 10:10). Now, you may wonder, ‘what about the times I asked and didn’t get it? First, note that Jesus did not add a time frame here (Prayer, unlike magic is never instantaneous). Jesus did not say when we shall receive or find, but assures us that we MUST receive.
Secondly, Jesus uses an analogy to describe the contents of what we receive at prayer by saying: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion (Luke 11:11-12)? That is to say,
*GOD ALWAYS ANSWERS PRAYER because He is the Father who loves His children.* God may not give us the fish we asked for, but He will surely not give us a serpent. He may not give us egg, but He will surely not give a scorpion. God always gives us what He knows is best for us.
Get this fact: Whatever is the outcome of our prayer is FOR OUR GOOD. As St. Paul says: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Furthermore, St. Paul adds “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” In short, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Romans 8:28-35)? Never think that God is punishing you by not answering your prayers exactly as you want them. Trust that even in what seems like an unpleasant situation now, God still loves you and nothing will stop Him from giving you the best in life. God will never give you a scorpion. Never!
*Four: There is a Format for Prayer.*
All through His teaching ministry, Jesus always taught us about prayer. Indeed, by teaching us to pray, Jesus was saying “There is a way not to pray” or better put, that there is a way that prayer can become defective or useless so to say. For instance, *Jesus taught us that prayer should never be used to attract attention to ourselves like the hypocrites who loved to pray standing in the market place or at street corners* (Matthew 6:5-6). *Jesus also warned us against using empty phrases thinking we would be heard for our many words* (Matthew 6:7). In the parable of the two men who went to pray, Jesus warned us to avoid condemning others in our prayer lest we end up praying to ourselves (Luke 18:10-14).
Jesus’ teaching on prayer finds culmination in the Lord’s Prayer where he actually taught us not simply what to pray for, but the format our prayers must take. “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2-4). Compared to Matthew’s Gospel, Luke’s version of this prayer is quite brief yet it contains the essential components any prayer should have which are: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.
Finally, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that every prayer involves an agreement with God to take from Him only that which we are willing to give to others. “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” In fact, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus goes further to add: “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).
*Conclusion: Prayer also Changes Us.*
From the foregoing, we have seen that prayer is not a one way traffic. We ask from God because we are His children and by asking from Him, we also declare to live according to His instructions. Sin destroys this relationship. It is a barrier we must work to remove from our lives. When we pray, we must have full confidence and trust in God’s ability to give us not simply what we ask for, but that which is BEST for us and above all, our prayer must affect the kind of life we live. If we must ask from God, we must learn to give to our neighbours.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, may my prayers rise up to you like incense. Do not despise my petitions, Amen.
Happy Sunday! Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year C. Bible Study: Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138, Colossians 2:12-14 and Luke 11:1-13).