Prayer: A Holy Conversation
Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Independence, MO, USA
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 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!” -Luke 11:1-13
Three images of prayer emerge from today’s text that relate to my own experience-the desire for connection, my desperate longings, and trusting in God’s goodness.
The popularity of the Lord’s Prayer may sometimes overshadow the eager request that precedes it, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Even in the church, many of us are still asking this question. I think the disciples were asking for more than words to use in prayer. They had witnessed the depth and quality of Jesus’s relationship with God as the source of his life and ministry and wanted to experience that same depth of connection. He responds with a vision of the peaceable kingdom grounded in the everyday realities of this earth, our lives, and our relationships. Jesus demonstrates that prayer is not escape from life, but an invitation to enter it more deeply.
The second image in today’s text is somewhat strange, of asking a friend (who has already gone to bed) to borrow three loaves of bread. In the absence of a response, we start pounding on the door. There is much to unpack in this image, but what captures my attention is the aching urgency with which I often pound on the Holy’s door. Sometimes we come to prayer with a desperate longing-Please answer, God! Please show up, God! Please be real, God! I am grateful for this strange image that reveals those moments in my own spiritual life when I feel distant from God or desperate for God or wonder if anyone lives behind the door. Henri Nouwen reveals the sacred paradox of these urgent prayers, “by listening to our longings, we hear God as their creator” (The Essential Henri Nouwen, Shambala, 2009, p. 8).
In the final image, we are asked, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?” This question does not imply that the mystery of God can be reduced to a divine magician giving us whatever we want. It does mean that our deepest desire will intersect with God’s desire for us. We can trust that when we dare to enter relationship with the Divine Presence, there is an inexhaustible source of goodness and love waiting to welcome us in. Prayer is a holy conversation that invites us to see our everyday realities through the lens of God’s vision, to express our urgent doubts and longings, and to trust in the Love that is always seeking to make us, and all creation, whole.
I belong with all that lives.
Take a deep breath and pay attention to the web of relationships that sustain your life right now. Remember the people who have formed you. Consider the nourishing food and drink that come to you from the planet. Notice all the lives that touched everything that surrounds you. Offer a prayer of gratitude for connection and belonging with God and all creation.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.