Persistence in Prayer

12 October 2006: Thursday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 11, 5-13: Persistence in Prayer

The parable today illustrates a primary duty for Jews and also a characteristic trait of Filipinos. Hospitality for Jews was a sacred duty. The parable tells us of a traveler who arrives at a house towards midnight, but the homeowner has nothing to offer the traveler, so the homeowner sets to his friend’s house to borrow. But the friend was unwilling to rise from his sleep. In the end, because of his shameless persistence, the friend lends to the homeowner all that he needs.

Was the friend’s attitude inconsiderate? Let us see. To be hospitable to someone like a visitor means many things practical: beverage and food, a bed, often, a guest room. However, during the time of Jesus, things were not easily available: there was no refrigerator to keep food fresh, or a 24-hour convenient store. Bread was baked at home, and only enough bread was baked for the day --- no one would like to eat stale bread. The homeowner would indeed find accomplishing his sacred duty of hospitality at midnight! Moreover, the friend’s attitude could be explained by understanding his situation. A poor Palestinian house has one room and a little window. The room is divided into two: one at ground level, the other is raised a little higher where the charcoal stove burns all night. All members of the household slept on mats around this fire for warmth. It is also customary that one’s belongings such as cattle are kept inside the house. To disturb someone at midnight means to disturb everyone. It is not difficult to imagine why the friend was reluctant to rise. But only through persistence that he rises to meet his needs!

The recent survey of McCann-Erickson tells us that people now have more needs than ever. Teens for example in 2000 worry about two main items: having to find work and earning a living. Five years later, 2005, the worries and concerns of teenagers range from pollution in the air and water, drugs, being a crime victim, contracting a super virus disease, getting AIDS, and getting sick for a long time (McCann Worldgroup Philippines, 2006). And thus, the content of many prayers are growing as ever.

The parable then is assuring. If the friend in the parable can be coerced to give the needs of the persistent homeowner, how much more will God, who is a loving Father, supply for all his children’s needs? This is not to mean that we can change God’s will, coerce Him, or wring gifts from a very unwilling God. But the parable tells us of intensity or sincerity. The Greek word used was really to mean ‘shameless persistence’ --- walang hiya siyang nagmakulit, walang pakundangang pagkamakulit! The intensity thus tells us that our desire and sincerity is shown by the passion we put on praying! Because, we trust that we are asking God who knows more than we know, who knows our needs better than us, whose heart is more generous than anyone of us, whose love for us is far greater more passionate. We trust that the answers to our prayers --- whether affirmative or negative, which are indeed true answers --- are always towards what is good or better for us. We trust in the wisdom of God! Charles Allen has a poem about persistence. It is called, Keeping On, and is found in his book, The Secret of Abundant Living.

I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true,

I’ve seen them vanish at dawn;

But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God,

To make me want to dream on.

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came,

I’ve waited patient and long;

But answers have come to enough of my prayers

To make me keep praying on.

I’ve trusted many a friend who failed

And left me to weep alone;

But I’ve found enough of my friends true-blue

To make me keep trusting on.

I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way

For the birds to feed upon;

But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hand,

To make me keep sowing on.

I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain,

I’ve gone many days without song,

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the rose of life

To make me want to live on.

So, my dear friends, when you pray, persevere. Pray with passion. Pray with determination. Calvin Coolidge was right. He said, “Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone is omnipotent.” But before Calvin Coolidge, there was Jesus.

No comments: