Daily Reading & Meditation
1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread; 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 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. 9 And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Meditation: Do you pray with joy and confidence? The Jews were noted for their devotion to prayer. Formal prayer was prescribed for three set times a day. And the rabbis had a prayer for every occasion. It was also a custom for rabbis to teach their disciples a simple prayer they might use on a regular basis. Jesus’ disciples ask him for such a prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he gave them the disciple’s prayer, what we call the Our Father or Lord’s Prayer.
God treats us as his own sons and daughters
What does Jesus’ prayer tell us about God and about ourselves? First, it tells us that God is both Father in being the Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only begotten Son who, reciprocally is Son only in relation to his Father (Matthew 11:27). All fatherhood and motherhood is derived from him (Ephesians 3:14-15). In the Lord Jesus Christ we are spiritually reborn and made new, and we become the adopted children of God (John 1:12-13; 3:3).
We can approach God confidently as a Father who loves us
Jesus teaches us to address God as “our Father” and to confidently ask him for the things we need to live as his sons and daughters. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because Jesus Christ has opened the way to heaven for us through his atoning death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, he responds with grace (his favor and blessing) and mercy (pardon and healing). He is kind and forgiving towards us and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same.
We can pray with expectant faith and trust in the Father’s goodness
We can pray with expectant faith because our heavenly Father truly loves each one of us and and he treats us as his beloved sons and daughters. He delights to give us what is good. His love and grace transforms us and makes us like himself. Through his grace and power we can love and serve one another as Jesus taught – with mercy, pardon, and loving-kindness.
Do you treat others as they deserve, or do you treat them as the Lord Jesus would with grace and mercy? Jesus’ prayer includes a petition that we must ask God to forgive us in proportion as we forgive those who have wronged us (Matthew 6:14-15). God’s grace frees us from every form of anger, resentment, envy, and hatred. Are you ready to forgive others as the Lord Jesus forgives you?
Parable of the late night guest
What can we expect from God, especially when we recognize that he doesn’t owe us anything and that we don’t deserve his grace and favor? Jesus used an illustration from the hospitality customs of his time to show how God is always ready to treat us with the best he has to offer. The rule of hospitality in biblical times required that every guest, whether stranger or friend, be warmly welcomed, refreshed (which often involved the washing of feet), and fed with the best food and drink available. It didn’t matter what time of the day or night the guests might show up, it was your duty to stop what you were doing so you could give the guests the best care and shelter you could provide. If there wasn’t adequate sleeping accommodation for both your guests and your family, the family slept outside under the stars. When guests showed up in a village, the whole community could be prevailed upon to provide whatever was needed.
Jesus’ parable of the importunate and bothersome neighbor shows a worst case scenario of what might happen when an unexpected guest shows up in the middle of the night! The family awakens, unbolts the locked door to receive the guest, then washes the guest’s feet, and the wife begins to prepare a meal. When the wife discovers that she has no bread to set before the guest, she prevails on her husband to go and get bread from a nearby family, who by now is also asleep with their door bolted shut. In a small village it would be easy for the wife to know who had baked bread that day. Bread was essential for a meal because it served as a utensil for dipping and eating from the common dishes. Asking for bread from one’s neighbor was both a common occurrence and an expected favor. To refuse to give bread would bring shame because it was a sign of inhospitality.
God’s generosity towards us
If a neighbor can be imposed upon and coerced into giving bread in the middle of the night, will not God, our heavenly Father and provider, also treat us with kind and generous care no matter how troubling or inconvenient the circumstances might appear? Jesus states emphatically, How much more will the heavenly Father give! St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) reminds us that “God, who does not sleep and who awakens us from sleep that we may ask, gives much more graciously.” The Lord Jesus assures us that we can bring our needs to our heavenly Father who is always ready to give not only what we need, but more than we can ask. God gives the best he has. He freely pours out the blessing of his Holy Spirit upon us so that we may be filled with the abundance of his provision. Do you approach your heavenly Father with confidence in his mercy and kindness towards you?
“Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart with your love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Help me to be kind and forgiving towards my neighbor as you have been towards me”.
1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the angels I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted above everything your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me, my strength of soul you increased.
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth;
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfil his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The privilege and responsibility of calling God Father, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)
“For the Savior said, ‘When you pray, say, ‘Our Father.’ And another of the holy Evangelists adds, ‘who art in heaven’ (Matthew 6:9)… He gives his own glory to us. He raises slaves to the dignity of freedom. He crowns the human condition with such honor as surpasses the power of nature. He brings to pass what was spoken of old by the voice of the psalmist: ‘I said, you are gods, and all of you children of the Most High’ (Psalm 82:6). He rescues us from the measure of slavery, giving us by his grace what we did not possess by nature, and permits us to call God ‘Father,’ as being admitted to the rank of sons. We received this, together with all our other privileges, from him. One of these privileges is the dignity of freedom, a gift peculiarly befitting those who have been called to be sons. He commands us, therefore, to take boldness and say in our prayers, ‘Our Father.'” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 71)