Pester or Persevere? Thursday, 27th week in ordinary time – Lk 11:5-13
Today we focus on the second and third part of three part structure on the teaching on prayer (11:1-13). In response to the disciples request to pray Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer or what some have also called the ‘disciples prayer.’
After having received the prayer the disciples now listen to a parable on prayer and a saying on prayer. The parable is based on the social customs that enshrined the laws of hospitality. As in India, this social custom was regarded with great respect among the people of Jesus. Atithi Devo Bhava अतिथिदेवो भव which translates from Sanskrit as ‘the guest is equivalent to God’ is taken from an ancient Hindu scripture which became part of the “code of conduct” for Hindu society. Similarly, the respect for a stranger or guest was ingrained in Jewish society as their code of conduct.
The parable is often misunderstood as the need to be ‘persistent in prayer’. Like the friend who stands at the door of his neighbour at midnight, asking for bread for another who has visited him in the dead of night, so too must we ‘persist with God’ as thought pestering him would give us what we want. This makes God a bit of a snooty hard to get by chap rather than the Father of the prayer that Jesus just taught them.
The cause of this misunderstanding lies in the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version’s) translation of the Greek word “anaideia” which has been translated as PERSISTENCE. ‘Anaideia’ really translates as ‘shamelessness’ or better still ‘a boldness which comes from familiarity’. The Father of the Lord ’s Prayer to whom we ask for daily bread, is the Father to whom we shamelessly ask for all our needs (ask and it will be given) and we do so boldly like a child who is ‘familiar’ with the Father.
Hence, “ ask and you will receive”, the saying that follows the parable, is not some magic mantra to obtain all our needs but an invitation to shamelessly go to the one we are familiar with, who understand our needs; namely the Father. No father in his right mind will give to his child a scorpion or a snake when asked for something as fundamental to daily life as a ‘fish’ or an ‘egg’ (verse11&12). In the same way any one can approach the Father of the Lord’s Prayer for their ‘daily bread’ with an unabashed familiarity knowing that God will provide for our needs. And provide he does.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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