I figured that a scripture passage about knocking on a door would warrant some good old-fashioned knock, knock jokes… so play along with me:
Knock, knock… who’s there?
- Theodore… Theodore who?
- Theodore wasn’t open, so that’s why I knocked
Knock, knock… who’s there?
- Mikey… Mikey who?
- Mikey doesn’t fit into the keyhole, so would you please let me in?
Knock, knock… who’s there?
- A broken pencil… a broken pencil who?
- Never-mind: it’s pointless
Our Gospel today from Luke comes right after the episode where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, specifically his rendition of the prayer known as the Our Father. And the parables that accompany this prayer are there to teach us how the manner of our prayer needs to be like the continuous knocking on the door of a friend’s house. Even if you don’t initially get what you ask for, the friend will give in because of your persistence. Persistence in prayer is a good thing to aspire to.
At the beginning of this past month, we met with our Breakthrough Youth Group for an evening of fun and reflection on this very topic – persistence in prayer. Our many teenagers were split into competing groups and each were a given a block of ice with Legos inside of it. Their task, without smashing or chipping away at it, was to melt through the block of ice so as to obtain their Lego pieces to build a given structure. If they wanted to be successful in their activity, cheating or giving up on the endeavor was out of the question, and who doesn’t like playing with Legos? But melting through the ice required a lot of patience and persistence to at long last obtain the items we were hoping for. We likened this activity to prayer, using the Scripture Passage from 2 Peter 3: 9, where it reads, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you…” We went on to talk about how God responds to prayer in 1 of 3 ways: Yes… Yes, but not yet… No, because I have something greater in mind for you. Indeed, some of the Lego pieces, yes, we were able to fish out of the ice block right away, while some of the Lego pieces, yes, took some time to thaw out to get to. And some of the Lego pieces we realized, no, we didn’t need them after all. With respect to every Lego piece, God answered the prayer, as it were, giving each group what it needed to be competitive and build a great work of art, perhaps a little different than what was originally dreamed up, as long as the group members could be patient for the answer to present itself as they worked with the ice. Similarly, aligning our own will with the will of God and the plan that God has for us, means that our prayers will not always be answered in the ways that we expect or the time we would like, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t answer our prayer. God always responds to prayer in 1 of 3 ways: Yes… Yes, but not yet… No, because I have something greater in mind for you. If we are patient and we are persistent and open to God’s movement in our life so as to work with the answer God gives us, we will begin to see the hidden logic of Our Heavenly Father and appreciate the good things God has in store for us.
So often when we pray, our attitude deep down inside of us is: Well, if God doesn’t answer this prayer, somehow, we’ll muddle through. Somehow, we’ll get by. If we don’t get the answer we want, then we’ll do our own thing. In our fast-paced society that demands instant gratification, we give up on prayer and look for a Plan B. This temptation is a road to what is called practical atheism. We may call upon God and go through the motions, but we live and act as if God doesn’t have any bearing on our lives because we feel we have to fend for ourselves. But the truth of the matter is that, without God, all our hopes, plans, dreams, endeavors in this life ultimately will fall short. If we follow through on this sort of practicality, we’ll always end up in the same space as before, still looking to the next latest and greatest thing to save us from our problems and find fulfillment to our never-ending desires. When we realize and experience this truth, then we can begin to become persistent in our prayer life because we see that there is nothing or no one else on whom we can depend. That is why the man kept knocking at the door, because he literally had nothing to give and there was nothing else that he could do within his power to provide for his guest. There was no plan B. The answer to his prayer was worth waiting for.
As it turns out, moreover, his persistence in knocking was a testament, really, to the strength of their friendship; indeed, there was no one else in whom he could trust to help him in his troubles, even at literally the 11th hour, even in the middle of the night. Like a good parent or friend, God in an even greater way, wants what’s best for us, and will provide us with our daily bread, giving us what we truly need. Through persistent prayer, we can build a relationship of trust with Our Father who art in heaven as we see the answers to our prayers gradually emerging from the iciness of this world, as we see prayers being answered for us in their own beautiful way and in God’s own perfect timing, whether that’s yes, yes but not yet, or no because something better is coming. Think about it – so much so does God care about you that Jesus is literally giving you permission and is asking you to bother him with the happenings of your life at any time, for as long as is necessary!
In our lives, there might be a number of doors that are closed, there might be doors to which we don’t necessarily have the keys to open, but far from being pointless, we knock away because we have no one else to turn to. The Good News for Mr. Theodore, Mr. Mikey, and Mr. Broken Pencil and for us all who continue to knock, knock… is that “Our Father’s” answer to prayer has already been given in Christ – we just need to ask for it: “I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Jesus’ promise to us in our Gospel today from the 11th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke – Sisters and Brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.