GOSPEL READING: Matthew 7:7-12
7 “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.
SCRIPTURE READING: Esther 14:1-5,12-14[C:12,14-16,23-25](Deutero-canonical portion)
14: 1 And Esther the queen, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. 3 And she prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: “O my Lord, you only are our King; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, 4 for my danger is in my hand. 5 Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our fathers from among all their ancestors, from an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.” 12 “Remember, O Lord, and make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! 13 Put eloquent speech into my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him. 14 But save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our affliction into well-being.”
Meditation: Do you expect God to hear your prayers? Esther’s prayer on behalf of her people is a model for us (Esther 14). She prayed for help according to God’s promise to be faithful to his people. God wants us to remember his promises and to count on his help when we pray.
Your Father in heaven gives good things to those who ask with expectant faith
Jesus wanted to raise the expectations of his disciples when he taught them how to pray. Jesus’ parable of the father feeding his son illustrates the unthinkable! How could a loving father refuse to give his son what is good; or worse, to give him what is harmful? In conclusion Jesus makes a startling claim: How much more will the heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask!
Our heavenly Father graciously gives beyond our expectations. Jesus taught his disciples to pray with confidence because the heavenly Father in his goodness always answers prayers. That is why we can boldly pray: Give us this day our daily bread.
The power of prayer to those who believe
Those who know God and trust in God’s love, pray with great boldness. Listen to what John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), a gifted preacher and bishop of Constantinople, had to say about the power of prayer:
“Prayer is an all-efficient panoply [i.e. ‘a full suit of armor’ or ‘splendid array’], a treasure undiminished, a mine never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm. It is the root, the fountain, and the mother of a thousand blessings. It exceeds a monarch’s power… I speak not of the prayer which is cold and feeble and devoid of zeal. I speak of that which proceeds from a mind outstretched, the child of a contrite spirit, the offspring of a soul converted – this is the prayer which mounts to heaven… The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, bridled the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, relieved diseases, averted frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In sum prayer has power to destroy whatever is at enmity with the good.”
Allow God’s love to purify your mind, heart, and speech
Prayer flows from the love of God; and the personal love we show to our neighbor is fueled by the love that God has poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Jesus concludes his discourse on prayer with the reminder that we must treat our neighbor in the same way we wish to be treated by God. We must not just avoid doing harm to our neighbor, we must actively seek his or her welfare. In doing so, we fulfill the scriptural teaching from the “law and the prophets,” namely what God requires of us – loving God with all that we have and are and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change our hearts and transform our lives in Jesus’ way of love and merciful kindness towards all. Do you thirst for holiness and for the fire of God’s purifying love?
Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am – a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies. Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself and reach out towards others. (Prayer attributed to Clement XI of Rome, 1721)
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.
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 fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.